BREAKING NEWS A woman is dead after a car crash in Huntington County Sunday evening. Full Story

Change your diet to combat climate change in 2019

You may be aware that a plant-based diet can make you healthier by lowering your risk for obesity, heart dis...

Posted: Jan 2, 2019 1:57 PM
Updated: Jan 2, 2019 1:57 PM

You may be aware that a plant-based diet can make you healthier by lowering your risk for obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. But research shows there's another good reason to regularly eat meatless meals. By filling your plate with plant foods instead of animal foods, you can help save the planet.

One study, published in October in the journal Nature, found that as a result of population growth and the continued consumption of Western diets high in red meats and processed foods, the environmental pressures of the food system could increase by up to 90% by 2050, "exceeding key planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity beyond which Earth's vital ecosystems could become unstable," according to study author Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford.

Agricultural chemicals

Agriculture

Agriculture, forestry, and commercial fishing

Air pollution

Animal farming and livestock

Animals

Beans and legumes

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Chemical industry and chemicals

Climate change

Consumer products

Diet and nutrition

Diet, nutrition and fitness

Dietitians and nutritionists

Emissions

Energy and environment

Energy and utilities

Environment and natural resources

Environmentalism

Fertilizer

Food and drink

Food products

Food trends

Fruits and vegetables

Greenhouse gases

Health and medical

Health care

Health care professionals

Kinds of foods and beverages

Life forms

Livestock

Nutrition

Pollution

Vegetables

Vegetarian and vegan diets

Weight loss diets

"It could lead to dangerous levels of climate change with higher occurrences of extreme weather events, affect the regulatory function of forest ecosystems and biodiversity ... and pollute water bodies such that it would lead to more oxygen-depleted dead zones in oceans," Springmann said.

"If the whole world, which continues to grow, eats more like us, the impacts are staggering, and the planet simply can't withstand it," said Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist and plant-based food and sustainability expert in Los Angeles who was not involved in the new research.

Sustaining a healthier planet will require halving the amount of food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies. But it will also require a shift toward more plant-based diets, according to Springmann.

As Palmer noted, "research consistently shows that drastically reducing animal food intake and mostly eating plant foods is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your impact on the planet over your lifetime, in terms of energy required, land used, greenhouse gas emissions, water used and pollutants produced."

How a meat-based diet negatively affects the environment

It might come as a surprise, but Springmann's study found that the production of animal products generates the majority of food-related greenhouse-gas emissions -- specifically, up to 78% of total agricultural emissions.

This, he explained, is due to manure-related emissions, to their "low feed-conversion efficiencies" (meaning cows and other animals are not efficient in converting what they eat into body weight) and to enteric fermentation in ruminants, a process that takes place in a cow's stomach when it digests food that leads to methane emissions.

The feed-related impacts of animal products also contribute to freshwater use and pressures on cropland, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus application, which over time could lead to dead zones in oceans, low-oxygen areas where few organisms can survive, according to Springmann.

For an example of how animal foods compare with plant-based foods in terms of environmental effects, consider that "beef is more than 100 times as emissions-intensive as legumes," Springmann said. "This is because a cow needs, on average, 10 kilograms of feed, often from grains, to grow 1 kilogram of body weight, and that feed will have required water, land and fertilizer inputs to grow."

In addition, cows emit the potent greenhouse gas methane during digestion, which makes cows and other ruminants such as sheep especially high-emitting.

Other animal foods have lower impacts because they don't produce methane in their stomachs and require less feed than cows, Springmann explained. For example, cows emit about 10 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram of meat than pigs and chickens, which themselves emit about 10 times more than legumes.

Like animals, plants also require inputs from the environment in order to grow, but the magnitude is significantly less, Springmann explained.

"In today's agricultural system, we grow plants to feed animals, which require all of those resources and inputs: land, water, fossil fuels, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer to grow. And then we feed plants to animals and care for them over their lifetime, while they produce methane and manure," Palmer said.

Adopting more plant-based diets for ourselves could reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the food system by more than half, according to the Nature study. A mainly plant-based diet could also reduce other environmental impacts, such as those from fertilizers, and save up to quarter use of both farmland and fresh water, according to Springmann.

Palmer explained that "legumes [or pulses], such as beans, lentils and peas are the most sustainable protein source on the planet. They require very small amounts of water to grow, they can grow in harsh, dry climates, they grow in poor nations, providing food security, and they act like a natural fertilizer, capturing nitrogen from the air and fixing it in the soil. Thus, there is less need for synthetic fertilizers. These are the types of protein sources we need to rely upon more often."

Flexitarian: The healthy compromise for you and the planet

Experts agree that if you are not ready to give up meat entirely, a flexitarian diet, which is predominantly plant-based, can help. This diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein sources including legumes, soybeans and nuts, along with modest amounts of poultry, fish, milk and eggs, and small amounts of red meat.

Vegetarian and vegan diets would result in even lower greenhouse gas emissions, but a flexitarian diet "is the least stringent that is both healthy and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough for us to stay within environmental limits," according to Springmann.

Palmer said that "although vegan diets, followed by vegetarian diets, are linked with the lowest environmental impacts, not everyone is interested in taking on those lifestyles. But everyone can eat more of a flexitarian diet. It doesn't mean that you have to give up meat completely, but you significantly reduce your intake of it."

Registered dietitian nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner described it this way: "A flexitarian is really someone who wakes up with the intention of being more vegetarian. It's different from vegetarian in that there is some flexibility."

Going flexitarian

Just how "flexitarian" you wish to be can be flexible, too. For example, Blatner, who was not involved in the Nature study, offers three levels of the diet in her book "The Flexitarian Diet": a "beginner" flexitarian, who consumes six to eight meatless meals per week (or is limited to 26 ounces of animal protein); an "advanced" flexitarian, who eats nine to 14 meatless meals per week (or is limited to 18 ounces of animal protein); and an "expert" flexitarian, who eats at least 15 meatless meals or limits animal protein to 9 ounces per week.

The key is not just eliminating meat but swapping in plant-based proteins, including beans and lentils. A Mediterranean meal might incorporate chickpeas; a Mexican meal might have black beans or pintos; an Asian meal might include edamame; an Italian meal might use white beans or lentils to make a "Bolognese" pasta sauce, Blatner explained.

"I wrote the book because I really wanted to be a vegetarian, but I just couldn't do it so strictly," she said. "I really wanted to lean in to a more plant-based diet, but I needed a little more flexibility. So it's the great compromise."

Flexitarian fast-start

To get started on a flexitarian diet, here's a sample three-day plan, courtesy of Blatner. You'll notice that some meals have a choice of a plant-based protein or an animal-based protein. Choose plant as often as you can, and you'll soon be an expert-level flexitarian of 15-plus meatless meals per week.

Day 1

Breakfast of avocado toast: sprouted whole-grain toast + avocado + spinach + egg

Lunch of kale ranch bowl: chicken or chickpeas + chopped kale/tomatoes + roasted sweet potato cubes + ranch dressing

Dinner of tacos: seasoned white fish or lentils + corn tortillas + cabbage slaw + guacamole + salsa

Snack of apple + pecans and/or cucumber + hummus

Day 2

Breakfast of peanut butter oatmeal: oatmeal + natural peanut butter + chopped apple

Lunch of a Mexican bowl: chicken or black beans + chopped romaine/peppers + brown rice + guacamole + salsa

Dinner of a Mediterranean plate: chicken or chickpeas + cucumber/tomato/feta salad + lemon-dill brown rice

Snack of grape tomatoes + mozzarella stick and/or clementine + pistachios

Day 3

Breakfast of green belly smoothie: 2% plain kefir + rolled oats + banana + spinach

Lunch of Asian bowl: chicken or edamame + coleslaw mix + quinoa + ginger dressing

Dinner of burgers: beef or bean burger + sweet potato fries + veggie dippers with ranch

Snack of carrots + almond butter and/or dark chocolate + berries

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1385749

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1538881574
Cuyahoga1358332341
Hamilton987081326
Montgomery679671161
Summit568451051
Lucas51531869
Butler48000663
Stark42232983
Lorain32046539
Warren30404338
Mahoning27463643
Clermont25990297
Lake24809422
Delaware22566147
Licking20767246
Fairfield20730223
Greene20611275
Trumbull20257516
Medina20074290
Clark18170332
Richland16680236
Portage16389231
Wood15926209
Allen14333261
Miami14018261
Muskingum12927155
Wayne12185244
Columbiana11980242
Tuscarawas11204271
Marion10908150
Pickaway10606129
Scioto10531127
Erie9864171
Ross9612177
Lawrence8934125
Hancock8603143
Ashtabula8474187
Geauga8251156
Belmont8236188
Jefferson7691175
Huron7537131
Union742651
Washington7380126
Athens709365
Sandusky6963135
Darke6875137
Knox6812122
Seneca6519137
Ashland6051115
Auglaize595388
Shelby5820104
Brown575372
Mercer565190
Defiance5564101
Crawford5563117
Madison551071
Highland549282
Fulton542583
Clinton533781
Logan518687
Preble5102111
Putnam4900107
Guernsey484364
Williams468982
Perry462254
Champaign454264
Ottawa442484
Jackson434563
Pike398345
Morrow396451
Coshocton391969
Fayette383753
Adams369275
Hardin366170
Gallia355458
Holmes3321111
Henry329869
Van Wert320771
Hocking310770
Wyandot285458
Carroll266352
Paulding246443
Meigs221742
Monroe192749
Noble174142
Morgan170029
Harrison160741
Vinton141319
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 62°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 61°
Monday is another nice and breezy day with warmer temperatures.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events