Going green when it comes to your diet can have a significant impact on your health and the health of our planet. Here are three ways to start eating green today.
Eat less red meat
Your cardiologist has probably been suggesting that you cut back on red meat to lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease, but she probably didn’t mention that eating a low meat diet uses 41 percent less energy and generates 37 percent fewer greenhouse gases. And she may not have brought up the fact that it takes 1/3 pound of fertilizer to grow the grains to produce just one pound of cooked beef. Add to that the depletion of valuable land and water, and the environmental contamination from antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and fertilizers, and you might want to think twice before ordering that bi-weekly T-bone again.
While the cost of organic foods can seem a bit prohibitive during these trying economic times, eating organic as often as possible can help prevent damage to our environment and help conserve our precious energy resources. Why? Organic agriculture uses about 30 percent less fossil fuel than conventional agriculture.
From a health standpoint, eating organic is especially important when it comes to fruits, vegetables and grains, which are more likely to contain pesticide residues than meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. High doses of pesticides have been linked to cancer, nervous system disease and birth defects in animals, suggesting that some effect in humans is a very real possibility. If you can’t afford to buy exclusively organic produce, make sure to choose organic when it comes to the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and veggies listed by the Environmental Working Group. (Here is a great article discussing “Eight Ways to Make Organic More Affordable.”)
Choose local and seasonal products
Buying food produced by local farmers helps encourages and preserves sustainable farming practices by increasing crop diversity, which can help decrease the use of pesticides and fertilizers through crop rotation. In addition, in some but not all cases, buying locally can help decrease the risk of green house gas emissions through decreased transportation requirements.
Although local products may sometimes carry a higher price tag than large-scale corporate farm- produced foods, the price difference may be offset by the higher cost for fuel needed for long-distance transportation.
Finally, locally grown and seasonal products often taste better and are more nutritious since many of the vitamins in produce degrade over time, and are consumed fresh, which decreases the need for chemical preservatives or irradiation to extend their shelf life.
If you want to know more about local food, check out the USDA’s new “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.” My new book, “The Calendar Diet,” provides seasonal recipes to help you lose weight, improve your health and protect our environment.
Melina Jampolis, MD is an Internist and physician nutrition specialist. She specializes in weight loss and disease prevention and treatment. She is the author of “The No Time to Lose Diet” and “The Calendar Diet” and is a frequent expert guest in the media. For more information, please visit http://www.drmelina.com
The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.