My own health v the planet? Can a ketogenic-diet be sustainable, both for me & for future generations?

Naturally this diet is having a considerable impact on my waistline! There are other impacts to be considered however, such as the potential environmental-impact that my food-choices may be having.

I must admit that this has been nagging at my conscience a little. Meat and dairy have an astronomically high environmental-footprint. Beef – 16kg of CO²e/kg, lamb 17kg CO²e/kg & butter 17.6kg CO²e/kg… Need I go on? Compare this to the humble carrot at circa 0.05kg CO²e/kg and I begin to feel a little uncomfortable…

This requires a lot more thought and research than I’ve yet had time to undertake. But is my diet so bad for the world that I can conscience continuing it? Are the polar-ice-caps going to melt any faster, simply because I’ve started to eat bacon for breakfast in place of muesli…?

This blog can’t go into the full detail of this conundrum; there isn’t sufficient space & my small audience would rapidly dwindle if I switched tack & went off at a tangent. The below details a few thoughts I’ve been having as a starter for ten! Hopefully this will introduce a few positives into the equation & guide the thought-process to pastures greener.

1. Calories v Volume

My calorific-intake on a fat-based metabolism remains the same as that of a glucose-fuelled diet (yet my weight is decreasing). Calories remain unchanged, but the volume of food I eat has more than halved! 

Fat is a far more efficient fuel-source than any other. The calorific-density of fat is 9 calories per gram v 4 calories from carbohydrate.

The high levels of saturated fat in a ketogenic diet mean that you feel full on a vastly reduced volume of food (I estimate that my portion-size has literally halved in comparison to when I was eating glucose). I’m therefore eating less.

2. Decreased Volume v Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Intensity 

It’s all well & good stating a positive that ‘I’m eating less’; if the food I’m eating is proportionately far higher in GHG-emissions than previously. But is it? Has my consumption of animal-products increased?

Portion-sizes of meat and dairy have actually decreased a little in my evening meals. This is due to the ketogenic-diet’s ability to make you feel full on a lower volume of food. This is naturally counteracted if I’m adding additional quantities of animal-protein to both breakfast & lunch.

Am I eating more meat & dairy at lunchtime? Arguably not. My lunches have invariably always consisted of either leftovers or things like cheese or tuna salad. I would say that the same rationale applies here, as it did to dinner. I’m eating less by volume, but for lunch the animal-product ratios haven’t changed from before (a cheese salad is a cheese salad). Carbohydrate has simply been substituted for fat, so I therefore feel full on a smaller amount. Again; so far so good.

What about breakfast? This is the one thing that has changed. I now eat eggs, cream, cheese & meat for breakfast, whereas I’d previously been eating muesli. In this one area then, I’m eating a higher quantity of animal-products than before. Is this volume-increase greater than the slight reduction I’ve experienced in dinner? I suspect it may be. I’ll have to give this some thought and get back to you.

3. Severed-Ties to Industrial Agriculture

For the last 4 weeks, I’ve consumed nothing that’s a product of modern intensified agriculture. No grain, sugar, wheat, barley, rye, potatoes, carrots &tc. (I claim one exception to this – gin!).

Modern industrialised agriculture drips fossil fuel. From the artificial fertilisers which are liberally broadcast over the land, to the energy-intensive refining-processes required to translate the arable-crops we farm into something we eat. I cannot quantify that reduction, but the thought is something which interests me and deserves greater scrutiny.

4. Increased Levels of Seasonal Produce, Animal-Welfare, Use of Organics, Food-Provenance, Shorter Supply-Chains &tc

When you cut a large food-group out of your diet, the quality of your remaining foodstuffs tends to increase. What do I mean?

I’m eating a HUGE QUANTITY of vegetables. Far more than before. When vegetables make up three-quarters of your plate, you want to get maximum taste from your restricted food-pool. This means that you increase the variety of seasonal produce you use, not just using the same old things day-in, day-out.

I’m going to the greengrocer’s & farm-shops far more regularly now in an effort to get the freshest, tastiest produce I can find. Local ‘home-grown’ organics are now a daily staple, as are trips to the butcher. The meat and dairy we buy now has the highest degree of provenance and traceability that I’ve ever managed. Simply because the restriction in food-diversity means we want the best of what’s available to us. This equally applies to organic meat, allotment produce and fresh free-range eggs.

In this respect at least, I feel better about the food I’m eating than ever before.

5. No Processed Food Whatsoever!

I’ve never been a processed food kinda guy! Because processed food is often where the ‘nasties’ lie (poor food provenance, low-welfare standards, e-numbers), these are totally ruled out of a diet which takes ‘real food’ as its main focus.

A LCHF diet has a lot in common with a number of other food-movements, such as the following:

  • The Slow Food Movement
  • The Organic Movement
  • The Local-Food Movement
  • ‘Real-Food’ cooking-movements in all forms!

The one negative therefore seems to remain the GHG-intensity of what I’m eating. Will this always then be a problem?

No. Currently I’m in the weight-loss phase of a restricted-carbohydrate diet. Once that phase is over, I’ll be able to reintroduce a lot of the things that I’ve currently ruled out. Picture pulses, oats, fruits, root-vegetables, nuts, seeds, yoghurt &tc.

Once this initial restriction-phase is over, I envisage my ketogenic-diet to be one of impeccable food-ethics. All ingredients will be unprocessed, unrefined, fresh, seasonal, traceable, local (where applicable) & HEALTH-PROMOTING!

In my mind at least, that’s no mean feat!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

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2 thoughts on “My own health v the planet? Can a ketogenic-diet be sustainable, both for me & for future generations?

  1. Hi Adam, I appreciate your addressing this. I tend to agree–that the quality of my intake has improved while quantities (of most items) are way down. Do you have any leads on where I can find the environmental impact for industrial vs. grass fed beef or same for carrots (industrial vs small organic).?

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