What’s the environmental impact of your food?: Mediterranean Diet

European countries, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Albania and Cyprus are some of the places that enjoy Mediterranean diet. The diet is characterised by low consumption of fat and especially saturated fatty acids, while high consumption of carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet is also rich in...

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European countries, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Albania and Cyprus are some of the places that enjoy Mediterranean diet. The diet is characterised by low consumption of fat and especially saturated fatty acids, while high consumption of carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet is also rich in vitamins, while the main form of fat used is olive oil. Studies have shown that this type of diet leads to low rates of degenerative diseases and is considered the most healthy way of eating because it protects against heart attacks, cancer, obesity, mild cognitive impairment, etc.

The Mediterranean Diet is the most ideal for maintaining good health and longevity. A properly designed and balanced diet, which contributes to the smooth functioning of the body and gives vitality and wellness. This is due to this diet is based on the simple preparation of delicious dishes from the wide range of natural products produced in Greece and Mediterranean countries.

mediterranean_diet

 

Let’s see the other side of the Mediterranean food pyramid and how it does not have negative impacts on the environment. To examine this dimension, we must first define a factor that we have used to calculate the ecological footprint of food.

The term ecological footprint of food referes to the degree of consumption of natural resources may cause a food or a specific group of foods at all stages of life, from production and standardisation, consumption and return to the ecosystem as scrap (Willet,2006).

 

Meat and dairy (milk product’s)


There are some categories of foods, which are more demanding on natural resources for their production in relation to their nutritional value, this is the case of meat and dairy products, which cause high environmental costs. For example, milk production is responsible for increased greenhouse gas emissions and overused water resources. In fact for every kilogram of cheese produced in a creamery, 9 kg of waste is produced, known as whey. Whey is so polluting that waste from a single dairy product is equal to the waste of a city of 30,000 inhabitants.

On the other hand, unfortunately Livestock occupies 70% of the available agricultural and accounts for 30% of the water footprint of global agricultural production and for 20% of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Impacts of livestock include the decline in biodiversity to the constant change of land use (forests made pastures). The total water footprint of livestock amounts to 2.4 trillion cubic meters of water annually. (Burlingame and Dernini,2011).

The greater the demand and consumption of these products on a global scale, the greater the impact on the environment (Willet et al.,1995).

 

Cereals and rice


Rice is the main food component of the poorest people around the world, particularly in many Asian countries, where consumption can exceed 100 kg per inhabitant per year. The production of rice requires 800-1000 billion cubic meters of water annually, which is equivalent to 10-15% of the water footprint of all crops.

Products such as wheat and corn and other cereals are very important for our diet directly but indirectly, since as raw material contribute to the production of many other foods. But we must know that as rice, cereals and so require huge amounts of arable land and water resources.

 

Fruits and vegetables


Fruits and vegetables have the lowest environmental footprint of all of the above categories. The only effects that can have this food category arise either through the transfer of vegetables (imports and exports) for many kilometers by road or by air – with corresponding consequences for the environment, or when frozen to ingest some other time of the year or by the cultivation of fruits and vegetables out of season in greenhouses.

The obvious, therefore, is that what is good for us, it is good for the environment. The Mediterranean food pyramid, in its simplicity emerges as the best option for those interested in a holistic approach in retlation to their bodies and the environment (Willet et al.,1995).

 

Read more at:

  • Nestle, M., (1995). Mediterranean diets: historical and research overview. The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, vol. 61(6), pp 1313-1320
  • Willett, W., Sacks, F., Trichopoulou, A., Drescher, G.,Ferro-Luzzi, A., Helsing, E., Trichopoulos, D., (1995). Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 61(6), pp. 1402-1406
  • Willett, W., (2006). The Mediterranean diet: science and practice. Public Health Nutrition, Vol.9(1), pp. 105-110
  • Burlingame, B., Dernini, S., (2011). Sustainable diets: the Mediterranean diet as an example. Public Health Nutrition, Vol. 14(12), pp.2285-2287
  • Gray,N.(2015). Food Navigator.com (Online) Available at : http://www.foodnavigator.com/
  • Doukopoulou,G.,Christofi,M.,(2014) ToArkoudi.gr (Online) Available at: http://www.toarkoudi.gr/
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