Swapping red meat for plant-based protein boosts longevity and climate health : Shots - Health News A new study finds swapping half of your typical red meat intake for plant protein, reduces your diet-related carbon footprint by 25% and may also your boost lifespan.

This diet swap can cut your carbon footprint and boost longevity

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If you want to stay strong without eating so much meat, you're not alone. After our story on boosting protein for strength, we heard from a lot of listeners who are trying to eat more protein through a plant-based diet. A new study finds that cutting back on red meat a few times a week is linked to a longer lifespan and a decrease in greenhouse gases. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: This new study really adds to the evidence that a plant-focused diet can be better for health and for the planet. It fits with what we heard from so many listeners and readers who tell us they're aiming to move in this direction. Kyle Backlund said he was used to eating meat at many meals. Then he stopped. At first, he said he felt like he was missing out on protein. He noticed his energy level was way off when he exercised.

KYLE BACKLUND: I would experience some lethargy and weakness, just a drain on my energy.

AUBREY: He decided to add more protein to his diet - so for starters, things like a quick energy bar before exercise. His partner, Stephany Marreel, who's also plant-focused, said she adds protein to soups and stews by blending in tofu, vegetables and grains like quinoa. She says it's easy to tweak recipes to amp up protein, like her zucchini fritters.

STEPHANY MARREEL: You add egg to it, and you can add almond flour instead of a regular white flour, which has, again, more - a little more protein in it. And you make it like a patty. And I air-fried them.

AUBREY: They come out crispy. And Kyle says he's now feeling good on the plant-based diet.

BACKLUND: Every meal that we have is unique and delicious. And so I'm fully on board, and it doesn't take a whole lot of arm twisting.

AUBREY: Dr. Christopher Gardner is a Stanford food scientist whose research is at the center of the Netflix documentary "You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment." He says people can get all the protein and nutrients they need from a plant-based diet with a little planning.

CHRISTOPHER GARDNER: Oh, yeah. If someone is consuming a reasonable variety of legumes - that's beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds, vegetables - meeting protein needs, all from plant sources, to sustain muscle is no problem.

AUBREY: It's not just about eating a diet that's good for your health. Gardner says it's also about a diet that's good for the planet. There's a lot of evidence linking meat production to environmental impacts. Livestock require a lot of land and water. And an analysis from the World Resources Institute, home to the Cool Food project, shows producing beef leads to about 20 times the emissions compared to producing beans. That's per gram of protein.

And a new study from McGill University estimates if people swap about half of their red and processed meat intake for plant protein, their diet-related carbon footprint drops by about 25%. Here's study author Olivia Auclair.

OLIVIA AUCLAIR: What these findings show is that we don't really need to go to any major extremes, like adopting very restrictive diets or excluding certain food groups altogether.

AUBREY: Auclair's study was motivated by the recent Canada Food Guide, which recommends people consume plenty of plant proteins as part of a diet to optimize good health. Simple shifts, Auclair says - for example, eating red or processed meat two times a week instead of four - is linked to both a longevity boost and a significant decrease in carbon footprint.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News.


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