Can we live healthier, lose weight and save the world?
You have heard of dieting, you have heard of weight loss plans, you have heard of protecting the environment and you have heard of global warming and disastrous consequences. Have you heard of the green diet? And what does it mean to combine dieting with being environmentally savvy and protective? Is it of any benefit? If yes, to whom? Does it make us lose weight faster? Does it help the environment only: So many questions for a concept that seems strange and for two ideas that seem unrelated. Well, allow me to answer these questions and introduce a concept.
The concept of a Green Diet is a fairly new concept. It is a diet that aims at making us live healthier; lose weight and protecting the environment. It is gathering momentum and significant interest worldwide.
Eating green means a few things and is focused on a few things:
1-Eat organic: Organic foods are produced through methods that have less of an industrial impact on the world. They are cultivated in a more natural way with less chemicals and mechanical methods. Organic harvesting improves soil fertility, decreases groundwater pollution, and uses less energy. One major component of organic production is crop rotation which provides many environmental benefits.
2-Eat local: This is such a simple concept. If we purchase foods from nearby producers or farmers, that means we are depending less and less on foods being driven or transported to us from other areas or countries. Less transportation means less pollution. Further, eating locally improves the local economy. With more money, making life greener becomes an easier endeavor.
3-Limit processed foods: Processed foods means, well, processing foods. Processing foods means machinery, transportation, packaging, re-transportation, and using non-environmentally friendly packaging systems and products. What is friendlier to an environment? A fresh potato or potatoes mechanically mashed, processed and packaged in a bag? Of course, buying fresh foods instead of processed foods is not only cheaper, it is leaner!
4-Focus on a plant based diet: I am not a vegetarian. In the purest sense, a vegetarian diet is so much better for the planet from the pollution stand point. However, we do not have to suffer with a pure vegetarian diet. The less dairy and meat products (which take production and processing and are less eco-friendly) we eat, the healthier we are and the healthier our planet is.
Allow me to expand on this last idea: Livestock production affects the environment in a negative manner in so many ways: The animals themselves, their waste, the use of pasture land, the production of animal feed, and product processing. Livestock production accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than transportations contribution. Further, check out these fearsome facts: To produce one kilogram of cereal grain, 240 gallons of water are needed for processing. To produce about a kilogram of beef, over 10000 gallons of water is needed. Livestock production contributes to water pollution through erosion, pesticides and heavy metals used in feed production, and antibiotics given to animals, all of which work their way into the water supply. The effects of livestock production damages the soil in so many more ways. Of all the meats, red meat is the most detrimental to our environment, compared with chicken and fish. But both chicken and fish production or farming each have their own problems and negative effects on the environment. I will not dwell on that further. Suffice to say that their effects are extreme also.
So now that we have found out some ways of how to help our planet, how does that translate to weight loss and getting healthier? Well you might already know that many disease conditions (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and others) are directly related to weight and type of food consumption. You may also know that losing weight begins with exercise, cutting down on calories and eating less fatty and leaner foods. You may also have heard about the My Pyramid that had replaced the Food Guide Pyramid and that focuses on grains, fruits and vegetables for a healthy living and weight loss. Well, if we revisit all the points discussed above, you can see how eating fewer calories from fat, increasing fruits and vegetables, and following the weight loss guidelines mutually affect the environment in a positive way.
Going greener in our diet helps us with:
a-Increasing consumption of natural, preservative-free and whole based foods
b-Lowering our food budget
c-Becoming more environmentally friendly
d-Relying more on exercise, which means less motor vehicle use and less carbon gases production
Needless to say, we are only scratching the surface of living healthier and greener and environmentally friendlier. All the above are brand new concepts. They are yet to be fully implemented. They are food for thoughts. It turns out everything we do affects our environment. What a great combination to take the fresh from the earth and reward it by giving back to it and harming less. We all can do our part. See you out there.
Zeina Ghossoub El-Aswad