Natural health is not only about living in ways that boost one’s own health. It is also about living in a way that has the lowest net impact on the natural environment. This is not as easy as it sounds. Practically every decision we make—from how to get to work, to what to buy, to how to spend our leisure time—involves making a choice about the extent to which we are willing to impact the environment. With many aspects of life, our impact is largely beyond our control. But when it comes to food and diet, there are some concrete steps you can take to be eco-friendly while also being naturally healthy.
1. Go local: Start by setting aside all thoughts about things like organics, GMOs, free-range, and so on, and focus on eating food that is local. Make an effort to ensure that as many of your produce, dairy, and meat items as possible are from within a 100-mile radius of where you shop.
2. Go fresh: In addition to focusing on local foods, commit yourself to eating almost exclusively food that is fresh—that is, not made in a factory by some large company. The main reason for this is that you never know where the ingredients inside these foods comes from. Plus, these foods tend to be simply less healthy than fresh food you prepare yourself.
3. Read the labels: Educate yourself about all the information that is typically contained on food labels. Learn what terms like “organic” and “natural” really mean, and find out about the requirements companies legally must meet to use such terms on their labels. Also learn about the ingredients contained in manufactured foods, and avoid items that contain ingredients that are mysterious to you.
4. Go organic: Eating organic is not as important as eating local, but the organic food movement is certainly a good thing for the world as it encourages more sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural practices. So try to support organic companies that you know are making an effort to minimize their environmental impact (and be on guard against companies that manipulate the system to get organic labeling solely for marketing), but do not use the organic label as an excuse to avoid eating fresh, local foods, which are always better for you.
5. Cut down on meat and dairy products: No one is saying that you need to be a vegetarian (though if you already are one, your environmental impact is likely already below average), but keep in mind that the production of meat products, especially beef, is associated with very high levels of resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The same goes for dairy foods. Consume them within reason, but keep in mind that they are worse for the environment than other fresh foods.
6. Favor minimally packaged foods: When you are at the grocery store and you see a food product sheathed in layers of plastic and cardboard, think twice about whether you really need that product or if there is an alternative that comes with less packaging.
7. Grow your own: If you have room for a garden, even just a small one, remember that every little bit helps. Sure, it takes some work and you usually have to wait a long time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, but it is a very rewarding activity. Plus, growing your own food is infinitely better than buying food that has been sprayed with chemicals, shipped by truck or train, wrapped in plastic, and washed with too much water. With your home garden, you barely make an impact at all.
By Lisa Pecos