How a plant-based diet can help save the world

London: A ‘planetary health diet’ low on red meat and rich in plant-based foods may help avert the dual crisis of feeding a population of 10 billion by 2050, as well as tackling climate change, according to a study. Feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy and sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production, and reducing food waste, researchers said.

The findings from the EAT-Lancet Commission provides the first scientific targets for a healthy diet from a sustainable food production system that operates within planetary boundaries for food. The research outlines a planetary health diet consisting of approximately 35 per cent of calories as whole grains and tubers, protein sources mainly from plants.

It also includes about 14 grammes of of red meat per day, and 500 grammes per day of vegetables and fruits. Moving to this new dietary pattern will require global consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by about 50 per cent, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must double, researchers said.

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill-health worldwide and following the diet could avoid approximately 11 million premature deaths per year. A shift towards the planetary health diet would ensure the global food system. The diet can exist within planetary boundariess for food production such as those for climate change, biodiversity loss, land and freshwater use, as well as nutrient cycles.

Transformation of the global food system is urgently needed as more than 3 billion people are malnourished, and food production is exceeding planetary boundaries — driving climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution due to over-application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers, and unsustainable changes in water and land use.

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