Researchers sought to determine the most sustainable diet based on its nutritional composition, environmental impact, and total food cost.

Bowl of grilled zucchini, tomatoes, chickpeas and lemon

Sustainability was measured across a number of different factors, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, positive nutrient density, and global food prices. Plant-forward diets, such as vegan and vegetarian diets, had half the environmental footprint of meat-containing diets, such as the ketogenic and recommended World Health Organization diet. Vegan diets were found to be the most nutrient dense per gram, as compared to the paleo and Mediterranean diet, and vegetarian diets were found to be the least expensive both in total cost and cost per gram. This research further demonstrates the richness, affordability, and long-term viability plant-forward diets have on human and planetary health.

“Diets with the highest overall sustainability score share a common characteristic: they all suggest that consumers committed to sustainability should prioritize ‘plant-forward’ diets.”

Citation: Aceves-Martins, Magaly et al. “Nutritional Quality, Environmental Impact and Cost of Ultra-Processed Foods: A UK Food-Based Analysis.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 19,6 3191. 8 Mar. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijerph19063191

Laura Bustard is an actuary who is passionate about plants. She has conducted research on the emergency food system and prescription-produce, and recently worked for FairShare CSA Coalition in Madison, WI. She now lives in Goleta, CA, and works remotely for The Standard, holding a Masters of Science in Urban and Regional Planning and a Fellowship from the Society of Actuaries.

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