That’s the conclusion of researchers at Tulane University and the University of Michigan, who announced the findings of their new study in a press release. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers analyzed the carbon footprints of 16,000 Americans in relation to their daily diets. “People whose diets had a lower carbon footprint were eating less red meat and dairy — which contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions and are high in saturated fat — and consuming more healthful foods like poultry, whole grains and plant-based proteins,” said lead researcher Diego Rose, professor of nutrition and food security at Tulane University, in the release.
The researchers determined that high-emission diets, which included mostly meat, dairy and solid fats, emitted 5 times more greenhouse gas than low-emission diets.
While low-emission diets were healthier overall, the researchers noted that these diets did include some unhealthy items, like added sugars and refined grains, and scored low on some key nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D. They stated this was likely because of the lower intakes of meat and dairy.
Rose said the research team hopes this science can support governmental policy that outlines how diet can benefit the environment and the health of Americans.
Related: Science published earlier this month in The Lancet outlined “The Planetary Health Diet” to improve health and ensure sustainable food production. This diet is also low in meat and high in produce. Learn more here.