The researchers classified foods into three color zones: green, yellow and red, based on their combined nutritional and environmental performances.
The green zone represents foods that are both nutritionally beneficial and have low environmental impacts. Foods in this zone — nuts, fruits, field-grown vegetables, legumes, whole grains and some seafood — are a “go.”
The red zone is food you should “stop” eating, including those that have either considerable nutritional or environmental impacts and should be reduced or avoided. Nutritional impacts were primarily driven by processed meats, and climate and most other environmental impacts were from beef and pork, lamb and processed meats.
Based on their findings, the researchers suggest:
- Decreasing foods with the most negative health and environmental impacts, including processed meat, beef and shrimp, followed by pork, lamb and greenhouse-grown vegetables.
- Increasing the most nutritionally beneficial foods, including field-grown fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seafood that has a low environmental impact.
“The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear,” said Olivier Jolliet, senior author of the paper and professor of environmental health sciences at Michigan’s School of Public Health. “Our findings demonstrate that small targeted substitutions offer a feasible and powerful strategy to achieve significant health and environmental benefits without requiring dramatic dietary shifts.”
You can read the full study in the journal Nature.