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Healthy Diets Result In More Food Waste And Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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A new study finds a correlation between the exact amounts of food that Americans throw away and how they observed healthy diets consisting of fruits and vegetables.

Most people will logically consume more raw fruits and raw vegetables or a mixture of both to promote their health and overall well-being.

However, higher-quality diets were associated with higher levels of food waste, according to a study by researchers at USDA's Agricultural Research Service, University of Vermont, and the University of New Hampshire. Furthermore, the study finds healthy diets led to more waste in irrigation water and use of pesticides since both of these factors are used at higher rates to grow fruits and vegetables. The study is the first to see these correlations.

While eating healthy is important, people need to be more conscientious in their use of fruits and vegetables, says coauthor Meredith Niles, a professor at the University of Vermont.

Americans Waste Nearly A Pound Of Food Per Person Each Day

For the study, the researchers analyzed 22 food groups. They found that 39 percent of fruits, vegetables, and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes are being thrown away. In comparison, only 17 percent of dairy food was wasted, while only 14 percent of meat and mixed meat dishes were wasted.

Between 2007 and 2014, U.S. consumers wasted approximately 150,000 tons of food per day or about a pound of food per person each day. The study, published in PLOS ONE, stated that this figure corresponds roughly to 30 percent of the average daily calories consumed for every American.

Additionally, the researchers found a link between the food wasted and the use of 30 million acres of land, which comprised 7 percent of total cropland in the United States. They also saw a correlation between the food wasted and the use of 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water yearly, as well as the use of 780 million pounds of pesticide and 1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer yearly.

Food Waste Solutions

While the study warns about the food waste and the impact it may bring to the environment, it also highlights that low-quality diets that produce less food waste, on the other hand, come with negative health impacts.

The study would want people to realize the correct way of preparing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables. For one, people should know the difference between abrasion in fruits and vegetables' skins as compared when they are truly spoiled.

As a way of example, Niles noted how French grocer Intermarché reduces its food waste by promoting the cooking of damaged produce. The grocer educates its customers that "disfigured eggplant" or "the ugly carrot" is not harmful when cooked.

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