It’s time for a new diet. And not just for you

Consumption of fruit and nuts must double, with red meat and sugar halved

Every country would have to make changes to implement the diet, but for some the changes would be starker. Photograph: Getty

Every country would have to make changes to implement the diet, but for some the changes would be starker. Photograph: Getty

 

We all recognise that there are changes we should be implementing to make our consumption of food more sustainable, but what are they? Fortunately, a team of 37 international experts has done the research to come up with a clear, science-based vision for a planet-wide diet that is nutritionally sound and can be sustainably produced. The group is known as the EAT-Lancet Commission, and its recommendations are that the consumption of fruit and nuts must double on a global scale, while our consumption of red meat and sugar should be cut in half.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

This, they claim, would allow the available agricultural land to safely feed 10 billion people without exerting too heavy a toll on the planet. The diet they outline consists of 90.8 percent plant-based food, with just 6.6 per cent coming from animals (this would include meat, dairy, fat and so on).

The calculations were done by first analysing the nutritional merit of each food, then its environmental impact. Some foods are recommended in larger amounts, such as vegetables, grains and fruit, that are both healthy and can be grown sustainably. Dairy would continue to play a role in our daily diet, as it is more environmentally friendly than meat, though it would be on a far smaller scale. Vegetables and grains would replace the nutrients we currently receive from meat.

Every country would have to make changes to implement the diet, but for some the changes would be starker. North America has the most unsustainable and unhealthy diet, but the commission has found that no region on Earth is eating as much fruit as it should be; though certainly societies in Latin America and the Caribbean are closer to the correct daily target. In time, fruit and vegetables are going to have to make up half our daily diet, according to these experts.

Latin America and the Caribbean also score well on their consumption of grain, but almost every other nation will have to start eating more. There is enough grain being farmed now to feed the expected population in 2050, but much of it is going to livestock.

Legumes, beans and peanuts will also play a key role in providing us with essential protein. Soya bean is particularly high in protein, though currently Europe consumes the smallest amount of soya of any place on earth and the report insists that this will have to change. East Asia is the region that is consuming closest to the right amount of legumes and beans.

Thus, if we want to make a change in our lives to ensure our diets are sustainable, it’s clear that we need to start cutting down on meat and dairy, and begin adding more grain, fruit and vegetables to our shopping trollies. Not only will you find yourself saving money, but your health will improve and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your diet is one that everyone on Earth could have access to without destroying the natural ecosystem that we all depend upon for survival.

thelancet.com/commissions/eat

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