March is National Nutrition Month, although I believe every month is nutrition month since eating nutritious food is always important.
During March, registered dietitians everywhere raise their voices and offer wisdom on how to make small and effective dietary changes. The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Fuel for the Future.”
The message is to eat with the environment in mind and I would add, eat for your own future health. That means enjoying more plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains and beans.
The health benefits of plant foods is well established. I can’t think of one body system that is not enhanced with the addition of plant-based foods. So, let’s focus on the environment.
An article in this month’s The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition estimated the carbon footprint of popular diets. National data collected between 2005-2010 was used to categorize diet patterns into six groups. They were vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian (fish eaters), paleo, keto and omnivore (eat everything). The overwhelming majority of the 16,412 participants were omnivores with vegetarians coming in a distant second.
Carbon footprint of the different diets was calculated using previously developed databases of foods’ impact on the environment. The vegan diet had the lowest carbon footprint.
Veganism would be a challenging path for many of us to follow. That said, this quote from the article is important: “For any given date, if a third of the omnivores consumed a 2,000-calorie vegetarian diet, and assuming accompanying shifts in domestic production, the savings would be equivalent to eliminating 340 million passenger vehicle miles.”
And this change would come with a 6% improvement in diet quality due to increased plant foods and a reduction in saturated fat.
One vegetarian day a week is a very achievable goal. Help your health and help the planet. Lots of tools for meatless Monday can be found at www.mondaycampaigns.org.
Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Miami, FL. firstname.lastname@example.org
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