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Health

These 50 Foods Aren't Just Good for You — They're Good for the Environment Too

Why Global Citizens Should Care:
Raising livestock is the second-biggest contributor to climate change after fossil fuel. Adopting a plant-based diet can help reduce your carbon footprint and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. You can take action on these issues and support the Global Goals here.

Changing up your diet could help save the planet, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The "Future 50 Foods" report has identified 50 plant-based food products that both contribute towards a more sustainable global food system and promote healthier diets.

Take Action: Are You a Global Food Citizen?

According to the report, produced in partnership with food company Knorr, 75% of the food we consume comes from just 12 plant sources and five animal sources.

Intensive animal farming is associated with significant greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study published in the journal Nature estimated that meat consumption needed to be reduced by 90% to avoid an alarming rate of global warming, deforestation and water scarcity.

"Most of us might believe it's our energy or transport choices that cause the most serious environmental damage. In fact, it's our food system that creates the biggest impact," Dr. Tony Juniper, executive director for advocacy for WWF in the UK, said in the report.

Three crops — namely wheat, corn, and rice — make up nearly 60% of the plant-based calories that most people consume, the report says. And these food choices have a major impact on the environment.  

Dietary monotony which results from a lack of diversity in our food consumption is a threat to our health and the environment, the report says. It also encourages monoculture — the act of farming and harvesting a single crop on the same land over and over — resulting in nutrient depletion in the soil.

To make up for the lost nutrition, farmers often use fertilizers and pesticides, which ultimately enter the food cycle by the way of herbivorous animals and can be health hazardous.

If more people varied and expanded their food choices, particularly by consuming more plant-based diets, farmers would be encouraged to grow different crops and aid agrobiodiversity.

Read More: NYC Schools Are Introducing 'Meatless Mondays' to Promote Health and Sustainability

"Diversified diets not only improve human health but benefit the environment through diversified production systems that encourage wildlife and more sustainable use of resources," said Peter Gregory, research adviser at Crops for the Future, in the report.

The report hopes to make the food system more sustainable, and lists cereals, beans, vegetables, mushrooms, cactuses, and lotus root as some "foods for a healthier people and a healthier planet." As part of its efforts to discuss sustainability, Knorr has also come up with new recipes based on these products.

At a time when climate change is continuously altering the planet's landscape, more people are shifting towards a plant-based diet to reduce their carbon footprints.

With this plentiful list of food options, WWF and Knorr's are encouraging people to eat more plant-based meals that are tasty, healthy, and have fewer negative impacts on the environment.

"Future 50 Foods is the beginning of a journey and a way for people to make a change, one delicious dish at a time," the report says.

Check out the report to see the full list of 50 foods.