Producing food is one of the most foundational ways people engage with the planet. Healthy farming practices lead to thriving communities and replenish the earth so it can keep producing without strain. On the other hand, poor farming practices negatively impact the environment and human health.
As a consumer, you can support healthy farming practices by making thoughtful choices about what you eat. While there’s a lot of debate about what diet is best for humanity and the planet, there are a few steps you can take that will ensure a healthy future.
Here are five principles for choosing healthy foods that are also healthy for the planet.
1. Eat Whole Fruits And Veggies
Although it may not seem glamorous, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your body. Plants contain natural chemicals known as phytonutrients, which fight disease and work to restore your body. Eating a variety of whole fruits and vegetables equips your body to function to its fullest potential.
When grown organically, fruits and vegetables have a low environmental impact. The plants which produce food also send nutrients back into the soil and decompose quickly. Many plant crops rely on bees for pollination, supporting the ecosystem as a whole. Farmers who use crop rotation and chemical-free pest control are working with the environment, not against it.
2. Compost Excess Food
In America, it’s estimated that 30-40% of the food supply is never eaten. While some of this waste occurs at the industrial level, a lot of food goes bad or is thrown away after being taken to someone’s home. Another way you can support the environment and your own health is to compost rotten or excess food instead of throwing it away.
Plant matter is excellent for composting, but animal products other than eggshells should be avoided because they can grow bacteria and attract pests. For high-quality composted fertilizer, you should also avoid including anything that’s been sprayed with pesticides. Composting is an eco-friendly way for you to reduce waste and practice healthier eating habits.
3. Avoid Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are bad for your health, but they also do a number on the environment. For example, processed meats like deli meat often come from cows that were given antibiotics and growth hormones. Ingesting these chemicals can harm your health, and some studies even suggest that processed meats can cause cancer.
One of the most impactful choices you can make for your health is to cut highly-processed products out of your diet. This includes grains and sugar as well as meat and dairy products. In addition to protecting your body, you’ll also reduce support for farming practices that introduce chemicals and preservatives into the environment.
4. Choose Organic, Grass-fed Beef
There’s a lot of controversy over how red meat affects both human and environmental health. Some evidence suggests that raising livestock contributes to global warming, while others claim that sustainable farming practices actually reduce the output of greenhouse gases. Some authorities believe that red meat causes cancer, while others say humans can’t be healthy without it.
From an environmental perspective, livestock takes a lot of land and resources to sustain. However, natural resources are better suited to raising nutrient-rich livestock in some areas than planting crops. In regard to human health, experts say the quality of meat is the most important thing. Eating organic, grass-fed meat is much better for you than consuming beef that’s full of preservatives and other chemicals.
5. Think Local, Not Global
One of the primary ways agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions is through transportation. By choosing to shop for locally-grown foods, you can reduce the need for transport while supporting your local economy. Small farmers are also less likely to use chemical sprays for their crops, making their food safer and healthier to eat and compost.
Although it’s important to consider the impact of agricultural practices on a global scale, what supports a healthy environment in one area will be different from what works for another area. Supporting sustainable local agriculture is a personal contribution you can make toward eco-friendly farming methods around the globe.
Invest In A Healthy Tomorrow
When it comes to healthy foods, human and environmental health go hand-in-hand. This makes choosing the healthy option more compelling than ever. Follow these five tips to invest in your health and support sustainable agriculture for a healthy tomorrow.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.