Food is Medicine for Ourselves and Our Planet
By: Dhruv Gupta*
We can heal ourselves and our planet through our food. I will expand in this post under three headings: Why should I care? What can I do? and How can I get myself motivated?
Why should I care?
Combat Climate Change: Animal agriculture contributes 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities through methane from livestock digestion, carbon dioxide from clearing and burning forests, and nitrous oxide from increased use of nitrogen fertilizers.
The global pharmaceutical industry is a major source of global warming – the industry’s emission intensity is about 55% higher than the global automotive industry. The industry is also responsible for some serious environmental impacts beyond greenhouse gas emissions like waste water from drug manufacturers that leave ground and drinking water sources polluted.
Sustain Fresh Water Sources: Animal agriculture also has a massive water footprint. Replacing 50 percent of animal products in one’s diet with plants results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual’s food-related water footprint. Going vegan reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent.
Restore Marine Balance: Industrialized fishing methods using satellite technology leave 75% of all major ‘Wild Caught’ fisheries overfished resulting in subsistence fishing communities losing their food & livelihood. Some of these fishing methods (bottom trawling and longline fishing) cause bycatch – accidentally catching 70% of marine life only to toss them back dead.
Prevent Deforestation: “A major culprit is the cultivation of soy… the vast majority (of which) is processed and exported as animal feed in a commodities trade that serves a global appetite for hamburgers, chicken and pork.” – Amazon Deforestation, Once Tamed, Comes Roaring Back, New York Times
Save Life: 266 animals are killed every second in the USA for food.
Achieve Optimal Health: You can avoid – and even reverse – heart disease and diabetes, and lower the risk of prostate, breast & other cancers. Also, lose weight, have more energy, and live longer.
Save Money: You can also save money on healthcare costs.
What can I do?
As much as possible, eat a whole-foods plant-based diet that is locally-sourced and organically-grown.
A whole-foods plant-based diet is pretty simple: eat whole, unrefined, plant-based foods. It is based on the following principles:
- Whole food describes natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.
- Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t include animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey.
There are numerous debates about which diet is best for you. However, health and well-being communities agree that diets emphasizing fresh, whole ingredients and minimizing processed foods are better for overall well-being.
Dr. Michael Gregor, author of New York Times Best-Sellers How Not to Die, How Not to Die Cookbook and How Not to Diet, and curator of NutritionFacts.org recommends we strive to fit the following into our daily routine for optimal health and longevity.
When you buy food locally the carbon footprint of your food is lower as it travels less miles to reach you. You can find locally grown food at your local farmer’s market – Down To Earth Markets has several markets in Westchester.
Organic farming practices may reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Look out for the USDA Certified Organic seal. You can also find a nearby organic farms through the Rodale Institute Organic Operation Search Tool.
How can I get myself motivated?
Here are some region specific websites:
If you’re looking for an online course, here’s a free one: Plant-Based Health Mini Course offered by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.
* Dhruv Gupta is a former restaurateur and project manager in a climate crisis firm. He recently moved to Ossining where he is teaching Yoga and whole foods plant-based cooking with ahara.org. He is an aspiring Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher aiming to cultivate resourcefulness, relationships, and well-being in his local community. You can reach him at [email protected].