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In the face of worsening climate change, many scientific and agricultural experts have agreed it will be necessary to rely less on animals and livestock as a food source. This is because beef production expels methane, a greenhouse gas more than 80 times as heat-trapping as carbon dioxide, a gas often synonymous with climate change.
Excessive methane emissions have led to scientists and agricultural experts debating — for decades now — how we can change our longstanding global food systems to benefit the environment. Few comprehensive and easily adaptable solutions have emerged, but an international commission of experts has come up with a method that might actually be easy for the average person to adopt.
These experts call their solution the “planetary health diet.” The name is a nice double entendre — this diet is both healthy for the planet and for the person eating it. What’s best is that, although it emphasizes the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, seeds, and nuts, it doesn’t forbid eating animal products and sugars.
The planetary health diet offers specific guidelines by region, particularly to those areas most responsible for driving climate change. North American consumers are urged to eat 84% less red meat while increasing their legume consumption sixfold; European consumers are urged to eat 77% less red meat while increasing their seed and nut consumption fifteenfold.
The best way to see how this diet would play out on an everyday basis is to look at a sample food plate. Assuming a daily intake of 2,500 calories, a person on the planetary healthy diet could eat at most one beef burger, a couple of eggs, and two servings of fish weekly. Also acceptable daily is at most one glass of milk and a small amount of cheese or butter. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and whole grains comprise the rest of the plate, offering more than enough protein to replace that lost to reduced animal product consumption.
The planetary health diet empowers any consumer to prevent tens of millions of food health-related deaths per year and reduce the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. And it does this all without banning any specific foods! It could prove a great start for truly lessening our dependence on livestock production.