Food corresponds to the production of a third of the greenhouse gases that are causing the climate crisis, while the food system has a great potential: that of nourishing and at the same time preserving nature. For this reason, in 2019, Lancet published the report Meals in the Anthropocene with the results of the Eat-Lancet Price. They contain tips that would allow for health and sustainability at the same time. Combinations of calories and products to be consumed are suggested in order to keep man and the Planet healthy.
In Italy, in theory, we would not be far from this goal: the traditional Mediterranean diet is an example of healthy, ecological nutrition and also with strong cultural ties, so much so that Unesco has recognized it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
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A group of researchers from the University of Naples has therefore decided to analyze the current eating habits of Italians to see how far they have moved away from the Mediterranean diet, how far they are from suggestions proposed by the Eat-Lancet Price, how much they contribute to the carbon imbalance.
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“The data show that in the observation period (2000-2017, ed. ) the general intake of fats, proteins and carbohydrates remained similar. However, the proportions changed. There was a positive reduction in food of origin animal and in particular fats reach butter fell by 58%, meat by 32%. also dropped fruit, potatoes and vegetables , 20, 15, 13%. The consumption of milk (minus 14%) and oil (minus 11%) also decreases “says Marilena Vitale , researcher at the Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, a
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“ We are still following the Mediterranean diet but we are far from the original . In fact, plant-based foods have dropped, because people prefer refined carbohydrates and sugars . There is also an increase in tropical type fats, palm oil reach and, in a reduced form, coconut. The situation is positive, but Eat-Lancet expects meat to be reduced by more than 50% “, says Annalisa Giosuè, another of the authors of the Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery of the University of Naples.
To respect the advice we should double the consumption of legumes and dried fruit , and in general avoid all products of animal origin, from meat, to milk and cheese, to eggs. If we follow these suggestions, in addition to getting better, we could reduce emissions by 50% .
“By changing our way of eating we would save 725 kg of carbon dioxide per head, or reach travel in au tomobile a journey of 4 thousand kilometers “, explains Giosuè. The drop in red meat alone would cut emissions by 31%.
Among the various factors analyzed there are also those relating to waste . 45% of fruit and vegetables, 35% of cereals, 20% of meats are thrown away by job.
“The diet of the past was also good because it was based on a local production, with low waste. Today, although we try to apply it, we struggle to find local products and we often don’t follow seasonality , going to buy frozen vegetables that correspond to a high energy production “, explains Vitale. “The consumer, when left free, aims for a daily caloric intake without necessarily balancing the macronutrients and increasingly chooses highly caloric but not very nutritious products. meat is replaced not with proteins, but with fats, carbohydrates and sugars. Yet due to our tradition we are in an advantageous position. we should be the first to do it and become an example for the whole world “, says Joshua.
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In summary, in Italy we find ourselves in the fortunate circumstance of being able to have a healthy diet for us and the planet. We should only further reduce meat and sugars, increase fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts, moderate fish and mix all the elements without overdoing anyone.
In addition to hurting the Earth , a wrong diet can also damage our body. Food choices are in fact closely related to diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and represent the first cause of premature death. According to a study published in Lancet , the diet caused 11 million deaths in 2017. The country with the highest rate is Uzbekistan, the lowest is Israel. Globally, the consumption of healthy and nutritious food is under every guideline. Some regions that reach optimal levels for some foods, reach vegetables in Asia or legumes in the Caribbean and Africa, are lacking in others.