The Green Mile
I’ve always believed in the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ and quite frankly, I’d much rather be a healthy salad made up not only of ‘bog standard’ lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes but a plethora of tantalising flavours (think avocado, pomegranate seeds, nuts, aduke beans, fresh basil, artichoke, with lashings of virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and perhaps even some edible flowers!), than a big mac, large fries and full sugar coke!
I must admit that, having been vegetarian for twenty-five years and more recently vegan, I wouldn’t ever choose the latter, however (and don’t shoot the messenger!), it’s surely a no brainer that, moral implications aside, eating a cow which has been pumped full of hormones and fed GMO foods isn’t really conducive to the human condition.
The first health is wealth…
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, basing diet on plant foods can reduce the risk of a range of cancers including mouth and throat, oesophagus, stomach and lung, owing to the presence of phytochemicals (chemical compounds occurring naturally in plants that protect cells from damage leading to cancer) in fruit and vegetables. Additionally, fibre rich foods such as whole grains and oats can lower the risk of bowel cancer. Research also shows that populations consuming a diet comprised mostly of vegetables have virtually no increase in hypertension with age.
Protectors of the Planet
Not only is health a key factor in choosing lifestyle and diet, but over the last few years we have been hearing about and witnessing all manner of horrific environmental disasters, many of which are linked to greenhouse gas emissions and our individual carbon footprints.
Dr Peter Scarborough (Senior Researcher at the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Department of Health) led a team of researchers at Oxford University and in 2016, published an extremely interesting report. The findings concluded that, considering a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, if people who ate 100grams of meat a day went vegan, their food related carbon footprint would reduce by 60%, saving the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year!
Also, according to the study, pescatarians (a diet that includes fish but no meat) are almost as carbon friendly as vegetarians, being responsible for 2.5% more emissions. With this in mind, even halving meat intake or eating fish alongside a plant-based diet could have a dramatic effect on the environment.
Scarborough was quoted in the New Scientist as saying, “In general, there is a clear and strong trend with reduced greenhouse gas emissions in diets that contain less meat.”
The government think tank, Chatham House report, “Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector” published in December 2014, goes one step further stating that curbing the world’s increasing appetite for meat is essential to avoid devastating climate change.
It is, of course, crucial that we each find a diet to suit our needs and one that helps us to live a balanced life. Gradual changes and planning are necessary for those embarking on vegetarian or vegan diets but for anyone else simply wanting to do their bit and reduce meat by, for example, one meal a week (which I fully applaud), it’s just a case of deciding to do it and then experimenting with the vast array of meat alternatives and vegetables that you can find in all supermarkets.
So finally, I challenge you to walk a mile in my ‘green’ shoes, if only to try something new and to know that you are ‘doing your bit’ and playing a very important role in saving the planet.