Eating healthy can help save the Earth: Scientists
More veggies and fruit, less meat. We knew that already, but it could save the earth and help us live longer.
Put down that fizzy soda, toss that meaty hamburger to the side and make room for food you can pick fresh from the trees and fields. The ideal diet of the future has been revealed, but rather disappointingly, it's nothing we haven't already heard before.
Scientists have said we need to halve our sugar and meat intake and double our consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes if we want to do good by our own health and that of our planet. For a more vivid picture of what the "planetary health" diet looks like, a daily dose of porridge for breakfast, rice for lunch, and a dinner of lentils and vegetables, will stand you in good stead - with a single hamburger chucked in every so often, as a treat. If we take heed and eat like this, researchers at Britain's University of London (who co-led the research) said more than 11 million premature deaths could be prevented each year, while greenhouse gas emissions would be cut and more land, water and biodiversity would be preserved.
"The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong," said Tim Lang, a professor who co-led the research.
While it's been pitted as a global diet, suitable for all, how well would folks in the UAE react to it, given the diverse mix of cultures and eating habits?
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Lovely Ranganath, a Dubai-based Senior Nutritionist (DHA Licenced) said there is actually "no challenge in educating people to follow this here".
"The study is recommending what has always been the core principles of a healthy balanced diet. Mostly plant based with moderate amounts of meat and highly palatable processed foods. I believe every culture has their version of plant based meals with meat, sweet treats in moderation."
Porridge with fruits, qubz with foul medammes, idli with sambar are all cultural meals - regularly eaten in the UAE - that fit perfectly within the above guidelines, she added.
"While I honestly don't see anything new here, it does make sense for practitioners to reinforce this diet, government bodies here should educate the general population to avoid following fad diets like the carnivorous diet or the Atkins, which any ways is not sustainable for the majority of human health or planet health."
Feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy, sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production and reducing food waste, Lang said.
"We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before."
Presenting the diet at a briefing on Wednesday, the researchers said they acknowledged it was very ambitious to hope to get everyone in the world to adopt it, not least because there is vast global inequality of access to food.
"More than 800 million people have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease," said Walter Willett of Harvard University in the United States.
"If we can't quite make it, it's better to try and get as close as we can," he said
The proposed planetary diet is the result of a three-year project commissioned by The Lancet health journal and involving 37 specialists from 16 countries.
What your diet should look like
Nuts 50g a day
Beans, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes 75g a day
Fish 28g a day
Eggs 13g a day (one egg a week)
Meat 14g a day of red meat and 29g a day of chicken
Carbs whole grains like bread and rice 232g a day and 50g a day of starchy vegetables
Dairy 250g - the equivalent of one glass of milk
Vegetables (300g) and fruit (200g)