Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., leading many to believe that the best way to reduce their carbon footprint is by finding alternatives to driving and making other eco-friendly tweaks to their commuting habits. A new study, however, suggests that we could all make a lot more progress in the short term by changing the way we eat.
A team of researchers found that if Americans swapped out beef instead for beans, the country could reach 50 to 75 percent of its targets for global greenhouse gas reductions by as early as the year 2020. This would mean that over half of the country’s greenhouse emissions reduction targets could be achieved without having to impose new standards on transportation and manufacturing, the researchers explained.
Out of all food products, beef is the most carbon-intensive food to produce. The production of legumes, on the other hand, results in about one-fortieth the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as beef.
The researchers concluded that beef production is an inefficient method of making use of agricultural land. If bean production could take the place of beef production, 42 percent of agricultural land would be freed up. That’s 400 million square acres — roughly 1.6 times the size of the state of California.
The good news is that one-third of Americans are already swapping out beef and other meat products for plant-based alternatives. The researchers note that as more Americans shift toward choosing plant-based foods over meat products, meat should no longer be considered a necessity.
Hesitant to start eating more beans in place of meat? Here are a few fun facts that may encourage you to eat more beans, according to WebMD:
- Beans are comparable in calories to meat.
- Beans have fiber and more water, which can help you feel fuller and avoid going overboard on calories.
- One cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein.
- One cup of cooked beans contains about 12 grams of fiber, which is almost half the daily recommended fiber intake for women at 21 to 25 grams (and 30 to 38 grams for men).
- Beans are low in sugar, which keeps insulin from spiking.
- Previous research has shown that people who consumed beans weighed an average of 7 pounds less than people who didn’t consume beans. Bean eaters also consumed an average of 199 calories more than those who avoided beans.
Wondering how you can actually start using beans to replace meat? It’s easier than you might think:
- Skip the meat in dishes like soup and chilli. Instead, add different varieties of beans.
- Add cooked beans to a food processor with some chopped onions, spices, garlic and a few other ingredients of your choice. Cook them up like hamburger patties.
- Mash up some cooked beans to use as the filling for wraps or tacos.
- Use edamame or bean sprouts instead of chicken in a stir fry.
While beans may help us reduce greenhouse gases, they may unfortunately increase the digestive type. Here are 7 ways to avoid gas from beans when you decide to make the switch.
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