There are many different ways people use to prioritise their health and nutrition. Following a regular exercise regime, staying active at work and making healthier food choices are just a few ways to do that. While these are all excellent choices for your personal health, scientists have revealed that switching to a healthier diet has additional environmental benefits as well!
What Does Science Say?
In a study published in Nature Sustainability this month, scientists at the European Commission Joint Research Centre compared non-vegetarian, pescetarian and vegetarian diet patterns in terms of their water footprint. The water footprint is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce goods consumed, which in this case is food.
Comparing data obtained from national dietary guidelines to the current actual food consumption in more than 43 thousand areas in France, the UK and Germany, the researchers found that eating more healthily could substantially reduce the water footprint of people's diets, consistent across all the geographical entities analysed in the study.
Using socio-economic data from the various areas surveyed, national food surveys and international food consumption and water footprint databases, the scientists were able to downscale national water footprint data to extremely small geographical areas within the three countries. For all 43,786 analysed geographical entities, they found that the water footprint decreased when a healthier diet was observed.
For diets that contained meat, making healthier changes saw a decrease in water consumption in the range of 11–35 per cent. Larger reductions were observed corresponding to similar changes in the pescetarian diet (33–55 per cent) and vegetarian (35–55 per cent) as well. These changes were due to the fact that a healthy diet would contain less sugar, crop oils, meat and animal fats, and more foods from the nutrition food list like vegetables and fruit.
The great demand for animal products in today’s meat-based diet has numerous negative impacts on the planet's resources and ecosystems. Switching to a more resource-efficient (and healthier) vegetable-rich diet would not only be good for human health, but would also substantially reduce consumption of water resources, as shown consistently in all geographical entities throughout the three countries surveyed.
You don’t need to make radical changes to your diet, just using smarter and healthier foods with increased nutritional content will save both your health and water!