The article may contain traces of balance and is not vegan
To eat or not to eat - that is the question here. One that does not seem to be so easy to answer at all these days. For example, abstaining from meat is considered the most ecological way of eating and is also supposed to be the healthiest. On the other hand, the recommendation of a healthy diet includes eating a little meat and fish. It is not surprising that confusion arises. Should we now eat healthy or ecologically correct? And what would the latter look like anyway?
Let's take a quick look at the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE): It advises us to eat three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit a day and to stick to the wholemeal variety when eating cereal products. Animal products supplement the selection. Milk and products made from it, such as cheese and yoghurt, should be consumed daily to supply the body with vitamin B2, calcium and proteins and thus support bone health. They also reduce the risk of colon cancer, and 150 g of kefir, yoghurt or buttermilk daily reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Fish should be eaten once or twice a week as it contains omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish) and iodine (sea fish). The latter is important for the thyroid hormones. If there are meat products, the DGE recommends not to exceed 300 g to 600 g per week (depending on the calorie requirements of an adult), so the body gets iron, zinc and selenium.
Furthermore, the recommendation states: "Only animal foods contain significant amounts of available vitamin B12. Anyone who eats little or no animal food must take care to take vitamin B12 in addition". And an occasional egg can round out a complete diet.
Wait a minute - the environmentally conscious reader may object - and what about the CO2 balance? In fact, 20% of energy consumption and 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are attributable to food production. From production, transport and storage to disposal, everything flows into the ecological balance of the food. According to the Bavarian Ministry of Consumer Protection, conscious consumption could reduce these burdens by up to 50 %. An ecologically conscious diet is therefore important, because the way food is produced affects human health just as much as the health of the planet. Apart from greenhouse gas emissions, food production contributes to the loss of biodiversity and accounts for 70% of fresh water consumption.
However, it does not seem so easy to find the right diet. One magazine recently described this conflict as "ambivalence stress". Oh, if only everything were as simple as replacing plastic products with alternatives from bambusliebe.
The issue of nutrition is no less complicated by the growing world population. Also from this point of view, our current nutritional style could become problematic over time. After all, the available agricultural land will not be sufficient in the long term to guarantee a secure diet for all people. Researchers from six US universities created a simulation model based on data from the USA. They investigated which dietary style is the most sustainable and secures the future of humanity and came to the conclusion that more people will only be able to live from the limited possibilities if we use more products in the future that can be grown on less arable land.
In this simulation, ten different nutritional models were compared, including the meat-eating, vegan and vegetarian models. Interestingly, veganism only ended up in the middle, because it leaves too much land unused; different foods require different types of land. For example, often nothing else can be cultivated on pasture land, because the procurement of the soil does not make it possible.
Nevertheless, more people can live on the existing cultivated areas if animal products are largely dispensed with. According to the study, vegetarian diets and two types of mixed nutrition with small amounts of meat are most sustainable. But the Winner is ... the lacto-vegetarian diet (i.e. a vegetable diet supplemented with milk, cheese and honey). Researchers believe that this is the best way to feed the whole of humanity. Although these findings only apply to the American conditions, they can serve as a basis for comparable calculations for other parts of the world.
The Planetary Health Diet report published by the Eat Lancet Commission in early 2019 is also interesting. This commission is a merger of "The EAT", a privately funded food and environmental protection organization, and "The Lancet", a medical journal. It brings together experts in agriculture, nutrition, ecology, economics and political science from 16 countries. This report focuses on two points: Consumption (healthy nutrition) and production (sustainable food production). The food concept developed is intended to contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as the goals of the Paris Climate Convention and represents a kind of global food plan.
According to this plan, the consumption of 14 g of red meat (or 29 g of white meat) per day would be sustainable. So, should we now go over a microscopic amount with the cutlery from the doll's house? No. This is one of many calculated values that the Commission has produced in three years of research. Furthermore, the nutrition plan includes 500 g of vegetables and fruit, 28 g of fish, 250 g of milk (products), 232 g of cereals, 75 g of pulses and 50 g of nuts. These maximum weights may be eaten daily so that everyone can be fed and our planet is protected. This plan also aims to balance the over two billion people who are overweight and the 800 million who do not have enough to eat (or the three billion who are malnourished).
Let's face it: what ends up on our plates must change, just like the systems of agriculture. The consumption of sugar and red meat should be halved worldwide. Tim Lang from the University of London says: "What we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet. And we are making a serious mistake right now."
There I am, standing in the middle of the weekly market with my fabric bag made of organic cotton, proudly wearing the lettering "Back to the Roots" and slightly confused. Is food now more a mathematical equation than a pleasure? No. Just a matter of reflection.
A comparison between the environmental impact of food and the classic food pyramid shows that it is precisely those foods that have the least environmental impact, that should also be eaten most often and that are the healthiest.
Those who go shopping with brains will then not buy strawberries in February, prefer vegetables instead of seasonal clothing and perhaps more often from the (organic) farmer from the neighbouring village, because that is the most environmentally friendly and healthiest. And if you feel like eating meat, it's best to go and get it right there - also according to the motto "Back to the Roots". The food model of our grandparents usually contained a good roast only for Sundays. This conscious and controlled way of enjoying food also allows you to pay a reasonable price for it. Because as NABU puts it in a nutshell: "Quality and animal welfare do not come at dumping prices."
Whoever consciously turns to the topic of "food" will find that the recommendations for healthy and sustainable are actually already very close together. By the way, the DGE's dietary rules also take into account the aspects of environment, animals and humans. So we don't have to decide at all, we just have to be attentive. Let us ask ourselves: Where does my food come from? Under what conditions was it produced and by whom? How was it packed and transported? And how can I avoid waste?
With such a conscious approach to nutrition, enjoyment does not have to fall by the wayside. "Eating sustainably while respecting the environment, people and animals does not exclude good taste," is also stated on the homepage of the IN FORM initiative. If we eat and drink with pleasure and enjoyment, this is a good prerequisite for changing our eating habits permanently. And then we don't need to count gram units either, but perhaps just consider the division of "much" and "little", which the nutritional scientist Karl von Koerber and his working group already established in 2004 in his "Principles for sustainable nutrition". These read in extracts:
- cooking for and with the family. This promotes above all the appreciation for food, because one has to deal with it.
- work with fresh products. Frozen products consume a lot of energy during production and storage.
- buy vegetables and fruit from the region and according to season
- Eat fish from sustainable aquaculture (look for appropriate logos like MSC, ASC, FOTS, GLOBALG.A.P, Dolphin Safe)
- Buy food without or with as little packaging as possible. Vegetables, fruit and potatoes often get by without packaging.
- Eat meat and meat products.
- Throw food away. Buy more purposefully or use leftovers sensibly. In Germany, about 80 kilograms of food are thrown away per household every year.
- Use disposable and small packaging
- consume highly processed foods and finished products
- Use plastic bags. Use cloth bags or shopping baskets instead.
So if you eat a lot of vegetable products and food that has been fairly produced and little processed, you have a positive effect on the environment and don't have to stifle the cow's milk in your coffee or the steak in your pan. To eat or not to eat? This question is better answered by everyone according to their own taste - and then get the ingredients for the next dish at the weekly market.