Think twice about those well-travelled avos

 

The increasing focus on the sustainability of our diets encourages us to not only consider the impact of what we eat on our health and waistlines, but also how our choices impact the environment.

The Sunday Times, 11 June 2017

  • Family of 4? If you skip the steak (1 day a week for a year), it's like taking your car off the road for 3 months.
  • Did you know that lamb has the HIGHEST carbon footprint of all meats - 50% higher than beef.
  • Skip the burger! One less burger each week (for a year) is the same as keeping your car off the road for 550km.

These days, one's dietary preferences are as talked about and potentially polarising as political beliefs.

Families, offices and social groups are divided into "carb people", "protein people" and "fat people" (the nutrient, not the body mass index).

But a new group of health-conscious people are emerging and changing the way we think about our food - the "planet people".

While President Donald Trump's intended exit from the Paris climate agreement indicates he may not be a "planet person", the uproar he generated clearly shows that "planet people" are a substantial group.

The increasing focus on the sustainability of our diets encourages us to not only consider the impact of what we eat on our health and waistlines, but also how our choices impact the environment.

A sustainable diet is defined by the American Dietary Guidelines as "a pattern of eating that promotes health and wellbeing and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generation".

There is a strong link between healthy eating, human health and environmental sustainability.

Shifting consumers towards healthy dietary patterns that emphasise plant-based foods benefits both health and the environment. In a paper published by the Institute of Medicine, data from the Vitality HealthyFood benefit show an 8-13% decrease in land requirements, a 7-12% reduction in the water requirement, and an 8-10% drop in greenhouse gas emissions from making healthier choices.

When you next take a trip to your local retailer, it may be worth giving some thought to where the food came from and how it got onto the shelf.

That kilogram of steak and chops that you were planning to braai requires a staggering 15 000 litres of water to produce, while the lettuce and tomato salad uses less than 1 000 litres of water.

More food for thought: is the product in season... in South Africa? Seasonality is the mantra of most leading chefs as very few foods are more stimulating to the senses than ingredients at their seasonal peak. When at their ripest, products are brighter in colour and stronger in taste and aroma.

Eating seasonally often means eating local, which in turn supports the local economy and farmers, and seasonal foods are much cheaper as they are not flown in from overseas.

As we sit down for our healthy home-cooked Sunday lunch, we can enjoy that locally sourced, tastier food that much more knowing that local is lekker!

- Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness

 

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