The University of Michigan has published a new study that ranks thousands of food items based on both their environmental impact and their “nutritional disease burden.” For example, the researchers say that eating a hot dog can cost you around half an hour of a healthy lifespan, but eating nuts instead could extend it.
According to the new study, which was recently published in Nature Food, the small food decisions someone makes throughout the day could end up having a big impact on how long they live a healthy, disease-free life. More than 5,800 foods were ranked as part of the study.
Of note, switching 10-percent of one’s caloric intake from processed meat and beef to some seafood, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes could add 48 minutes of healthy minutes to one’s life daily. As well, this change would reduce a person’s daily carbon footprint by a third.
The data behind this study is based on the Health Nutritional Index and the What We Eat in America database. Put simply, foods that were found to add healthy minutes to one’s life received positive scores, while foods linked with poorer health received a negative score.
The study went beyond just health metrics for the foods, however, also evaluating the environmental impacts of one’s dietary choices. Combining the health and environmental data, the study classified the foods into three categories: red, yellow, and green. Green foods include things like vegetables grown in a field, whole grains, and nuts, while red foods include processed meats, beef, pork, and lamb.