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3 New Food Habits That Will Change Your World

Written by S.O.

Posted on March 19, 2015 at 7:23 pm

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Photo by Josefine Stenudd

Three Food Habits That Will Change Your Life … And The World

My, how things have changed.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, millions of Americans have done an astounding 180-degree about-face regarding environmental issues and the way we treat our planet.

And yet, those sincere environmental beliefs we love to tout at the coal-burning power plant demonstration or sustainable living seminar are too often forgotten the minute we sit down to eat. Some of us will recycle every single thing we can get our hands on, but then fail to see how the way we eat is connected to the health of the planet. Some of us will point out the potential catastrophe that is climate change only to miss how changing a few of our eating habits would go a long way toward mitigating that threat.

Yes, it truly is remarkable how the environmental movement has grown these past 45 years. But just as remarkable is the way much of our eating habits seem stuck in the past.

So, let’s look at three ways that you can square your beliefs with what’s actually on your plate. You may just find how easy it is to further your health and the health of the planet, all at the same time.

1. Eat less/no red meat
I might as well start with the most controversial suggestion, right?

Many Americans view a big cut of read meat in much the same way they view skydiving – that is, thrilling and maybe a tad unhealthy, but nearly consequence-free for healthy adults. But where skydiving contributes to CO2 emissions only during the plan ride, the red meat industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in a crazy quilt of industries and operations that are quite literally endangering life on this planet.

Chew on this: Of all the human-caused greenhouse gas emitting activities, farmed animals and their byproducts contribute over 50 percent of the annual worldwide total. In fact, The Lancet, a respected medical journal if ever there was one, just published a study that concludes there is no other way to address climate change without addressing the amount of red meat we consume.

And it’s not just how meat affects our health – watering all that livestock consumes an amazing 1,800 gallons per pound of meat produced! And, every net pound of beef produced takes almost three pounds of corn feed. Then there is what to do with all that animal waste; and we aren’t even considering that each one of those animals expels methane – to the tune of between 25-50 gallons per day per animal – which is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Lastly, cows contribute about two-thirds of the globe’s annual ammonia output.

Yuck!

Now, considering that those of us in the West consume nearly 200 pounds of meat per year (while our counterparts in the developing world eat around 66 pounds per year), making this change on a large scale won’t be easy. But can you imagine the difference it would make if we were all on the same page?

2. Eat the right things to maintain energy levels
Sure, most of us try to eat the right things only to ruin our good intentions with a quick run to fast food and other processed foods, often because we failed to correctly plan our meals.

If we eat that way for too long, though, we won’t have the energy to get up from the couch, let alone have enough energy to save the whole world!

When we are hungry, hormones in our gut interact with the brain, causing us to feel hunger and to seek nourishment. Eating anything will cause the glucose level in our blood to jump, giving us energy. Eat the right kinds of foods and this feeling of energy – and its accompanying alertness – will remain for long periods of time. But, make the wrong choice, and your energy and alertness will come crashing down around you.

Researchers suspect that eating foods that maintain the glucose balance – foods like fish, legumes, and practically any vegetable out there – will do the job just right.

Alternatively, eating foods high in sugar and other carbohydrates often will, following a brief burst of energy, slow you to a standstill. Even worse, it won’t be long before your stomach signals your brain that it is again hungry. And the whole process begins anew.

3. A little hunger definitely won’t hurt you
Most people would agree that having more food than you need is way better than not having enough. But this embarrassment of riches has a dark side, of course. Obesity, diabetes, and eating disorders, in general, were nearly unheard of until the invention of modern food production and attitudes. Sure, few people in America die from eating too little, and that’s nothing to scoff at. But, if we change our attitudes toward hunger itself, the result would literally mean we could have the best of both
worlds.

Study after study confirms that health and life expectancy is improved with a decrease of overall calorie intake over a lifetime. While researchers will roll out a very long explanation as to why that is, the fact is their findings suggest that taking in less calories equals a longer, healthier life span.

Now it’s important to note that I am not talking about starvation – in that case, starving yourself will cause your body to turn on itself, devouring fat, then muscle, then our very bones. Needless to say, you’re going to need those. Instead, going a little hungry (aka forgoing snacks in between meals) will be less taxing on your body, and will ensure that your overall consumption pattern is
compatible with a healthy earth, requiring less resources to feed your appetite.

Additionally, eating less will give you a little wiggle room when it comes to the things you do eat. This idea is a big part of French culture, and may be one reason why they can handle such a rich, high-fat diet in stride.

Like we’ve already learned in the environmental movement, small changes in our behavior can net huge returns. Likewise with our diets, even cutting down on things like read meat, carbohydrates, and snacking will have a big impact on our Earth.

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