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Do sweets and pastries pollute more than healthy food?

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What are you willing to do to save the planet? Take public transport instead of the car, reduce waste, recycle … but you would be able to say no to sweets, biscuits, pastries, fries and in general to “superfluous” food that gives us happiness but also cavities, intestinal problems and pressure? The question is less idle than it seems: Sara Forbes, a dietician at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, has collected and compared 20 different studies related to the environmental impact of certain foods: the study, published in Current Nutrition Report, demonstrates how reducing the consumption of sweets, fried food and meat has positive effects not only on human health, but also on that of the planet.

Basic food and discretionary food. The first detail to specify is that all the studies analyzed by Forbes are related to Australia and New Zealand, two countries in which the population eats more “junk food” than recommended by the guidelines of the respective ministries of health.

It should also be said that the term junk food it is ungenerous: it should be replaced with a more neutral definition, that of discretionary food, that is, all those foods that are not necessary for survival but are tasty and therefore pleasant to eat. Sweets and biscuits, for example, but also carbonated drinks, alcohol and processed meat (cured meats, sausages, canned meat). We are therefore talking about food that should be present only minimally in a healthy diet, and which instead represents up to 30% of the diet of Australians and New Zealanders.

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One eye on diet and one on the environment. The problem is that these foods are not only unhealthy: their production is highly polluting. “The production of discretionary foods,” explains Forbes, “consumes more soil and more water than staple foods; and in particular the production of meat generates greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. ” Then there are the side effects of producing the packaging of these foods (usually plastic), and the impact they have after they are thrown away. Forbes goes even further, explaining that even some “staple” foods (eggs, for example) have a strong environmental impact, which should be taken into account by local health ministries when drafting guidelines on nutrition: also a healthy diet can hide pitfalls for the environment.

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