When you sit down to have a meal and look at your plate and see it brimming with healthy, delicious vegetables and grains, you feel pretty good about yourself, right? It’s kind of like a little win every time you follow Michelle Obama’s advice and make smart food choices – it’s almost like a little dancing First Lady pops up singing “Turnip for What.”

Well, turns out there is more than a little victory for you when you choose to eat more grains and vegetables, it’s also a massive win for the planet. How you might ask? Well, a new study published in the journal Nature, by scientists from University of Minnesota, “presents hard numbers that suggest eating less meat, less refined fat, and less sugar will also reduce the climate change impacts of food production.”

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We’re are no strangers to the idea that our food choices have an impact in the planet, but this study proves what we’ve believed all along! Over the course of 50 years, the study collected data from over 100 of the world’s most populated countries. The findings illustrate a direct correlation between diet-related illnesses such as obesity and diabetes and the amount of greenhouse gases – coincidence … we think not.

There has been a significant trend towards diets that are more centered around meat and animal products in the past 50 years, and it is predicted that this trend will only intensify as the world population increases and the GDP of developing countries increases. However, as this study shows, if humans continue on this trajectory, it will have a major impact on the environment and personal health.

As Professor of Ecology G. David Tillman, the lead author of the study says, “Alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits could, if widely adopted, reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions; reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions; and help prevent such diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases.”

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According to the study, adopting a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of type II diabetes by 41 percent! Benefits of adopting a diet that excludes meat products has also shown to reduce the risk of death correlated to heart disease and cancer.

However, Tillman asserts that accomplishing both environmental and health benefits is not as simple as just cutting out meat – it hinges on choosing actual healthy foods. A diet of pure junk food, like chips, donuts, etc. does not necessarily lower your personal greenhouse gas emissions. But eating a diet of plant-based, whole foods do make a real difference.

In fact, if this sort of diet were to become the norm by 2050, Tilman and Clark say “there would be no net increase in food production emissions.”

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So, you heard the scientists! If you want to improve your health and help to improve the health of the planet, start with what’s on your plate! We think we can handle that.