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Eat Fewer Sweets to Save the Planet

Illustration of sparkling Earth resembling sugar

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Sugary foods and drinks don’t just expand our waistline and hurt our health, they also harm the environment, according to new research from the University of South Australia. Analyzing 20 studies on the environmental impacts of food consumption, researchers found that nutrient-poor foods like sugar-sweetened drinks, alcohol, baked sweets and processed meats account for 27 to 33 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. Meat, grains and dairy contribute the most emissions, while fruit and vegetables are two of the lowest contributors. In New Zealand, the highest greenhouse gas emitters are meat, seafood and eggs at 35 percent, followed by highly processed foods such as pastries and ice cream at 34 percent. “Discretionary foods have a higher cropland, water scarcity and ecological footprint,” says review author Sarah Forbes. “By 2050, the world’s population is projected to reach 10 billion people. There is no way we can feed that amount of people unless we change the way we eat and produce food.”

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