Vegetarianism, Mediterranean Diet and Organic Farming
Vegetarianism, Mediterranean Diet and Organic Farming
Tsiaka Anastasia, Nutrition Consultant
Have you ever thought that your food choices may affect the environment? According to numerous studies, about 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to the food system1. This statement means that both collectively and individually, eating behaviours and choices directly affect environmental health as well as individual health. The growth of the world’s population and, by extension, food consumed, in particular products of animal origin2, may pose a major threat to climate change, ecosystem health, food safety and the health and nutrition of the general population3.
This is why the concept of “sustainable nutrition” has been incorporated, which aims to define a healthy diet and sustainable food production, with the aim of improving human health and the environment. A sustainable diet encourages the consumption of foods that do not harm the environment and, at the same time, promote good health of the body4.
Each country or region has its own food culture and, by extension, its own environmental footprint. The total area of meat use of the local cuisine, the types of cereals and seeds preferred, the methods used in agriculture and animal husbandry, are factors that affect the environmental footprint of each food system5.
Vegan diet for a healthier environment
- lower plasma cholesterol levels,
- decreased blood pressure and
- reduced risk of cardiovascular disease17
We insist Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet has been recognized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)as an ‘intangible heritage’ of humanity19. It stands out for its low environmental impact23, mainly because it is a diet based mostly on plant foods.
The Mediterranean Diet adds to the “trunk” of vegetarianism the moderate consumption of eggs, poultry and fish (e.g., 1-2 times a week) and the rare consumption of red meat (e.g. 1 time per month). It is considered particularly healthy and nutritious, as well as
- has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack20
- enhances the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels and acts protectively against type 2 diabetes, and
- seems to improve memory and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s21,22
To sum up, therefore, since it does not fit your philosophy, it is not necessary to become a vegetarian to help the environment. The data show that foods of plant origin enhance the good health of the environment, but also of humans. They contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and act as cardioprotective to the human body. While, on the other hand, the increase in meat consumption is accompanied by a parallel increase in the burden on the environment. However, a small to moderate consumption of it offers multiple benefits to the human body and helps to avoid the appearance of low levels or deficiency in micro-and macro-nutrients.
Moreover, the introduction of organic farming and organic livestock farming seems to add another important piece to the protection of both the environment and humans. We are therefore called upon to make choices to promote the good health of the environment and of man, two organisms that are vital for the continuation of life.
Therefore, you can support the environment and, at the same time, your health
- increasing the daily consumption of foods of plant origin, enriching your diet with fruits and vegetables and
- mitigating the consumption of meat (e.g., 2 times a week), replacing it with protein-rich plant foods, such as legumes (e.g., lentils, beans), nuts (e.g. peanuts, almonds), seeds (pumpkin seed, chia seeds)
“All in good measure”,
Kleovoulos of Lindios
 Tilman, D., Clark, M., 2014. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature 515 (7528), 518e522
 Alexandratos, N., Bruinsma, J., 2012. World Agriculture towards 2030/2050: the 2012 Revision. ESA Working paper No. 12-03. FAO, Rome.
 EEA, 2015. The European Environmentd State and Outlook 2015: Synthesis Report. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen
 Dupouy, E. , Gurinovic, M. , 2020. Sustainable food systems for healthy diets in Europe and Central Asia: introduction to the special issue. Food Policy 96 (article number: 101952)
 Perignon, M. , Vieux, F. , Soler, L. , Masset, G. , Darmon, N. ,2017. Improving diet sustainability through evolution of food choices: review of epidemiological studies on the environmental impact of diets. Nutr. Rev. 75 (1), 2–17
 González-García, S. , Esteve-Llorens, X. , Moreira, M.T. , Feijoo, G , 2018. Carbon foot- print and nutritional quality of different human dietary choices. Sci. Total Envi- ron. 644, 77–94
 van de Kamp, M.E. , van Dooren, C. , Hollander, A. , Geurts, M. , Brink, E.J. , van Rossum, C. , et al. , 2018. Healthy diets with reduced environmental impact? – The greenhouse gas emissions of various diets adhering to the Dutch food based dietary guidelines. Food Res. Int. 104, 14–24
 Aleksandrowicz, L. , Green, R. , Joy, E.J.M. , Smith, P. , Haines, A , 2016. The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: a systematic review. PLoS ONE 11 (11), e0165797
 Fehmi Görkem ÜÇTUĞ, Dorukhan GÜNAYDIN, Beliz HÜNKAR, Cansu ÖNGELEN, Carbon footprints of omnivorous, vegetarian, and vegan diets based on traditional Turkish cuisine, Sustainable Production and Consumption, Volume 26, 2021, Pages 597-609
 Reganold, J.P. , Wachter, J.M. , 2016. Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century. Nat. Plants 2 (2), 15221
 Tilman, D. , Clark, M , 2014. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature 515 (7528), 518–522
 Gomiero, T. , Pimentel, D. , Paoletti, M.G , 2011. Environmental impact of different agricultural management practices: conventional vs. organic agriculture. Crit. Rev. Plant Sci. 30 (1–2), 95–124 Jan
 Tuomisto, H.L. , Hodge, I.D. , Riordan, P. , Macdonald, D.W , 2012. Does organic farm- ing reduce environmental impacts? –a meta-analysis of European research. J. Environ. Manage. 112, 309–320 Dec
 Muller, A. , Schader, C. , Scialabba, N.E.-.H. , Brüggemann, J. , Isensee, A. , Erb, K.-.H. , et al. , 2017. Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agri- culture. Nat. Commun. 8 (1), 1290
 VeganSociety (2021). [Online]. Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/
 Baroni, L., Cenci, L., Tettamanti, M., Berati, M., 2007. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 61, 279e286
 Craig, W.J., 2009. Health effects of vegan diets. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89 (5), 1627Se1633S
 Key, T.J., Appleby, P.N., Rosell, M.S., 2006. Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets. In: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 65(01), pp. 35e41
 Ruini, L., Marino, M., Pratesi, C.A., Redavid, E., Principato, L., Sessa, F., 2014. LCA applied to sustainable diets: double Pyramid and Tool Chef to promote healthy and environmentally sustainable consumption. In: Schenck, R., Huizenga, D. (Eds.), 2014. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment in the Agri-food Sector (LCA Food 2014), 8e10 October 2014. San Francisco, USA. ACLCA, Vashon, WA, USA
 Martínez-González MA, Gea A, Ruiz-Canela M (2019). The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health. Circ Res. Mar;124(5):779-798
 Ballarini T, Melo van Lent D, Brunner J, Schröder A, Wolfsgruber S, Altenstein S, Brosseron F, Buerger K, Dechent P, et al.; DELCODE study group (2021). Mediterranean Diet, Alzheimer Disease Biomarkers and Brain Atrophy in Old Age. Neurology. May 5;96(24):e2920–32
 Bach-Faig, A., Berry, E.M., Lairon, D., Reguant, J., Trichopoulou, A., Dernini, S., Medina, X., Battino, M., Belahsen, R., Miranda, G., Serra-Majem, L., 2011. Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutr. 14 (12A), 2274e2284
 Serra-Majem, L., Bach-Faig, A., Miranda, G., Clapes-Badrinas, C., 2011. Foreword: Mediterranean diet and climatic change. Public health Nutr. 14 (12A), 2271e2273
The responsibility for the article content in the field ‘’Do you know that’’ of HellasVeg website belongs to the writer of each article-for this reason below each article, is written the name of the writer.