Got Questions on Health, Climate and Food? Here Are Some of the Answers

This past fall, the Healthy Campus Initiative by UCLA hosted a Food Day panel discussion. Three experts were part of the panel and helped students and citizens to gain a better understanding of “foodprint” or the environmental impact our food has on the planet. There were some additional questions from the audience that day, which are addressed here.


The experts on the panel were: Dr. Jennifer Jay, PhD, who is a professor at UCLA at the Institute of Environment and Sustainability; Dr. Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietician and an assistant adjunct professor at the UCLA Medical Center and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health; and Elliot Mermel, the cofounder and CEO of Coalo Valley (Cricket) Farm.


Some audience members wanted to know if there are alternative meat options with a smaller carbon footprint than beef. The panelists confirmed that beef and lamb are the meats that deplete the earth’s resources the most. Poultry and pork are more sustainable options, and beans and eggs have even less of a carbon footprint.


People also wanted to know if soy was harmful and if soy consumption should be limited. The experts assert that soy is not unhealthy, and that people in Asian country eat lots of soy and have some of the longest life spans. Americans should be more concerned about the hormones in dairy than in soy.


There was also a question about processed and packaged foods, since audience members wanted to know if they should focus on making more home-cooked meas. It was confirmed that eating as naturally as possible is best, and that homemade foods are often more nutritious than restaurant or processed food. It is also important to cook foods that are low in sugar and salt.


Those who attended the forum also wanted to know what the best nutrient-rich grains and foods are to consumer on a plant-based diet. Foods like mung beans, amaranth, lentils and quinoa were mentioned, since they are rich in proteins, vitamins and fiber.


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