The Climatarian Diet: What Does it Involve?
When we talk about certain types of diets, the first thing to think about is their objective. For example, the climatarian diet is one of those few diets that prioritizes “the whole,” and not just a single person. In other words, it not only protects health, but also the health of the planet. How does this work?
Well, those who adopt this dietary model make a conscious effort that the food they eat doesn’t increase global warming. Its production, processing, and transportation doesn’t require large amounts of land or water, doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, and doesn’t acidify the oceans, among other effects.
What is the climatarian diet?
The climatarian diet, also called “planetary diet”, consists of including those foods that minimize or avoid the harmful effects of climate change within an eating plan. These effects are becoming increasingly evident and include the following:
- Global warming
- The spread of diseases
- The melting of glaciers
- An increase in pests
- The intensification of storms
- Increased heat waves
- Ecosystem changes
Since the proposal doesn’t involve adhering to strict recommendations, it’s easy to comply with when compared to restrictive diets. Its purpose is to eat foods that don’t contribute to environmental damage.
Cultivation, processing, and marketing are all aspects that are considered. The idea is to avoid those products that, in one way or another, cause a strong impact on the environment. In this sense, it also avoids the use of non-biodegradable containers or those that produce greenhouse gases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), environmental deterioration increases public health risks.
Some diseases such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, mental health risks, heat stroke, among others, can originate from extreme meteorological phenomena and climate changes.
An expert study evaluated 15 food groups and concluded that foods with the lowest environmental impact reduce the risk of death and certain chronic diseases.
In addition, foods associated with better health, such as fruits, whole grains, vegetables, olive oil and nuts, have low environmental impacts. In the case of animal protein source, fish is suggested over red meat and processed meats.
Healthy foods with low environmental impact
It should be clarified that the climatarian diet does not follow the same principles as a vegan diet. This is especially true because it makes a selection of those vegetables with less environmental impact and, in addition, makes room for foods of animal origin.
Those that leave a larger footprint to the detriment of the environment are discarded. Foods that require the use of air transport or those packaged in plastic are not part of this list, either.
One particularity of beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, among others, is that they’re capable of enriching soils with nutrients and improving their structure. In addition, this is a type of crop that requires little water for its growth.
For this reason, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlights these crops as multipliers of others. They’re also recommended because they reduce the risk of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions since they don’t require synthetic fertilizers.
As for their effects on health, they’re a part of healthy diets. In 2021, a controlled trial concluded that eating 150 grams of cooked legumes a day improves blood pressure and body composition. Even blood lipid levels and markers of inflammation also decrease.
Whole grains or whole grains are grains that are abundant in insoluble dietary fiber, as they retain the bran. Like legumes, brown rice, barley, oats, corn, among others, they’re not very demanding of water in order to grow.
When compared to other foods, we find that 1 calorie of whole grain requires only 0.13 gallons of water for its growth. Meanwhile, meat requires 2.7 gallons per calorie, vegetables 0.35 gallons and fruits 0.55 gallons.
Also, consumption of these foods decreases the risk of chronic diseases. A recent publication reported a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, various types of cancer and type 2 diabetes when eating more of these grains.
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Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major factor in climate change. Nut crops produce the least amount of carbon dioxide when compared to other protein foods.
To generate 100 grams of protein from nuts, a total of 0.26 kilograms of CO2 is emitted. As a point of reference, 100 grams of protein from beef generates 49.89 kilograms of CO2, poultry produces 5.7 kilograms of CO2 and eggs 4.21 kilograms.
However, these fruits need a lot of water to grow. It has been found that one almond requires 3.2 gallons of water to grow. For this reason, while you’re working on reducing their water consumption, it’s recommended to limit your consumption of nuts.
The following daily servings are suggested:
- 1/4 cup chopped or whole walnuts
- 1 cup nut milk
- 2 tablespoons of nut butter
Another plus for nuts is their nutritional value and health benefits. A 2020 study reported that people who eat at least 1/2 ounce of nuts a day have a lower risk of getting heart disease or suffering a cardiovascular accident.
Local and seasonal foods
The climatarian diet promotes local and seasonal crops to reduce processing, packaging, transportation and food contamination.
In this regard, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found that between 30 and 40% of the food produced in the North American country is discarded and rots in a landfill. Methane, one of the greenhouse gases, is produced in the rotting process.
When local vegetables are harvested in season, their vitamins and minerals are also better preserved, since they’re harvested at optimum maturity for consumption and their transportation time is reduced.
Mushrooms are characterized because they grow among the waste of other crops, such as on the ears of corn or in the shells of nuts. This reduces food waste in landfills.
Mushrooms also require minimal amounts of soil and water to support their growth. In the process they release very small amounts of CO2.
A study showed that the part of mushrooms that grows underground is an alternative to synthetic plastic. This gives it more versatility and additional benefits.
It has also been determined that 3 ounces of mushrooms provide 8 to 12% of potassium, 67 to 90% of vitamin D and 12 to 18% of vitamin B2. Plus, it contributes only 1% of total calories.
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Foods to limit
Foods with the greatest environmental impact should not be part of the climatarian diet. Below, we’ll talk about them in detail.
The main disadvantage of red meat for the environment is that livestock farming produces 7.2 megatonnes of CO2 per year, which contributes 41% of greenhouse gas emissions.
On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has studied the possible carcinogenic effect of these meats and recommends reducing their consumption.
Reducing palm oil consumption can prevent deforestation and the disintegration of habitats for endangered species. It requires a lot of land for its cultivation.
It’s also very common in processed foods. Therefore, by reducing its cultivation, our consumption of industrialized products would also decrease.
Ultra-processed food products
Ultra-processed foods are characterized by containing a lot of added sugar and palm oil. In addition, a good part is marketed in non-biodegradable plastic packaging.
A study from this same year made an interesting finding: for every 10% of calories from ultra-processed foods, there is a 15% higher risk of death.
It’s clear that the cultivation of sugar cane affects the ecosystem. It requires the use of large amounts of water, contributes to air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces biodiversity.
All this is added to the fact that excessive sugar consumption can lead to obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes.
How is cooking recommended in the climatarian diet?
We already know which foods to include and which not to include in the climatarian diet. But what do we do with them? The best way is to eat them raw in the case of vegetables. This saves energy and does not emit carbon.
In some cases, such as legumes and whole grains, you have to cook them to soften them. For this, it’s best to use a pressure cooker and reduce baking, since the oven is the most energy-consuming cooking equipment.
When you are following the climatarian diet, remember not to throw away food and make the most of leftovers. This type of waste produce 10% of all greenhouse gases.
In any case, make sure to seek advice from a nutrition professional. Since it’s necessary to avoid certain foods, it’s best to get a plan designed by an expert to prevent possible nutritional deficiencies.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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