Live a healthier and more sustainably sound life with these small dietary changes

Live a healthier and more sustainably sound life with these small dietary changes

For some people, eating healthy is not that motivating

Are you motivated by a deeper and more meaningful cause to eat healthy food? You probably won’t be surprised at how many people lack the drive to make the necessary small plans to change their lives by altering their food intake. I am motivated to eat healthy due to my parents. Although they have passed away, I can’t help but feel that their deaths gave me the gift of changing my life. My parents died of cancer in entirely different ways to further explain this concept. My dad helped me understand how dangerous smoking, drinking and excessive meat consumption can be over the long term. Mum showed me how detrimental a high sugar and processed diet is for long-term health. As a result, she developed diabetes and eventually pancreatic cancer. So I can say with certainty that lifestyle habits played a HUGE part in her death. I mentioned this to a friend yesterday who reminded me it was the right moment for mum’s time on earth to end no matter what she did. Part of me sees the logic in this, and another wants to burst out and question everything! Maybe it was her time to pass away, but what difference would she have made in her life if another road to better eating and more exercise was the choice? I don’t believe I’m the only person forever questioning our small decisions that lead to significant consequences. Napoleon Hill mentions this in all of his books. The little things in life make a difference — for the good and bad. My learnings are this: If I can do anything to change my habits, behaviours and health to better myself, life and capacity to enjoy living, then why not? Maybe it’s a sacrifice; perhaps I won’t want to do these every day, but at least I’m always thinking and making as many correct decisions as possible. What if dietary recommendations came with actionable data showing just how much of an impact certain foods you eat have on the environment? Not only will you help the planet, but your health in the process. That’s a two-fold motivation factor that may have more lasting effects than your standard caloric intake model. A fascinating study published in the Journal of Nature Foods evaluated more than 5,800 foods, ranking them by nutritional disease burden to humans and the impact on the environment. Substituting only 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats for a mix of fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes, and seafood can reduce your carbon footprint enough to gain 48 more minutes of healthy minutes per day. Those findings are very much in line with the well-known and publicised Mediterranean diet. This dietary plan is highly recommended by health professionals and used in endless research papers that I have come across. 

The impact of food on your health

What you decide to eat daily has a profound impact on your health and the global burden of disease and mortality rate — eating more foods that create a positive effect will add several minutes to your life, unlike processed and highly refined foods. But unfortunately, these understandably derail your health in more ways than one. 

And the environment

The impact of food lies within the production, processing, manufacturing preparation, consumption, cooking and waste. Foods recommended for being nutritionally beneficial and having very low impactful environmental consequences are nuts, fruits, field veggies, legumes, whole grains and some seafood. 

The two things you can do to make a difference — based on the researcher’s findings

  • Decrease foods that negatively harm the environment, such as pork. Processed meats, beef, shrimp, and greenhouse-grown veggies
  • Increase nutritionally beneficial foods, including field-grown fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts and low environmental impact seafood.

We all should take action to begin improving the environment — and our health, for that matter. Targeted substitutions make it a lot easier for the general public by building awareness of just how much of an impact certain foods have on their health and the environment. But don’t forget how specific animal and vegetable sources have grown that can impact the environment differently. 

Key take away

Through this research, I believe that the Mediterranian diet is probably the most environmental and health-sound eating plan one can aspire towards. Although you don’t have to give up animal protein completely, it does help the general public to build more awareness regarding the environmental impact of food production. Veggies are not out of the picture here, as greenhouse-grown veggies tend to damage health and sustainability. Just like reading food labels, it is beneficial to pay attention to how foods are grown and prepared so we may make sound decisions on whether to support these practices or look for better alternatives. The more individuals are informed of these choices, the more likely they will pick the sustainable and healthy option to do their part and make a difference to their health and the planet. 

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