Study seeks to help consumers to shop more sustainably
Published: Aug 09, 2022 07:54 PM
Eating fruits and vegetables is better for the planet than eating meat and cheese, but a new study by scientists released Monday showed chips and sugary drinks also have a very low environmental impact.

Scientists analyzed some 57,000 products sold in supermarkets in Britain and Ireland, in a large study published by the scientific journal PNAS. 

The researchers, who hope that their study may allow consumers to shop more sustainably without sacrificing anything to their health, also compared the results with the nutritional qualities of these foods. 

They found that juice concentrates, sodas or other fruit juices are among the products sold with the lowest environmental impact - because they are mostly composed of water - but their nutritional quality is poor.

Researchers believe that in general, the more sustainable a food is, the better it is from a nutritional point of view. 

The study confirms what other previous reports had already advanced by analyzing single ingredients, such as fruits or red meat. 

The novelty of the latest report is that its analysis relates to products made up of multiple ingredients, such as sauces, prepared meals and others. To assess the environmental impact, four factors were considered: greenhouse gas emissions, use of limited water resources, land use, and eutrophication, which is when waterways are enriched with minerals and nutrients, mostly from fertilizers. 

Bread, certain cereals and prepared meals or desserts have a relatively low or intermediate environmental impact. On the other hand, fish, cheese and meat have a high impact.

"Replacing meat, dairy, and eggs with plant-based alternatives could have large environmental and health benefits," the study notes.