Think Green

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How a healthy diet helps you and the environment

The right dietary choices can not only improve your health but the environment as well. But urbanization and increasingly busy schedules force many people to seek the most convenient, and not necessarily the healthiest, foods.

The growing reliance on processed foods may be hurting humans and the planet they call home. Processed foods tend to be loaded with starches and preservatives, increasing consumers' risk of diabetes and being obese. In addition, many prepackaged foods are shipped from faraway processing plants, and vast amounts of fuel must be consumed for products to get from those plants to local grocery stores.

But subtle shifts in dietary habits and trends can decrease mortality rates and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions resulting from food production. Adopting alternative diets that feature a higher ratio of fish, whole grains and locally grown produce can greatly reduce an individual's carbon footprint.

The "New Nordic Diet" is one example of a growing dietary trend that has the potential to improve the health of humans and the environment. So says Henrik Saxe, an associate professor who specializes in sustainability at Copenhagen University. Researchers found a reduction in greenhouse gases of at least 6 percent with the New Nordic Diet, as compared to typical diets in Denmark.

The following are a few ways average men and women can eat to promote their own health while simultaneously protecting the environment.

• Adopt climate-friendly eating habits that rely on more domestic, in-season foods.

• Cut down on meat consumption.

• Eat organic foods as much as possible.

• Avoid seafood harvested from fish farms which can negatively impact your own health and marine life.

• Grow your own fruits and vegetables.

• Shop at local markets that support nearby farms and farmer's markets.

• Purchase products with the least amount of packaging.