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New analysis by researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Minnesota has identified a range of ‘win-win’ foods that both improve human health and have a low impact on the environment.

Eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and wholegrains is a win-win for health and the environment © Shutterstock

Foods associated with improved health (whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and some vegetable oils high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil) have among the lowest environmental impacts, they found. Foods with the largest negative environmental impacts—unprocessed and processed red meat—were consistently associated with the largest increases in disease risk.

The exceptions were fish, which is a healthy food but has moderate environmental impacts, and processed foods high in sugars, which can be harmful to health but have a relatively low environmental impact. Red meat (pork, beef, mutton, and goat) and processed meat had the highest environmental impacts of all foods and were also associated with the largest increases in disease risk. Other animal-source foods, such as dairy and poultry meat, had moderate environmental impacts and a small impact on disease risk compared to other foods.

Lead author Dr Michael Clark, of the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project at the Oxford Martin School, and the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, says the findings could help consumers make better choices by equipping them with an understanding of the health and environmental impacts of different foods, and enable policymakers to issue more effective dietary guidelines.

Read more (University of Oxford website)