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Foods with positive health benefits have lower environmental impacts

March 5, 2020

It turns out that eating healthily is not only good for you, but it can also lessen your impact on the environment. According to a recent study published in the Proceedings of Natural Academy of Sciences journal, certain foods commonly associated with improved health also contribute to a more sustainable global food system. The seven foods identified include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, olive oil, legumes, nuts and fish.

With many reports and stories advocating for more plant-based diets, with vegan and vegetarian diets increasingly touted as the best options for tackling climate issues, for many they can be too intimidating or simply unattainable. The good news is you can considerably reduce your carbon footprint by choosing lean, healthy and more planet-friendly protein to replace land-based meat: sustainable fish.

Can seafood really be sustainable?

If you’re still concerned with the environmental impact of eating fish, here are two heartening facts to keep in mind:

The environmental benefits of seafood are in part due to the fact that, unlike land-based protein, wild fish doesn’t emit large quantities of methane gas (produced by livestock) or nitrous oxide (released from tilled and fertilized soils), both of which are many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Fish is a natural and renewable source of healthy food that if managed sustainably can contribute to feeding the planet for generations to come.

Fish for health

From a health perspective many reputable organizations still recommend eating two portions of fish per week to maintain a healthy diet. Fish and seafood are one of the best sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that our bodies can’t produce on their own and are shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fish and seafood also contain a host of other vitamins (A, B and D) and minerals like iron, iodine, selenium, potassium and magnesium.

According to information from Seafood Nutrition Partnership, eating seafood two to three times per week reduces the risk of death from any health-related causes by 17%. It also helps with brain development, treating depression, improving memory and sharpness.  

Small steps, big impacts

As the need for climate action intensifies and meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals is no longer optional, consider that studies estimate 20-25% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food production. This means that fortunately, even small changes to what we choose to put on our plates every day can have a big impact. We can all start with easy tweaks rather than get overwhelmed with the need to make sweeping lifestyle changes.

And since many of these small changes are also good for the body, it’s a win-win.

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