Joey Chestnut better start scarfing nuts and berries.
That may help counteract the nearly 46 hours he may have lopped off his life by gulping a winning 76 hot dogs at this year’s Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest.
Researchers at the University of Michigan’s school of public health have calculated the health and environmental footprint of eating various foods, and come out with specific numbers. The goal was to home in on environmentally sustainable foods that promote health, then measure the health effects in minutes — ranging from 74 minutes lost to 80 minutes gained per serving, according to a nutritional scale they developed for the study.
The bad news is that highly processed meat, beef, shrimp, pork, lamb and greenhouse-grown vegetables are off the menu in this new paradigm. The good news is that all one has to do is tweak.
Researchers evaluated more than 5,800 foods to rank them by their nutritional disease burden and their environmental impact. They found that substituting just 10% of one’s daily calories for an equal value of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and “select seafood” could reduce one’s dietary carbon footprint by one-third, and grant as many as 48 minutes of healthy life per day.
A hot dog on a bun, for instance, can cost a person 36 minutes of healthy life. But a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could increase life by 33 minutes, the researchers found.
The researchers, headed by Katerina Styliaou — who was a doctoral student and postdoctoral fellow at the school at the time and now works with the Detroit Health Department — measured the minutes using the Health Nutritional Index, which they developed to calculate the net health burden of eating a particular item.
Thus, increasing field-grown fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and “low-environmental-impact seafood” can improve one’s longevity chances, the study authors said.
“The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear,” said Olivier Jolliet, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Michigan Public Health and senior author of the paper, which was published in the journal Nature Food. “Our findings demonstrate that small targeted substitutions offer a feasible and powerful strategy to achieve significant health and environmental benefits without requiring dramatic dietary shifts.”