• Olga Onoshchenko

Going vegan. Not only in January.

Or how else we should eat to save [our assess] the planet.


Vegan diet is simple – just do not eat anything animal - and being vegan is regarded a virtue. Vegan - is like an honorary badge on your chest.

With climate crisis escalation, being vegan becomes a new ‘norm’.

There is nothing wrong with vegan diet becoming so popular. Only good. Indeed, vegan diet is one of the simplest ways to make general population eat less red meat. Simple and popular, often, doesn’t mean the best possible.


Is meat eating not bad for us?

The truth is, organic, grass fed, super-quality, no-added-hormones-and-antibiotics meat and dairy products are … healthy.

But eating too much meat is deadly for planet:

- It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration and deforestation.

- It causes unnecessary animal suffering

- It requires masses of grain, water and land

- It hurts populations of poor countries

- The overwhelming majority of population eat shit cheap processed meat and calorific dairy products, so vegan is definitely better for the health of the majority

To put it under perspective, it hurts the planet more than emissions from transport.


Should we all give up animal products? It is healthier, cruelty-free and better for the planet…

Wait!


It is not as straight forward. It is not just about becoming vegan. Vegan does not equal healthy, cruelty-free and better for planet. There are many nuances.

The short answer is that we MUST reduce animal consumption: it is critical for planet and it will not compromise our health.


The formula is:



Eat a largely plant-based diet, balance calorie intake with expenditure and don’t eat too much junk/processed food



Here are official recommendations in more detail:

In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission (a group of 37 scientists from 16 countries working in the fields of human health, nutrition, economics, agriculture, political sciences, and environmental sustainability) assessed existing evidence and developed global scientific targets that define a safe operating space for food systems. These targets focus on two key areas that apply to all people and the planet:


Target 1: Healthy Diets

Based on extensive research on foods, dietary patterns, and health outcomes, the Commission defines a “planetary health diet” with consumption ranges for each food group. Despite its name, this is not a specific diet but rather a flexible dietary pattern that largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils; includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry; and includes no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables. According to the Commission, global adoption of this pattern of eating would provide major health benefits, including a large reduction in total mortality.


Target 2: Sustainable Food Production

With current food production driving climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and unsustainable changes in water and land use, the Commission also identifies a set of boundaries that global food production should stay within to “decrease the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic shifts in the Earth system.” These boundaries relate to six key earth system processes:

- climate change (based on greenhouse gas emissions)

- land system change (based on cropland use)

- use of freshwater

- biodiversity loss (based on extinction rate)

- nitrogen and phosphorus cycling (based on the application of these fertilizers).


In other words, it is not only about beef and greenhouse gas emissions


If you overeat (overconsume calories of) vegan products – it is bad both for planet and health!


If you consume vegan products in excess or that are produced unsustainably – it is bad for planet!


Examples:


- Some dairy alternatives have a lower water footprint, and some have a higher water footprint - so even if you stop drinking dairy, it’s not that simple. There are trade-offs and it’s not such a straightforward issue 

- rice is GHG and water intensive. To be more precise, rice production roughly equivalent to Germany in greenhouse gas emissions

- avocado consumption triggers crime, depletion of water resources so that locals suffer

- soy production is synonymous to deforestation. Although we can eat soya csafely if we know where it is coming from and how it was produced. Fun fact: 90% of soy imported to Europe is used to feed animals?!

- modern wester plant-based diets are generally characterized by industrially, highly processed plant-based meat and dairy substitutes. These products have a higher environmental impact than the unprocessed plant-based foodstuffs.

- the lower energy density of plant-based foodstuffs results in a higher food intake for vegans with respect to ovo-lacto-vegetarians (around 12.5% in terms of food weight), possibly explaining the lack of environmental benefits of a vegan diet in comparison with an ovo-lacto-vegetarian choice.


Olga, ffs, please, just tell us what to eat to save the planet and stay healthy!

Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils; low to moderate amount of seafood, dairy and poultry, no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains.

Do not overeat and do not waste food. Be mindful of where and how everything you eat was produced. Obviously, local and seasonal is the best. What resources were used (or wasted?) to produce and transport your food?

Brazilian soy, Mexican avocado eaten in the UK or highly processed vegan alternative to meat or dairy can be not much better than a quality steak farmed as sustainably as it can be possible.

Watch out for further news: new research will be coming up, new methods of food production will be developed (sustainable rice, lab-grown meat, sustainable dairy, supplements etc), new public policies, taxation, regulations will be emerging.

More info:

EAT-Lancet Commission

A cool calculator


If you want to know how to eat less, get leaner, healthier and stronger and keep your diet planet-friendly, join my coaching group that starts 18th January.



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