To maintain nutrition of the body we need to consume adequate amount of the right foods. Nutritious foods keep our body healthy and active.
Everyone should take required amount of food from all the food groups based on his/her need at different ages and physical activities.
Different foods have different effect not only on our body, but also on our environment.
To show the effect of different foods on the environment, Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition introduced the Double Pyramid in 2010. Everybody has some ideas about the food pyramid. The Double Pyramid is the combination of the food pyramid and environmental pyramid.
If we look at this Double Pyramid (food pyramid and environmental pyramid side by side), we can see that the food, which are recommended for higher amount of consumption have lower impact on the environment.
On the other hand foods, which are recommended fora lower amount, have higher impact on the environment. As such, in the environmental pyramid you can see food those have more impact on the environment are placed on the upper side like meat and cheese; and foods that have less impact on the environment are placed in lower side like fruit, vegetable. Some exception of this is that olive oil is good for health, but it has high impact on the environment.
The impact on the environment is considered based on greenhouse gas emission (carbon footprint), use of water resources (water footprint) and society’s use of natural assets (ecological footprint). Impact is considered at every stage of production through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method.
It has been found that many foods, which are harmful for our bodies are also harmful for the environment. Some foods are very healthy for our bodies and those are also very environmentally friendly.
For example, if we eat more fruit and vegetable then we will be healthy and it will have less effect on the environment. On the other side, if we eat even a low amount of red meat and sweet then it will have more impact on the environment. You can see that the recommended amount of red meat and sweet for our health are lower in the food pyramid.
If we look at the impacts of foods on the environment, we can see that:
The cereal grain crops have lower water and carbon footprint. Among those crops, greenhouse gas emissions from legume like chickpea and lentil are less than half compared to other crops. The reason is that these crops can fix nitrogen naturally and that’s why nitrogen fertiliser is not required. So the emission of greenhouse gas reduces.
If we compare with the animal products the emission of greenhouse gas from vegetables are lower. According to the Journal of Cleaner Production, I kilogram greenhouse gas is emitted from 5.8 kg onion; whereas, the same amount of gas is emitted by 44 grams of beef. Red meat has more effect than fruits and vegetable. A similar situation is applicable about ecological footprint.
Water footprint measures the amount of water used at individual, community and national level. Increase of water footprint can create water scarcity, and problems like below may happen:
♦ Lack of access to drinking water
♦ Hampered crop production
♦ Death of Animals
♦ Hampered education-sometimes children get too sick to go to school or they work to get water for the family.
♦ Occurrence of diseases
♦ Sanitation problems
♦ Mental health problems like depression and anxiety
♦ Reduced productivity-as people get sick because of the scarcity of water
♦ Reduced income
Ecological Footprint measures human impact on Earth’s ecosystems. The Biologically productive area needed to provide people different things like foods-fruits, vegetables, fish; shelter-buildings; furniture and fuel-wood is counted here.
If ecological footprint increases, then problems occur like
♦ Forests shrinking
♦ Biodiversity loss
♦ Freshwater stress and
♦ Climate change
♦ Increase of social and economic costs as our resources are limited; excessive consumption by some people have negative impact elsewhere on other people.
Carbon Footprint measures the resources we consume, both directly and indirectly. Directly can be the kind of car we drive and how hot or cold, we keep your house or business and indirectly can be how much energy it takes to produce the products that we purchase.
When carbon-based energy is used, gasses are emitted which
♦ Adversely affect the planet’s atmospheric balance and
♦ Greatly strike the climate
So we need to consider the above mentioned, issues seriously. If we follow the Double Pyramid, then not only we will be healthy, but our environment will also be protected for us as well as for the next generation.
The writer is a freelancer and can be reached at: [email protected]