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Global Panel Says Plant-Based Diet Boosts People and the Planet

A ‘great food transformation’ would boost health and the environment, experts say

Woman holding a basket with fresh vegetables inside
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A hamburger a week but no more — that’s about as much red meat as people should eat to do what’s best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world’s diet.

Eggs should be limited to fewer than about four a week, the report says. Dairy foods should be about a serving a day or less.

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Prepared by a panel of nutrition, agriculture and environmental experts, the report recommends a plant-based diet, based on previously published studies that have linked red meat to increased risk of health problems.

It also comes amid recent studies of how eating habits affect the environment. Producing red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.

John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.

The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts that wrote it says a “great food transformation” is urgently needed by 2050.

Overall, the diet encourages whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables, and limits added sugars, refined grains such as white rice, and starches like potatoes and cassava.

The report sought to sketch out what the healthiest diet for people would look like, said Walter Willett, one of its authors and a nutrition researcher at Harvard University. While eggs are no longer thought to increase risk of heart disease, Willett said the report recommends limiting them because studies indicate a breakfast of whole grains, nuts and fruit would be healthier.

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