The Planetary Health Diet is a plan for eating that helps prevent or reverse some of the most serious diet-related health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It’s not just healthy for you; it’s beneficial for the planet and its residents.
While not a dedicated weight-loss diet, the planetary health diet (PHD) emphasizes a variety of nutrient-dense foods that support health, well-being, and weight control. The best way to approach the planetary health diet is to fill your plate, half with fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and the other half with whole grains, legumes, beans, plant-based sources of fat, and modest quantities of meat and dairy.
This is a diet that is good for human health and planetary health. According to the journal Lancet, eating in this manner may lower the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and mortality. Basic principles behind the planetary health diet are these:
Eat Mostly Plants
Plant-based foods are versatile and tasty, but they’re nutrient-dense and low in calories and sugar. Just as important are the effects this approach has on planetary health. Meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, so limiting meat consumption has major benefits. The Planetary Health Diet is a way of eating that avoids the foods that are most damaging to our health and planet. It’s not only a healthier diet but also a more environmentally sustainable way to eat. Food can be part of the solution to environmental problems, not the cause. What you eat makes a difference not only to health but also to the environment and even world hunger.
Purge Ultra-Processed Foods from Your Diet
Ultra-processed foods are convenient but low in nutritional value and bad for the environment. Even the packaging fast food is wrapped in contains phthalates, chemicals that harm the environment and disrupt hormonal balance in animals and, possibly, humans.
Many of the most serious chronic health problems come from ultra-processed foods, which is a fancy way of saying junk food. Factors other than junk food also contribute, such as lack of exercise, but health problems, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, started to increase when ultra-processed foods became prevalent. Now, 60 percent of the average person’s diet is ultra-processed in nature.
The worst part is that the food industry constantly pushes the envelope on what counts as ultra-processed. The first highly processed foods were white bread and sugary cereals. Now some protein bars and turkey bacon, just two examples, are made from dubious meat substitutes and chemicals. And they keep pushing the envelope by creating even more ultra-processed fare. If a product has been designed to taste good, it’s fair for the food industry to process it until it is an unrecognizable chemical concoction.
You Can’t Separate Human Health from Planetary Health
Trying to improve human health independent of planetary health won’t work. Human health is tied to the planet’s health. When climate change disrupts delicate ecosystems, humans pay the price, as the disequilibrium creates conditions where new viruses can develop and flourish. As carbon pollution rises, more people will suffer from cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, and allergies. There’s no time to waste – 24 percent of all mammals have gone extinct in just the past century, and climate change threatens even more species with extinction. And as carbon pollution continues to rise, more and more of us will suffer from allergies, asthma, heart disease, and other serious illnesses.
Health Benefits of the Planetary Health Diet
According to Harvard Health, adopting a planetary health diet could prevent between 10.9 and 11.6 million premature deaths. Although there is no “one true diet” that everyone should eat, the consensus is growing about the basic requirements for healthful diets. These include eating more plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts, and seeds; eating less red meat and processed meat; keeping intake of added sugars to a minimum; avoiding “fast foods,” which are high in both salt and fat; and limiting food and drinks with added sugar or salt. The planetary health diet respects these principles.
The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in eating for personal health and the health of the planet, the Planetary Health Diet is one to consider. Enjoy!
“Plate and the Planet | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H ….” hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/plate-and-planet/.
Blackstone NT, El-Abbadi NH, McCabe MS, Griffin TS, Nelson ME. Linking sustainability to the healthy eating patterns of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: a modelling study. Lancet Planet Health. 2018 Aug;2(8):e344-e352. doi: 10.1016/S2542-5196(18)30167-0. Erratum in: Lancet Planet Health. 2018 Dec;2(12):e520. PMID: 30082049.
“The global and regional costs of healthy and sustainable ….” 26 Oct. 2021, thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00251-5/fulltext.
“Plant-based diets are best… or are they? – Harvard Health.” 25 Nov. 2019, health.harvard.edu/blog/plant-based-diets-are-best-or-are-they-2019103118122.
“Healthy diet – WHO | World Health Organization.” 29 Apr. 2020, who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet.