Benefits Of Sustainable Eating

  • Mysaa AhmedMaster of Public Health - MPH, Public Health, Alneelain University
  • Chimdi OkoyeBSc in Pharmaceutical Science and Regulatory Affairs, Kingston University

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Our food choices and the way we eat don’t only affect our health but also our environment. The United Nations report on food and climate change stated that about a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food.1 Animal-based foods and some crops are generally associated with the highest greenhouse emissions, it increases water usage and contributes to soil depletion and the release of fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere. Eating sustainably can decrease the impact of food products and production processes on both the environment and our health. Eating sustainably is also a very important tool in fighting the concerning problem of global hunger, malnutrition and food security. With the world population growing, it is essential to take serious steps to meet the nutritious demands of our future generations.

What is sustainable eating?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO) in 2010 defined sustainable diets as “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.” Sustainable eating is choosing food with the least climate impact that is more beneficial to the environment. Choosing sustainable diets doesn’t only positively impact the environment 

but they are considered more nutritious than conventional ones, it encourages the global shift towards a plant-based whole food diet. A sustainable diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, certain nuts, and legumes. It can include meat and fish that are consciously grown and processed. Red meat and dairy farming are considered unsustainable due to methane gas emissions.2

Environmental benefits of sustainable eating

  • Decreased use of fossil fuel and production of less greenhouse gasses.
  • Less use of chemicals and energy intensive technologies, and building healthy soil through sustainable methods.
  • The use of water resources carefully and consciously, and the preservation of biodiversity.

Health benefits of sustainable diets

Sustainable eating and consumption of fresh whole food increases nutrient intake and reduces exposure to harmful chemicals. Committing to a plant-based well-balanced diet that excludes or minimizes animal-based products has been proven beneficial to the prevention of many health conditions. It can be used as an adjunctive therapy for many chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer.3

Social and economic benefits of sustainable eating

  • It increases access to food and supports local products by providing all socioeconomic groups access to nutritious, safe and affordable food.
  • It provides a sustainable regional food economy with decent job and income opportunities for community members.
  • Sustainable eating and depending on local products strengthen food security, support local food culture and decrease the dependence on distant regions for food supply.
  • By supporting local farmers and producers, sustainable eating strengthens local economies, promotes fair labour practices, and fosters social cohesion.
  • Long-term cost savings are realized through healthier eating habits, reduced healthcare costs, and investments in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Tips for sustainable eating

  • Eat more plants: Animal and dairy-based food require space and energy to grow, process, package, and dispose of. Moderating our use of animal products and committing to a more plant-based diet is the first step to eating sustainably.
  • Cut the food waste: more than a third of the food produced is wasted. It is important to reduce food waste in our households by buying the exact amounts of food that we need, and freezing the food we can’t eat for future use.
  • We should try new vegetables and fruits and different types of food in our diet, the variety in agriculture is good for nature and essential for fighting food insecurity.
  • Growing your own food is an effective way to ensure your food is healthy for you and the environment.
  • Shop locally and seasonally: This doesn’t only support the local economy, it also ensures less harm to the environment by reducing the damage associated with food transportation.
  • Let go of plastic bags when you shop, buy fresh food that has no plastic packaging and use paper shopping bags.

Challenges of eating sustainably

Eating sustainably poses several challenges, which arise from various aspects of food production, distribution, consumption, and waste management. Here's a brief overview of some of the key challenges:

  • Lack of awareness: Many people are not aware of the environmental impact of their food choices. Educating consumers is very crucial to make better choices.
  • Access and affordability: Sustainable food options are often more expensive and less accessible to low-income individuals and communities. This makes it challenging financially to adopt sustainable eating habits.
  • Food Waste: Food waste is a significant challenge in achieving sustainability. A large portion of food produced is wasted at various stages of the supply chain, from farm to table. Addressing food waste requires efforts to improve storage, distribution, and consumer behaviour.
  • Supply Chain Complexity: The global food supply chain is complex, involving various stages from production to distribution. Ensuring that each step in the supply chain adheres to sustainable practices can be difficult.
  • Policy and Regulation: Inadequate policies and regulations may hinder the adoption of sustainable farming practices and the development of local food systems.
  • Consumer Behavior and Preferences: Changing consumer behaviour and preferences towards more sustainable food options can be challenging. People may resist changes to their diets or be unwilling to pay higher prices for sustainable products.
  • Cultural and Social Factors: Cultural norms, traditions, and social dynamics can influence food choices and attitudes towards sustainability. Addressing these factors requires understanding and respect for diverse cultural perspectives on food and eating habits.

Addressing these challenges requires a holistic approach involving collaboration among governments, businesses, NGOs, and consumers to promote sustainable food systems that are environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically viable.


Sustainable eating has a huge impact not only on the environment and wellbeing of individuals and communities, but also on the social and economic status of local and global communities. Adopting sustainable eating habits, people improve their health and wellbeing by consuming nutrient-dense food such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain food, and decrease the consumption of environmentally damaging foods. Sustainable eating also supports local economies by prioritising locally sourced and seasonal products, thereby reducing carbon emissions associated with processing and transporting food. Moreover, sustainable eating practices contribute to biodiversity preservation and water conservation, reducing the negative impacts of industrial agriculture on ecosystems. It is crucial to promote awareness and educate individuals about sustainable diets and to empower communities to be able to commit to environmentally friendly food choices. By embracing sustainable eating, individuals play a vital role in promoting environmental stewardship and fostering a more equitable and sustainable food system for the present and coming generations.


  1. Nations U. United Nations. [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Food and Climate Change: Healthy diets for a healthier planet. Available from:
  2. Guerra MTA. Guide to sustainable eating: improving your health and the planet [Internet]. Maryville University Online. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
  3. Polyak E, Breitenbach Z, Frank E, Mate O, Figler M, Zsalig D, et al. Food and sustainability: is it a matter of choice? Sustainability [Internet]. 2023 Jan [cited 2024 Feb 21];15(9):7191. Available from:

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Mysaa Ahmed

Master of Public Health - MPH, Public Health, Alneelain University

Advanced Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Research and Medical Writing, Health Research, James Lind Institute

I’m a dedicated and passionate medical writer, with experience in public health and dentistry and an interest in implementation research, health promotion and community development. I thrive on bridging the gap between research findings and real-world applications, and communicating complex healthcare information and ensuring it reaches all community members effectively.

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