Junk Food Can Affect Both the Environment and Health

Even though “core foods” account for more greenhouse gas emissions, discretionary nutrition choices should also be avoided, the results of a new review show.

Households in Australia and New Zealand eat more discretionary and junk food than recommended by dietary guidelines, which contributes to food-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) and other environmental effects, the results of a new review show.

A review of 20 studies shows the environmental impact of food consumption in both countries, and the findings highlight the need for more sustainable dietary choices.

"Meat also emits greenhouse gases, although its water scarcity footprint is lower compared to dairy products, cereals, grains, fruit, and vegetables," Sara Forbes, a dietitian from the University of South Australia, said in a statement. "It is time we better acknowledged the environmental impacts of the type and amount of food we eat, considering the planet as well as our health.

The existing Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends daily servings of “core foods,” such as cheese, eggs, fish, fruits, grains, lean meats, legumes, milk, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and yoghurt.

“Core foods” are estimated to contribute to 67% to 73% of food-related GHGe in Australia, dairy, grains, and meat contributing the most.

Discretionary foods, such as alcohol, confectionary, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened drinks, contribute to 27% to 33% of food-related GHGe.

Even though “core foods” account for more food-related GHGe, investigators said that discretionary foods can be avoided to cut back on emissions.

In New Zealand, the foods that contribute to the highest greenhouse emissions are meat, seafood, and eggs, followed by highly processed foods.

Australia emitted an estimated 510 metric tons of carbon dioxide, with food-related emissions accounting for 14.2%, according to a federal government report in 2020.

The report also found that the average Australian produces the equivalent of 43.43 lbs of carbon dioxide each day.

In 2017, another report showed that food waste comprises about 6% of Australia’s GHGe, considering that energy, pesticides, and water used in food production and packaging ends up in landfills, where even more methane is released as it decomposes.

Reference

Save the planet (and your health) by steering clear of sweets and pastries. Science Daily. News release. November 5, 2021. Accessed November 9, 2021. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/21110510380

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