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How to Eat, Cook, and Live in a Warming World

Watch this video regarding the top 10 countries with the highest CO2 (greenhouse gas) emissions

The world’s highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) is derived directly from our food system.  It is responsible for over 25% of (GHGs) warming up our planet every year (Poore & Nemecek, 2018). Livestock alone accounts for 20% of the world’s GHGs every year. This is roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined.

A study published in Science calculated the average GHG emissions associated with different foods (Poore & Nemecek, 2018).  Red meat and dairy, particularly from cows, have an enormous impact, on causing climate change.  Per gram protein, beef and lamb have the largest climate footprint while pork, chicken, and fish are in the middle. 

Experts believe these numbers are a grave underestimate of the actual impact that deforestation, farming and ranching, are having on climate change (Searchinger et al., 2018).  Most well-developed studies all agree that plant-based foods have the smallest impact in GBGs emissions, and that all animal protein are the worst offenders by a significant margin. 


4 main ways your food choices impact climate change.

  1. Forests are routinely cleared in many parts of the world to make room for farms and livestock. This leads to large stores of carbon being released into the atmosphere which heats up the planet. As economies grow, so does the demand for livestock. This is the biggest reason why the wettest place in the world (i.e. The Amazon Rainforest) caught on fire last year.
  2. As cows, sheep and goats break down their food, they expel methane, one of the most potent GHGs contributing to climate change.
  3. Animal manure and “rice paddies” are huge methane sources.
  4. Several fossil fuels are needed to operate farm machinery, produce fertilizer, and ship/export produce, all of which add to the emission burden.

Richest Countries in the World per capita

It is not a coincidence that the richest countries in the world are also the same countries with the highest consumption of meat (i.e., U.S., Canada, Europe, Brazil, Russia, Australia, China) and the highest producers of greenhouse gas emissions.  As economies grow, the demand for meat increases and so does deforestation. 

Animal Protein has the largest impact on causing climate change. 

A large number of longitudinal studies have clearly indicated that those countries who currently focus on a meat and dairy rich diet (i.e. much of the population of Europe, Australia, U.S. and China) would shrink their food-related carbon footprint by ⅓ or more by switching to a plant-based diet (Aleksandrowicz et al., 2016).

You can directly decrease climate change by what you put on your plate

Many Americans find this difficult to imagine, let alone accomplish when the food-environment is not conducive to making the switch a reality. In certain locations (i.e., food deserts), it may feel impossible. 

The key word here is less meat and dairy, and more plants in your daily diet.   For example, reducing red meat and dairy consumption, in particular, makes such a large difference. Remember, everything you do matters. Yes, food consumption only forms a fraction of a person’s total carbon footprint. Driving, flying, and home energy are more tricky to alter, but dietary changes are the quickest ways for people to reduce their environmental impact on the planet.

We are now at another pivotal time in our history with greater understanding of what it means to eat, cook, and live in a warming world. Science makes it very clear that changing our diet is the most critical and effective step we can all take to changing climate change. 

Forget the myths and the lies told to you by the powers that be.  There’s ample protein and nutrients in vegetables, beans, ancient whole grains, mushrooms, fruits, seeds, and nuts. You are going to start thriving on a plant-based and several nagging health complaints will dissipate with time.

For you home cooks with picky eaters, the biggest challenge is producing a meal that everyone at the table will eat. We at SF Advanced Health have plant-based delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes to help make the transition easy. 

As we celebrate Earth Day, check back next week for 9 additional (and simple) things you can do to further improve the planet's health and yours. If the planet’s healthy, we can be, too.


Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concern.  We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plan—a plan that removes a lot of the common food items that are making them sick.  To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.


Aleksandrowicz, L., Green, R., Joy, E. J., Smith, P., & Haines, A. (2016). The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: a systematic review. PloS one, 11(11), e0165797.

Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.

Searchinger, T. D., Wirsenius, S., Beringer, T., & Dumas, P. (2018). Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change. Nature, 564(7735), 249.

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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