Green Dieting: Environmentally Friendly Ways to Improve Your Dietary Health
Everyone seems to be looking for that magic diet where they will be able to eat whatever they want and still shed pounds of fat. It’s too bad that diet doesn’t exist. There are diets out there, however, that can provide a much-needed boost in health while being good for the environment. Today we’ll be starting a series featuring three environmentally friendly eating habits: the Paleo diet, the macrobiotic diet and raw veganism.
A macrobiotic diet focuses on consuming grains as a staple of a person’s diet, with other foods incorporated as needed. A major focus is placed on eating whole, organic, local food and avoiding anything processed or refined, along with most animal products. One thing that makes a macrobiotic diet stand out from other diets is that it places an emphasis on the way a person eats, requiring food to be chewed thoroughly before swallowing. This can aid in digestion and help prevent overeating by making the person take their time with their food and, therefore, making them better able to recognize when they’re satisfied.
Raw veganism is, as the name implies, a mixture of veganism and raw foodism. A raw vegan does not consume any animal products or food cooked at a temperature higher than 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking foods at higher temperatures is believed to destroy many valuable micronutrients available in food, making it less valuable nutritionally. They abstain from meat, dairy eggs and honey, often for a mixture of health and philosophical or spiritual reasons. Much of their food will be local and organic in order to obtain the highest nutrient content available and to ensure that no harmful pesticides were used in the production of their food.
The Paleolithic diet, often called the Paleo diet, is modeled after what is known of the dietary practices of Paleolithic humans. As such, it places an emphasis on the consumption of wild plants and animals that would have been available to human beings during the Stone Age, a time period that ended about 10,000 years ago. Generally all meat consumed will be grass-fed, pasture raised meat, in order to avoid grains. Because it’s unlikely that Paleolithic man consumed grains, legumes, dairy salt and refined sugars, those who choose the Paleo diet avoid such foods. Organic, fresh food is favored, leading many who pursue a Paleo diet to shop at local farmers markets and organic groceries.
First up in our more in-depth look at environmentally friendly eating habits is the Paleo diet. Popularized by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin in the 70s, this diet has caught on with many different groups and relies on the belief that modern humans still have roughly the same digestive systems as their Paleolithic ancestors. This would mean that the ideal human diet would feature no processed foods, refined sugars, dairy products or grains and would instead be based on naturally raised meats and organic fruits, vegetables and nuts.
- Health Benefits
The rise of grain consumption starting roughly 10,000 years ago is seen by adherents to the Paleolithic diet as a contributing factor to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several nutritional deficiencies. By turning to more natural, primitive foods, they gain a higher concentration of vitamins and other trace nutrients and eliminate many food items that contribute to many of the diseases that plague the modern Western world. Further, the low energy density of Paleo foods allow for the consumption of a large amount of food while reducing the overall amount of calories, helping prevent overeating.
- Environmental Benefits
Paleo dieters generally focus on purchasing local, organic meat, fruits and vegetables. Grass-fed, pasture raised beef is the preferred meat and is generally purchased fresh from small farms. Due to the way the animals are raised and the fact that they are often slaughtered on the farm, the many environmental concerns associated with factory farming are significantly reduced, if not eliminated entirely. Locally grown organic produce is generally raised in smaller batches and doesn’t use genetically modified plants or environmentally harmful pesticides.
- Possible Drawbacks
Some have called the Paleo diet a fad diet, saying that the reason that Paleolithic man was likely so thin was as a result of a caloric deficiency or other factors and not due to an ideal diet. The idea that the last 10,000 years has not been enough time for humans’ bodies to adapt to an agrarian diet has been disputed. Many object to the low-carb Paleo diet, saying that it doesn’t provide the necessary amount of caloric intake and could result in a level of malnutrition. Further, the greater emphasis on consuming met, particularly red meat, has raised the question of whether the Paleo diet contributes to heart disease.