Keynsham Voice February column: New year

One month into the new year, I wonder how people’s resolutions to eat better and lose weight are going? A new diet has recently come along that promises to be healthy for people and the planet. I think it’s worth a look.

The planetary diet was created by an international commission of experts. A set of guidelines for providing nutritious food for the world’s fast-growing population, it encourages us to eat more plant-based food and less meat.

Everyone enjoys eating meat – it’s what we’ve grown up expecting on our plates. It’s got all sorts of associations from providing nutrients like iron to being a wealth and status symbol. But meat – especially red and processed meat – kills people. That’s no exaggeration. Eating bacon and other processed meats has been proven to cause bowel cancer. In the UK, 42,000 people every year are diagnosed with this life-threatening disease.

The planetary diet encourages us to eat more beans, pulses and vegetables and less meat and dairy. We’ve seen that it’s important for our health, but the shift towards plants is equally important to the planet’s health. Globally, Livestock farming emits 14.5% of all greenhouse gasses, and the food system as a whole (including processing, transporting and throwing away food) contributes up to 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Vegetables –especially pulses –trap and store carbon, so they’re ‘carbon positive’ crops.

Ironically, the industry that’s most affected by climate change is farming. It’s a vicious circle – farming makes climate change worse, and climate change makes farming more challenging. And it’s not just that drought and shifting weather patterns make it harder to grow some crops. It’s also that they make crops less nutritious.

So, get out those pulses and dust down those recipe books. If you eat meat every day, why not try meat free Mondays? If you already do that, add another meat-free day or two to your diet. It’s good for us, the planet and for the unborn generations to come.

Published in Keynsham Voice, February 2019,

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