Eco-Friendly Eating to Reduce your Carbon Footprint
Vegan athletes from around the world have been taking part in what appears to be a regular exercise regime. In the past, this has led to the development of a number of health benefits, including weight loss and even the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
But now, a new study from the Center for Applied Health at Harvard Medical School suggests that there may also be an economic benefit to our low-grade commitment to go vegetarian.
The study, published in The Journal of Obesity, shows that the amount of time it takes for people to consume a serving of meat, chicken, or fish will depend on how committed that person is to going vegetarian. “If you go to a vegan restaurant, you can order any of the dishes you want and have it ready to go,” says co-senior author Noelle Selin, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Health at Harvard Medical School.
She says that in a study focusing on the health effects of going vegetarian, the health benefits that resulted from consuming a serving of meat were bigger than the expected level of mortality from a standard meat-eating population. “We found that the health benefits that we estimated for this study were achievable but not very high, and this is consistent with other studies that we’ve done,” says Selin.
In a sense, it is unsurprising that the benefits of going vegetarian could be so huge. After all, we are talking about people who are trying to get in shape, right? The answer is no.
In fact, going vegetarian is one of the most healthy things you can do, because you get a lot of energy from just a single serving of plant food. The Harvard study focused on a region in the US called the Great Plains. This is the part of the country where the sun doesn’t always shine, and there is no grassy area where you can sit down and have a snack. But every day, you get a little bit of sunlight, which is why it’s a good place to go for energy.
In order to measure the health benefits, the researchers focused on two groups of people: 1) people who went for regular monthly lunches at a farmers’ market and 2) people who came in for only one meal a day at that market.
Those in the farmers’ market were asked to eat a diet of 3,500 calories, which is about as much as you would need to cover the cost of a plant food. Those in the one-meal-a-day group were asked to eat a diet of 2,500 calories, or about a quarter of what you would need to cover the cost of a plant food. Both of these are about as much as you would need to cover the cost of a plant food. Both of these are incredibly calorie-dense.
In fact, the study showed that the most economical option to get into shape was to cut down on those calories. As a result, the average person in that group ended up losing about 3,500 calories per year, which is about a quarter of the average person’s daily calorie intake.
Those in the one-meal-a-day group, on the other hand, ended up gaining about 1,500 calories per day from that single serving of plant food. That means that each serving of that food was about 5,000 calories. That translates to an extra 690 calories a day, which is a huge gain for a person who is trying to lose weight.
The researchers found that the economic benefits of reducing your carbon footprint by going vegetarian were larger than the estimated health benefits of that same amount of carbon reduction. So, you may be able to go vegetarian and still get those health benefits, even if it costs you more to go there.