Dubai: If you are among the health conscious who wisely choose what goes on your plates, you are inadvertently contributing to a sustainable environment.
A healthy diet and sustainable environment go hand in hand, an expert said as she urged UAE residents to pay close attention to their eating habits.
"There is an intrinsic connection between healthy eating and the environment — a link many people miss," Dr Nafeesa Ahmad, Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Management at Zulekha Healthcare Group, said at a community lecture organised recently by the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG).
"We can contribute to the environment by taking simple steps such as limiting the amount of processed food we eat, cutting down wastage of food, buying seasonal and local produce, and avoiding stocking up large quantities of food that need to be refrigerated," she said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 73 per cent of adult women and 66 per cent of men in the UAE exceed their recommended weight.
A survey by the UAE Ministry of Health in 2010 found that 54.7 per cent of children in the country aged six to 16 are obese.
In 2009, the figure was 26 per cent.
Diabetes is on the rise. Despite awareness efforts, 1,000 people die every year. About 35 per cent of the diabetes cases in the UAE remain undiagnosed, which increases medical costs and complications arising from a largely preventable disease. "A person who follows a healthy diet will avoid overeating and thus reduce demand, which will in turn lower the impact on land," Nafeesa said.
"Food wastage is also a huge issue. Food waste dumped into landfills results in the production of greenhouse gases such as methane."
Eating locally produced food products significantly reduces transportation, which in turn reduces the carbon footprint.
"By restricting red meat consumption we can help save a massive amount of water, reduce pollution in rivers and streams, avoid destruction of topsoil and tropical forests, and reduce methane gas emission," she said. Apart from the impact on the environment, understanding the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle and diet is particularly important for UAE residents.
Support the Clean Up UAE campaign
Residents have been urged to join hands for a cleaner UAE by taking part in the annual Clean Up UAE campaign, scheduled for December 12.
Organised by the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) the event in its tenth edition saw 100 tons of waste cleared last year with the participation of over 20,000 people across 106 locations.
The event will be conducted simultaneously across all seven emirates.