So many times when we hear about the supposed health benefits of a particular diet, the focus is on the promise of weight loss. But what about the diet that’s healthiest for our planet?
When I say “diet,” I’m not talking about a set of restrictions you impose on yourself to meet a specific goal. The term “diet” is actually defined as the sum of what one consumes; for example, when we classify animals into carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, we are defining their diet.
We are not suggesting that they go on a detox or stop eating cake, right? So, for this article, the word “diet” simply means what we eat and what is best for our bodies. We’re not depriving ourselves of anything, we’re just giving our bodies what they need.
How does diet affect the planet?
Do you grow bananas in your backyard? Probably not. If you pick up a banana at the grocery store, it had to come from somewhere (usually South America), and to get to your grocery store, it had to be put on a truck, a plane, another truck, and driven to the store and placed on the shelf.
All of those trucks and planes use up fossil fuels and leave a substantial carbon footprint. Now, imagine that multiplied by all the bananas across the world. Then add in the rest of the produce section. Pretty staggering, yes?
So here’s the thing. Produce is seasonal. Different fruits and veggies grow and are harvested at different times. Watermelons are harvested during the summer. If you buy a watermelon in December, it’s been shipped from somewhere very, very warm. It’s not hard to combat this incredible environmental impact when you choose your fruit.
Go to farmers markets
Farmers markets offer a plethora of fruits and veggies, mostly grown without harmful pesticides or the use of genetically modified organisms. They might not say “organic,” because the food system in this country is very backwards and being able to market your product as legal “USDA Certified Organic” costs an enormous amount of money that the average local farmer doesn’t have.
But feel free to ask these vendors about their growing and harvesting processes. If you’re not satisfied, move on to the next vendor; there’s plenty to go around at most farmers markets.
Farmers markets are good for your health and that of the planet, because they consist of local farmers that use only one truck and don’t drive that far: the produce is local. As I mentioned before, there are generally fewer (if any) pesticides used on the produce at farmers markets.
Pesticides run off into the water supply, kill off valuable members of ecosystems, and lower the air quality. Therefore, the fewer pesticides we use on Earth, the better. Also, pesticides kill all the nutrients in the soil, which reduces the amount of nutrients in the produce, and that means it’s not as good for you.
Avoid factory-farmed meats
We all should be at least somewhat aware of the deplorable conditions in which cows and chickens are reared for slaughter and egg production. The huge factories that abuse these animals on a daily basis use up tons of fossil fuels to keep their operation running, they ship in genetically modified corn to feed those cows and chickens (even though cows cannot properly digest corn and this gives them ulcers), and then, after slaughtering the animals, they ship them all over the country and the world using various combinations of planes and trucks (ergo, lots of fossil fuels).
Meats at farmers markets are usually “grass-fed” or “free-range,” which means they haven’t been subject to the type of abuse that factory-raised animals have. They are treated better and fed correct diets, and, just like the produce, they are only shipped locally.
The point of this, if you’re interested in your health and the planet’s survival, is to do your best to buy local. You will be surprised at the amount of things you can buy locally (produce, meats, cheeses, soaps, flowers, baked goods, and so forth), and you will be supporting your local economy. When you buy local, everyone wins.