Last week you may have stumbled across a few news headlines talking about the ‘planetary health diet’ – the ideal diet for the health of the plant and its people.
It is undeniable that the food we choose to eat impacts not only our own health but also the health of our environment. A westernised diet, which is typically low in fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and wholegrains, while being high in processed meat, red meat and sugar is a major health and environmental burden globally. To see a significant change to both the health of the world’s population and the planet, more attention needs to be paid to the concept of a sustainable healthy diet.
We now have further insight into a sustainable and healthy way of eating. This insight stems out of 3 years of research commissioned by the Lancet Health Journal and the work of 37 specialists from 16 countries, published last week.
Results of the research showed that a ‘public health approach focused on dietary changes towards predominantly plant-based diets that are in line with evidence on healthy eating performs better in reducing environmental pressures, potential nutrient deficiencies, and diet-related mortality than approaches motivated only by environmental and food-security concerns.’
In essence, the research recommends the adoption of a flexitarian-diet, which distinct to a vegan diet, is a predominately plant-based diet but also includes limited amounts of animal-based foods.
What exactly does the recommended flexitarian-diet look like?
The planetary health diet allows for an average of 2,500 calories to be consumed daily (this figure can vary depending on the individual). The breakdown of these calories includes:
Wholegrains including rice and seeded bread – 232g/day (approx. 1 cup grains and 2 slices bread)
Starchy vegetables such as potato – 50g/day (approx. 1-2 small potatoes)
(Note: starchy foods with a relatively high glycaemic index should be limited eg white potato and white bread)
Legumes and soybeans – minimum 75g/day (approx. 6 tbsp.)
Nuts and seeds – minimum 50g/day (approx. 2 small handfuls)
Vegetables – minimum 300g/day (approx 2 cups salad and 1 cup cooked vegetables)
Fish – minimum 28g/day (approx. 196g per week = 2-3 serves per week)
Fruits – minimum 200g/day (approx. 2 pieces of medium sized fruit)
Sugar – maximum 31/g per day (<5% of overall energy intake, approx. 7.5 tsp)
Palm oil – maximum 6.8g/day
Vegetable oil – maximum 80g/day
Red meat– maximum 14g/day (approx. 98g per week = 1 serve per week)
Poultry – maximum 29g/day (approx. 203g per week = 2-3 serves per week)
Eggs – maximum 13g/day (approx. 2 eggs per week)
Milk/dairy – maximum 250g/day (equal to 1 glass milk)
The analysis showed that by adopting a flexitarian diet, individuals would consume an adequate nutrient supply except for riboflavin (Vitamin B2), calcium and Vitamin B12, which can be supplemented. In addition to this, the diet would result in large reductions of premature mortality and significant reductions in environmental impacts globally.
This research definitely provides food for thought and is a call to action prompting us to reassess how the food we are choosing to consume is impacting not only our own health but also the environment and seeing what recommendations (as outlined above) can be adopted.
To read more visit: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpla/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30206-7/fulltext