Food for a Healthier Planet
You are probably taking steps towards conserving energy to protect the environment. More people are carpooling, turning down the thermostat and recycling than ever before; but have you considered how your diet affects global warming? Here is what you need to know about eating for a greener planet.
A green diet is about reducing consumption of processed foods and meat-based products. This method of eating reduces methane emissions, saves energy and lessens waste.
The Problem with Methane
Focusing on reducing carbon monoxide emissions is important, but methane is much more harmful to the environment. Methane gas is 23 times more damaging to the environment then Carbon Dioxide.
The primary producer of methane gas on this planet is cattle farming. The flatulants and manure from raising cows, pigs and poultry increases methane in the atmosphere and can create a snowball effect, hastening global warming. The release of methane “can cause greater microbial activity causing further increases in methane emissions. Thus, climate change induced by humans could actually trigger the release of more greenhouse gases from natural systems.” (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/340025.html)
The Rain Forest
South Americans are clearing rain forests to make cattle grazing land as beef demand increases. The rain forest is one of the earth’s single most important features for maintaining an environment healthy to humans and needs to be preserved at all costs.
Damage Caused by Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are those than have been chemically altered through additives such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors and fillers. The easiest way to identify a highly processed food is to read the ingredients list. Long ingredient lists or those including multiple unpronounceable words should be suspect.
The chemicals from these products leach into the environment affecting everyone. In addition, the packaging of these foods results in further methane production as they sit rotting in land fills. Fresh, simple foods are a much better choice for several reasons.
The United Kingdom government website suggests buying fresh foods whenever possible. “Buying food and drink when locally in season, and unprocessed or lightly processed food, is likely to mean that less energy has been used in its production. Providing it has been produced and stored under similar conditions, choosing food that has travelled a shorter distance will help to reduce congestion and transport emissions that contribute to climate change.” (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Greenerlivingaquickguide/DG_064432)
Dairy is not Necessary
Humans, even children, do not need dairy products to stay healthy. This might be hard to accept, given the enormous campaign by doctors and dairy producers in the past, asking you to consume at least three diary products each day.
You should know that “Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health. It is best to consume a healthful diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fortified foods including cereals and juices. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin D requirements with ease—and without health risks.” (http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/dairy.html)
This conclusion comes from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a well-respected group looking to spread medical truths, unslanted by industry.
Red meat is not all bad. The high amounts of iron in red meat are easier for your body to process than from other sources. Red meat is also high in zinc, which gives your immune system a boost.
The problem is that eating red meat as little as two times each week can increase your risk for bowel cancer. Eating meat every day increases the risk of breast cancer in young women. Digesting large amounts of protein over time can also lead to osteoporosis.
However, you can receive the benefits of red meat while avoiding the health risks by limiting your consumption of red meat to one day each week.
What Else Can You Eat?
There are many vegetarian meals that are as delicious, maybe even tastier, than their well-known meat-touting counterparts. Try the following meals instead of red meat and make sure to eat poultry and pork instead of red meat once or twice a week.
- Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and whole gain bread
- Veggie Burgers with whole wheat buns, made with vegetables and mushrooms. You can buy these in frozen food section or make your own.
- Vegetarian meat loaf, made with brown rice and lentils.
- Vegetarian lasagna made with tofu
Some excellent vegetarian and vegan recipes can be found at: http://www.ehow.com/topic_431_vegan-meals.html
The Health Benefits of Eating Green
Raw foods and lightly processed foods are made of helpful nutrients that can be damaged during processing. Vitamins cannot replace the enzymes found in raw foods, so it is important to choose lightly processed foods over their highly processed counterparts.
Eating less red meat reduces your risks of many types of cancers. Replacing meats with fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will result in weight loss. You will also experience lessened risk of other disorders such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
Be Good to Yourself, Be Good to the Planet
It is fitting that a healthy diet should be healthy for the planet. Change your eating habits to compliment the conservation efforts you already use to save the planet.
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