The simple diet to save you and the planet

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

How can you change your diet, eat some foods and not other, and protect not only your health but help to save the planet? Read on to find out.

Half a rasher of bacon a day. That’s as much red meat as you should eat, according to a new report, if you want to protect your health and that of the planet.

The “planetary health diet” was created by an international commission seeking to draw up guidelines that provide nutritious food to the world’s fast-growing population. At the same time, the diet addresses the major role of farming — especially livestock — in driving climate change, the destruction of wildlife and the pollution of rivers and oceans.

The report, published in The Lancet, was commissioned by EAT, an Oslo-based non-profit that believes urgent change is needed if we are sustainably to feed a projected world population of ten billion people by 2050.

The well-being of our planet and its people are clearly in jeopardy

said Georgia Ede in Psychology Today, so there is a pressing need for rigorous, science-based guidance.

Would this diet work?

Critics of the report dismiss it. This is because its authors rely heavily on epidemiological studies to develop the dietary guidelines. These are questionnaire-based guesses about the possible connections between foods and diseases — rather than clinical trials. Also, rather than forcing everyone to turn vegan, the same critics suggest we would be better off trying to rein in population growth instead.

Some of the recommendations are:

  • You should also limit yourself to 28g of fish a day, equivalent to about half a fish finger.
  • Try not to have more than about one-and-a-half eggs a week.
  • You should double your consumption of fruit and vegetables.
  • Eat many more nuts, seeds and pulses.
  • Half of each plate of food under the diet is vegetables and fruit, and a third is whole grain cereals.

For me planetary health diet has some similarities to the Mediterranean one, so it’s not such an alien concept. And we’d all benefit from eating less meat. Where the report goes wrong is in not properly acknowledging the cultural aspect of food. If you’re trying to unravel years and years of recipes, stories and histories that food encompasses, you must tread carefully.

There’s nothing wrong with asking people to change their diets. Eat less of something, more of something else, whatever. But if we keep doing it in this didactic way, nothing will ever stick.

Photo by Fateme Alaie on Unsplash

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Robert Thompson

Robert Thompson

Big ideas and important articles. Writing to help you make sense of the world. And cope with being human.

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