SHE Foundation - "la Caixa" Foundation
Do we eat in a sustainable way? The impact our diet has on the environment


Did you know that the way we feed ourselves has a direct effect on the environment? The latest studies tell us that a change of direction in our consumption and the adoption of a diet like the Mediterranean or vegetarian diets could play a fundamental role in increasing life expectancy, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and even save endangered species.

A study by the University of Minnesota (USA) published in Nature analysed the impact on the environment of a traditional diet, such as the Mediterranean or a vegetarian diet on the one hand, and the impact of the dietary model most common in the United States, with more animal-based, processed or package food on the other. The results of the study demonstrated that modifying the diet could increase life expectancy by up to a decade whilst also preventing environmental damage and habitat degradation.

The authors of the study also indicate that if forecasts prove correct, in 2050 the most common diet will contain up to 60% more empty calories, fewer portions of fruit and vegetables and between 25-50% more animal derivatives such as pork, dairy products and eggs, with a consequent increase in Type 2 Diabetes, coronary disease and various types of cancer.

Information to make you think:

1. Twenty portions of vegetables contain fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than a single portion of beef

2. Fish caught using trawling methods could lead to a threefold increase in the amount caught by traditional methods, contributing to a rapid depletion of stocks on the sea bed

3. The biggest users of water in food production are dairy products, followed by vegetable oils and meat

4. As far as greenhouse gas emissions are concerned, meat is in first place, a long way ahead of dairy products and fish

Spain is one of those countries which traditionally based their dietary model on the Mediterranean diet and which are now changing their consumption patterns to the ‘Western’ diet. The strong dietary standard spearheaded by the industrialised countries and the phenomenon of globalisation are together affecting behavioural models and dietary habits, especially those of the younger generations.


A sustainable future should include reverting to old dietary ways and a complete change in the thinking behind food production.

These facts, far from demotivating us, should encourage us to raise our awareness further and to start making changes to our diet and the way we buy our food. A good option would be to return to the Mediterranean Diet, with its predominance of vegetables, fruit, seasonal pulses and local fish and with small amounts of meat, dairy produce, sugar and, of course, processed foods.

However, an improvement in consumer habits is not enough. In order to bring about a significant change we also need to demand changes in some of the food industry’s practices and in certain agricultural and trade policies.

What do you think? Can your contribution, no matter how small it is, help bring about a healthier diet and a more sustainable planet?

Sources:; (in Spanish); (in Spanish).


Photography Niclas-Ingvarsson – Unplash