We have all heard the term farm to table, but with an increase in health abnormalities maybe it’s time to consider it, as a viable option! Vegetarian diets can be healthy and may even lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. However, eating balanced meals and snacks requires some extra attention when you are a vegetarian. Because vegetarians take out certain foods from their diets, they often need to work to add in foods that will provide the same nutrients found in animal products. By eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products, and whole grains, vegetarians can get adequate nutrients from non–meat sources. Vegetarians, especially vegans, need to pay attention to ensure that they get enough protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega–3 fatty acids.
The Food and Agriculture Organization defined a sustainable diet as one with “low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security, and to a healthy life for present and future generations,” and one that is affordable for all while optimizing both natural and human resources. A sustainable diet can be measured by its level of nutritional adequacy, environmental sustainability, cultural acceptability, and affordability.
Environmental sustainability can be measured by indicators of efficiency and environmental protection. Efficiency measures the ratio of inputs and outputs required to produce a given level of food. Input energy refers to processing, transporting, storing, and serving food, compared with the output of physical human energy. Conversely, environmental protection refers to the level of preservation of ecological systems.
Plant-based diets may contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of land, water, and fertilizers used for agriculture. As a significant percentage of crops around the world are used to feed livestock rather than humans, increasing the practice of a plant-based diet may contribute toward minimizing climate change and biodiversity loss. While “soy cultivation is a major driver of deforestation in the Amazon basin”, most soy crops are not destined for human consumption.
In closing, health sustainability is not simply characterized by a delicious burger from Burger King or Wendy’s, but more so is a conscious act to remain compliant to oneself. It is essential that the preservation of life means living a full, healthy life where the welfare of self is consistently observable. So, next time you pull up to a fast-food window try ordering just the fries or a soy burger, instead of the 740Cal Double Quarter Pounder Burger… Trust me your heart will thank you later!