It is no news that healthy eating is beneficial for your body. Yet changing your eating habits in accordance with nationally recommended diets can also benefit the environment to a great extent. A new study showed that developed countries recommend diets which are both healthy and kind to the environment, whereas less developed countries may have NRDs that contribute to pollution.
Image Credit: Reuters / Clodagh Kilcoyne
What Impact Do NRDs Have On Environment?
Nationally recommended diets (NRDs) are developed by governmental bodies or authorized organizations to provide the population with advice on how to get enough nutrients and what dietary patterns benefit health best.
NRDs vary depending on country development level, wealth, location and other factors. It is no doubt that all of them are aimed at helping people eat a diet that is healthier than the eating pattern, which can be called an average national diet. However, some of them imply more consumption of meat and other sources of protein to cover the nutrient deficiencies seen in some countries. The issue of sustainability is rarely mentioned, but changes in the way people eat definitely affect environment.
A recent study carried out by the University of Leiden revealed that not all NRDs make the same impact on the environment. The investigators analyzed nationally recommended diets from 37 countries with high and middle income and what impact these diets make on eutrophication, land use, and greenhouse gases. The study findings suggest that countries with high income developed NRDs which, if followed, help reduce all the three parameters listed above. As to upper-middle-income countries, their diets proved to be kind to environment too, but the reduction was smaller. In the case of lower-middle-income nations, the investigators found the opposite: the parameters increased significantly. The difference is due to the NRDs suggesting different approaches: while high-income countries suggest reducing meat consumption, those nations with lower income promote animal product consumption.
Animal products make the most significant impact on the environment, as production of such food is associated with extensive land use and substantial gas emission.
Regardless of what the NRD of your country suggests, you can make your diet more environmentally friendly by eating more vegetables and fruits, fish and poultry, and avoiding meals containing a lot of meat. Snacks also contribute to pollution, and it’s not only their production that is to blame – the package used is often not biodegradable, and tons of plastic used in snack packages are thrown away, thus polluting water, soil and air (if burnt).
What Is The NRD In The U.S.?
The U.S. NRD is actually a version of the Mediterranean diet, which is one of the most beneficial diets, according to researchers. The dietary guidelines are available for free and imply substituting fruits for snacks and replacing meals rich in sodium and saturated fats with legumes, starchy, other vegetables, oil, nuts and other healthy food. By improving your eating patterns, you can relieve symptoms of diseases, prevent some of them, and even help nature, as the food defined as healthy does not require water, soil and air pollution to be exchanged for tasty meals.
The Dietary Guidelines is available online, and the approach offered by the document can help you follow a diet that is beneficial both to you and to the world in which you live.
2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – health.gov