Weighting fewer pounds and eating healthier and more environmentally friendly at the same time – is that even possible? We tested eight current diets. Our opinion: Only two are consistently healthy and sustainable.
Do you want to lose weight healthily? With pleasure! But this time not at the expense of the environment! We have assessed current forms of nutrition for you – nothing short-term à la cabbage soup or Brigitte, but forms of nutrition that can also help you lose a few kilos, but which are primarily suitable for medium to long-term use.
In our check, we paid particular attention to how well these forms of nutrition – i.e. diets in the broadest sense – are suitable for climate and environmental protection.
Lose weight healthily: diets and forms of nutrition under review
These are the eight different forms of nutrition that we tested in the check:
- Ayurvedic diet
- Vegetarian diet
- Eating healthy for the intestines
- Vegan diet
- intermittent fasting
- Ten rules for a wholesome mixed diet
- low carb
- Eat mindfully
We have highlighted five aspects: Is the diet suitable as a permanent diet? Is it good for healthy weight loss? Is it practicable? Does it all taste good? And finally: How environmentally friendly is this form of nutrition? We want to make your choice easier.
Of course, a diet should be healthy, but losing weight is not the focus for everyone. That’s why a type of diet that is “green” in terms of “suitability as a long-term diet”, such as the intestinal healthy diet, but “yellow” in terms of losing weight may suit you.
Diet change: Are the diets environmentally friendly?
In order to assess whether the forms of nutrition are also healthy for the environment, TEST based the check on the recommendations of the so-called Planetary Health Diet. They were published in early 2019 by the EAT-Lancet Commission, a coalition of international scientists from 16 countries led by the well-known nutritionist Walter Willett of Harvard Medical School.
The scientists define a diet that is both healthy, i.e. supplies all essential nutrients, and at the same time is sustainable. The quantities and proportions of the various food groups are calculated in such a way that they help to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius – compared to pre-industrial values.
In concrete terms, this means: many plant-based foods, very few from animals. Because agriculture, especially animal husbandry, is a major cause of global climate change. According to the Federal Environment Agency, 60 percent of all methane emissions (CH4) and 80 percent of nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) come from agriculture in Germany alone.
Diets at a glance: Intermittent fasting, low carb & Co.
1. Ayurvedic diet: Health science recommends an individual diet for everyone. For this, people are assigned to different doshas (or constitutions): Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Afterwards, a diet according to the individual dosha is recommended. The core of the Ayurvedic diet are plant-based foods, which are usually cooked and prepared with spices in order to optimize the wholesomeness of the food.
2. Vegetarian diet: The different forms of vegetarian diet have in common that there is no meat on the plate. They are characterized by the fact that a lot of vegetables, fruit, whole grains (cereals) and legumes are eaten here, supplemented by vegetable fats with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This diet offers all the necessary nutrients and has been proven to protect against various “diseases of affluence” such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Also read: Why it pays to give up meat more often
3. Eating healthy for the intestines: Foods that provide healthy bacteria directly, such as unheated yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha, or which, like vegetables and fruit, whole grain products and legumes, represent a kind of “fodder” for the bacterial flora, are recommended for a healthy intestinal diet.
4. Vegan diet: The diet completely dispenses with animal food. Vegetables, small amounts of seaweed and fruit form the basis of the diet, along with whole grain products and (sweet) potatoes. Legume products such as tofu, alternatives to cow’s milk (e.g. almond and oat milk) and nuts serve as a source of protein. Seeds and vegetable oils provide healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids. Also read: Five tips for the path to vegan life
5. Intermittent fasting: There are different fasting variants, of which the “16+8” method is probably the most popular. This involves fasting within 16 hours, usually overnight into the morning. For example, with the “5:2” fast, you eat normally five days a week and moderate the other two days. On these two days, around 500 kilocalories (women) and 600 (men) kcal are allowed. The goal is usually to maintain or lose weight.
6. Ten rules for a wholesome mixed diet: The rules of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) include recommendations for plant and animal foods that should provide people with all the nutrients on a weekly average. They rely on a high proportion of vegetables and fruit as well as whole grain products, as they are filling and the fiber they contain has been proven to protect against various “diseases of affluence”, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and colon cancer.
7. Low carb: For several years, scientists have been recommending diets that have a very low proportion of carbohydrates. This is intended to reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood lipids, high blood pressure and diet-related fatty liver. We recommend foods with few carbohydrates (low carb), i.e. vegetables, soy products, nuts, vegetable oils and fats – and a lot of protein from eggs, milk and dairy products, meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
8. Eat mindfully: Eating mindfully means taking in the meal consciously, eating more slowly and more happily, and listening to your own gut feeling: Am I hungry, am I full? This can lead to people eating less overall, enjoying themselves with less stress and losing pounds. The idea is to eat what pleases and suits the individual, rather than being guided by advice, rules, eating apps and dogma.