Benefits Of Green Mediterranean Diet

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Benefits Of Green Mediterranean Diet

Climate scientists believe that one of the most impactful things that people can do for the environment is to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products.

ResearchTrusted Source notes that global production of animal-based foods — including livestock feed — accounts for 57% of total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, whereas production of plant-based foods accounts for only 29%.

Another study estimates that if everyone became vegan, this would reduce the amount of land worldwide that farmers need to grow food by 3.1 billion hectares or 76%.

In addition to cutting emissions from food production, say the authors, rewilding the freed-up land would remove around 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year for the next 100 years.

Of course, the idea that billions of people worldwide would voluntarily give up their steaks, sausages, and cheeseburgers simply to curb climate change may seem far-fetched.

But perhaps they would think twice if they knew how much it would benefit their own health.

Recent researchTrusted Source suggests that people who eat little or no meat tend to have a lower risk of cancer, in particular colorectal cancer and prostate cancer in men.

Diets that combine a reduction in meat and dairy consumption with increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, bring further health benefits.

People who eat a typical Mediterranean dietTrusted Source, for example, have a lower overall mortality rate and a lower risk not only of cancer but also cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

A series of clinical trials now suggests that eating a “green” Mediterranean diet, or green Med diet, may provide additional benefits on top of those provided by the regular Mediterranean diet.

The diet, which adds extra plant foods rich in polyphenols and aims to avoid meat completely, is also better for the planet.

“[E]liminating meat intake — beef, pork, lamb — is by far the most important single way to reduce the carbon footprint from diet,” said Dr. Meir Stampfer, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and one of the authors of the green Med studies.

Biodiversity and human health

Dr. Stampfer pointed out that the total area needed for meat production includes a lot of land for growing crops to feed livestock.

So by reducing the amount of land around the world that is devoted to producing meat, the green Med diet could play a major role in the preservation of biodiversity.

In its 2020 report “Biodiversity for Nutrition and HealthTrusted Source”, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes a virtuous circle that links varied, plant-based diets, human health, biodiversity, and sustainability.

“The significance of pressures generated by human activity on both climate change and biodiversity loss, and their impacts on nutrition and health outcomes, cannot be overstated,” the authors conclude.

What is the classic Mediterranean diet?

A traditional Mediterranean diet contains the following elements:

  • vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • sources of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • moderate amounts of dairy and fish
  • less red meat than a traditional western diet
  • fewer eggs
  • red wine in moderation

The diet provides an abundance of polyphenols, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and plant fiber.

Importantly, the classic Med diet also avoids refined grains, highly processed foods, and products with added sugars.

Scientists believeTrusted Source that, in combination, these features help lower levels of bad cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity.

 

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