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Sustainable Food for a Sustainable Life

By: Christina Quint, Healthier Hospitals Initiative

The generally accepted premise regarding what makes food sustainable is that it is healthy for consumers, and does not harm the environment. As such, it seems only fitting that the drive for sustainability in the health care industry includes an examination of the food we eat, and an intense advocacy for food that is dually healthy for people and the planet.

Obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, high cholesterol, certain types of cancer, and diabetes are serious chronic health issues directly related to what an individual eats. The ramifications of this issue are tremendous: according to the CDC, over one-third of American adults are obese. Furthermore, the CDCestimated that the annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were an average of nearly $1,500 higher than those of normal weight. (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html)

Sustainable food is important to establish within the context of the following fact: food is not just food. We were familiarized with the Food Pyramid growing up, and we know to choose fruits and vegetables over processed junk food, excessive amounts of meat, and fried foods. That’s only the first step, though, as not all fruits and vegetables are necessarily “healthy.” A tomato from the supermarket may look like any other nutrient-rich tomato, but there are actually many variables at play. In fact, the difference between sustainable and unsustainable food begins at the sowing stages, and the type of soil used for crops is imperative.

The best way to accomplish this is to buy organic, buy ingredients in-season, and buy local—that is, try to buy as much produce as possible from sources within a 200-mile radius of your home. Make it a point to buy from your local farmers’ market, rather than the supermarket. Not only will your food taste better, it will be better for you. In making the switch to sustainable eating habits, not only are you advocating better care for the planet—you are being an advocate for your own health. What’s more sustainable than that?

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