If It’s Good for You, It’s Good for the Planet Too!

Photo credit: Alexandr Podvalny

New research from the University of Oxford and the University of Minnesota confirms: the foods which are best for us also have the smallest impact on the environment.

It seems intuitive, obvious almost, when we think about the production, distribution and commercialization of processed foods which we can buy all year round for low prices: the real cost is being paid elsewhere, both in the impact on our own health and on the environment. This has been at the core of the Slow Food message for 30 years now, and the scientific evidence in favor of our argument continues to accumulate.

Dr. Martin Clark of the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project, summarizes the findings: “Continuing to eat the way we do threatens societies, through chronic ill health and degradation of Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and water resources. Choosing better, more sustainable diets is one of the main ways people can improve their health and help protect the environment. How and where a food is produced also affects its environmental impact, but to a much smaller extent than food choice.”[1]


Source: ‘Multiple health and environmental impacts of foods’ (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

No surprise then, that meat and dairy products are among the foods we most urgently need to cut down on and substitute with healthier, more sustainable plant-based foods: seasonal fruits, vegetables and legumes above all.

The foods which represent the greatest risk both for our health and the planet are of course red meat and processed meat, according to the findings of the study, while the major exception to the rule is fish. Despite having unquestionable health benefits, the global fishing industry is having a devastating impact on marine ecosystems.

Source: ‘Multiple health and environmental impacts of foods’ (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

As with every food mentioned, it’s not a simple black and white scenario, and there are ways of eating fish which have a much smaller environmental impact, as our Slow Fish campaign has been exploring for years, but the prevalent modes of consumption are what were considered in the Oxford study.

[1] http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-10-29-plant-based-foods-are-good-both-health-and-environment#

By Jack Coulton, November 4th 2019

  • Did you learn something new from this page?
  • yesno