Today, lovers of vegetables and vegetarian options have become an important segment in the American diet. Based on this, every day more people are interested in eating differently and have opted to make healthier decisions, finally it is no secret to say that the quality of the daily food we consume influences our well-being and the planet. Recently a new study published in Nature Food created a Nutritional Health Index (HENI), created with the aim of rank more than 5,800 commonly eaten foods by minutes of life lost or gained per serving eaten.
In the study, different comparisons were made on a wide group of foods and they had very relevant findings, among the main ones they discovered that a handful of nuts prolongs healthy life by 26 minutes, while a hot dog in a muffin subtracts 36 minutes. In addition, the study classified foods in green, amber or red, according to its environmental impact. It is worth mentioning that the study rated most plant foods as the healthiest for the planet.
The study confirmed that substitute 10% of your daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats By a combination of select fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seafood, you can reduce your dietary carbon footprint by one-third and gain 48 minutes of “healthy life.” In other words, making these types of decisions is reflected in a good quality of life and reduces the risk of diseases.
In short, the study is quite specific; to carry it out, the researchers obtained data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) and used a comprehensive epidemiological study with a database that includes 15 dietary risk factors that contribute to health and / or disease and combined them with the nutritional profiles of more than 5,800 foods consumed in the United States, according to the database. What We Eat in America from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
According to the study, estimated health benefits When making healthier food choices, come from products such as milk, nuts and seeds, fruits, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids from shellfish, fibers from fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. While estimated health damage they were associated with foods such as processed meat, red meat, trans fatty acids, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sodium.
The researchers scaled those data to standard serving sizes and created a Nutritional Health Index (HENI), which translated the information into minutes of life lost or gained by size portion of each food consumed. When food is mixed on a plate (as is often the case), the pros and cons are included in the net profit or loss equation. For example: a handful of walnuts prolongs your healthy life by 26 minutes, while omega-3s and produce are so beneficial that sardines in tomato sauce can help accumulate an additional 82 minutes of healthy living.
Less healthy options take minutes. According to the study authors, on average 0.45 minutes are lost per gram of processed meat. Also, foods with sodium and trans fatty acids, such as a hot dog, can take 36 minutes off your life, while a serving of chicken wings can take 3.3 minutes off your healthy life.
To determine the effect of food choices on the environment, the researchers evaluated each food based on 18 environmental indicatorss, including carbon footprint, air pollution, and impacts on water use. They coded each of the foods as green (good for the environment), amber (slightly harmful or generating moderate environmental impacts) or red (having significant negative nutritional impacts or high environmental impacts), according to their impact on the planet.
As part of the categories defined the following parameters: the foods in the green zone consisted mainly of nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and some shellfish. Foods in the amber zone were categorized as poultry, dairy (milk and yogurt), egg-based foods, cooked cereals, and vegetables produced in a greenhouse. Red zone foods include processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, beef, pork, and lamb.
Therefore according to the study, decrease food with the most negative health impacts and the environment, including red meat, processed and ultra-processed, followed by pork, lamb and greenhouse-grown vegetables. And in turn, increase the most beneficial foods from the nutritional point of view, including fruits and vegetables grown in the field, legumes, nuts and seafood with low environmental impact. It is a sustainable change that reflects the urgency of dietary changes, to improve human health and the environment.
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