By Carmen Laura Bonilla
The beginning of the year is a magnificent moment to imagine what we really want, to listen carefully to what is calling us and what is inspiring us for the new year.
In that spirit, I want to present several suggestions for you to consider among your intentions for 2023. These are suggestions that can have a positive impact on both your health and our planet Earth.
1. Consider reducing the amount of meat you eat. Harvard experts have said that people who consume more vegetables tend to consume less saturated fat, less cholesterol and more vitamins C, E, more fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium. This can help you lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce your body mass index (BMI).
Plus, when you reduce the amount of meat you eat, you help save water consumption because meat and dairy production are water intensive. It is estimated that producing a quarter-pound hamburger requires 660 gallons of water. This is the equivalent of the water you use while taking a shower over 2 months. Not surprisingly, in the United States, an estimated 55% of the water consumed is used for animal agriculture. When we reduce the amount of meat we eat, we can save water, especially important throughout the droughts impacting the US.
How can you start? Start by making small changes, such as substituting 1-2 weekly servings of meat for green vegetables, broccoli, tofu, beans, or chickpeas, all sources of plant-based protein.
2. When grocery shopping, choose organic products. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and dairy products. By consuming organic products, you benefit from nutrition that is higher in antioxidants believed to protect your body’s cells from free radicals, which are linked to heart disease, cancer and others.
Organic food is produced through organic farming, contributing to the soil, reducing pollution and providing a healthy environment for animals, all in all a more sustainable process. Organic farming avoids the use of chemical products, resulting in healthier and more nutritious food and higher soil quality, even after harvesting. This is very different from the problems caused by industrial agriculture that, by applying chemical products, kill micro-organisms in the soil, many times leading to desertification, removing the soil’s productive capacity.
Another reason why it’s important to be mindful of soil quality is that soil traps carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. In other words, healthy soil can help us reduce the global warming that is causing so many climate tragedies.
How can you start? Start by asking at your bodega, grocery store, or farmer’s market for organic produce.
3. Cut down on processed foods and start a home or community garden. Today, most of the foods for sale in supermarkets are processed foods that we buy in boxes, bags, cans, and bottles. Many times, these products contain too much salt, sugar and oils that can contribute to our becoming overweight, suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Author Michael Pollan has said that processed food is the result of the industrialization of our food, that is, the production of food in manufacturing plants. Perhaps you have heard of the experiments done with processed hamburgers sold in fast food establishments that have shown these hamburgers do not decompose even after over a year. It is worrisome to think about how the preservatives in processed foods affect our health.
When you take out some processed foods from your diet, you can lose weight, reduce your chances of disease, and lower your healthcare costs. When you incorporate more whole foods in your diet, you can obtain higher nutritional value, you can feel more energetic, feel better. We can also diversify our diets which have become limited with processed foods.
Plus, reducing the consumption of processed foods can have a positive impact on the planet through reducing packaging such as boxes, cans, bottles and bags.
Many have already started their home or community gardens where they grow some or much of their food. You can do the same. In your garden, you can control your planting practices, avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers or herbicides.
How can you start? Identify which vegetables you use in your kitchen. Find and plant seeds or buy starter plants from a nursery.
Which of these suggestions inspires you? Share in the comments.
Carmen Laura Bonilla is the founder of “Yo Amo Verde,” (which translated to “I love green”), a Facebook-based group generating more environmental awareness among residents of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora. Carmen invites you to join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/yoamoverde