Eating sustainably for health and the environment

While industrially producing food has lowered the cost of many products, it has taken a toll on health and the environment, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Professor Walter Willett. He recently spoke on the public radio program Take Care about the importance of moving to a more sustainable diet.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the reason for the processing of food, refinement of grains, hydrogenation of oils, is meant to create products that can sit on the shelf for months and still be like the day they were put on the shelf,” Willett said on the June 18, 2016 program. “But in that processing, which is part of the problem…we’ve often substantially removed nutritional factors and most vitamins.”

Willett believes that people and the planet would be healthier if production of cattle and the grain to feed them was reduced.

Actions that individuals can take to eat a more sustainable diet include eating abundant fruits and vegetables and avoiding red meat, Willett said.

Willett is the chair of Harvard Chan’s Department of Nutrition, and the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition. He is also the chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Council of the Menus of Change initiative, which works with the foodservice industry on improving nutrition and environmental stewardship

He also spoke on the June 29, 2016 Nightly Business Report. In a segment on moves by McDonald’s to upgrade ingredients in its Egg McMuffin, Willett observed that switching to cage free eggs was positive from an animal rights perspective but would not provide a health benefit.

Read or listen to WRVO’s Take Care story: Why sustainability should be incorporated into our diets

Watch Nightly Business Report story (Willett appears at 22:54)