Diets high in meat are harmful to both human health and the environment, as has been proven by several studies.
But according to recent studies, plant-based diets can also have significantly different effects on human health and the environment. Numerous studies have compared the effects of national diets on both health and the environment in order to identify foods that perform well on both fronts. But because it is based on actual dietary records from a large-scale nationwide survey of over 90,000 American nurses, whose diets and health was then followed for almost 30 years, the new Lancet Planetary Health research offers remarkably specific insights on the matter. Separately, the researchers assigned each reported diet a score for its environmental impact before overlaying data on the effects of other food groups on the environment onto 65,000 of the reported diets. When environmental effects were taken into account, the overall patterns were also closely followed. In this sizable real-world dataset, while meals were deemed to be “healthier,” they typically also had fewer greenhouse gas emissions, consumed less cropland, required less water, and needed less fertilizer. It seems that what is better for human health is also better for the environment. Human health ultimately depends on the health of the earth, and we are on a hopeful path if we adopt more plant-based diets. But they add that in order to truly get it right, we must understand that “not all plant-based diets are equal.”