Plant diet devised for people and planet

Plant diet devised for people and planet

A report published in the medical journal, The Lancet, advises on what we should eat for our own health and that of the planet

How might it be possible to feed 10 billion people healthily, while also reducing our demands on the planet? An international commission of 37 scientists spent two years devising the Planetary Health Diet, which has just been launched in a report in the Lancet medical journal.

The researchers’ aim was to find a way of feeding a growing population while:

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• minimising greenhouse gas emissions

• preventing any species from becoming extinct

• having no expansion of farmland

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• preserving water.

The diet addresses the major role of farming in driving climate change and destroying the environment. Worldwide, livestock accounts for between 14.5 and 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. The EAT-Lancet commission says that radical changes will be needed – and that plants will need to become the basis of our diet. In addition, yield from current farmland needs to increase, and food waste needs to be halved.

Globally, the Planetary Health Diet requires red meat and sugar consumption to be cut by half, while vegetable, fruit, pulse and nut consumption would need to double. For Europeans, the change would be drastic: we would need to eat 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds. The researchers claim that this diet would also save at least 11 million deaths a year caused by unhealthy food.

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The diet allows one beef burger and two servings of fish a week, but most protein comes from pulses and nuts. It allows a glass of milk a day, or some cheese or butter, plus three eggs per fortnight. Half of each plate of food should be vegetables and fruit, and a third is wholegrain cereals.

“If we were just minimising greenhouse gases, we’d say everyone be vegan,” said Professor Walter Willett of Harvard University, one of the leaders of the commission. However, it was unclear whether a vegan diet was the healthiest option, he said.

The report has already sparked intense debate, challenging the researchers on everything from the nutritional profile of a plant-based diet to the difficulties of maintaining soil fertility with much less available manure. The Planetary Health Diet is likely to be only a starting point – but meanwhile, kitchen gardeners look to be ahead of the game.

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Find out more at www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46865204.

To download a summary of the report go to https://eatforum.org

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About the Author

Steve Ott

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