5 Foods to Stop Eating if You Care About the Environment

An article published in Sierra Magazine last year highlighted just a few of the foods that are currently wreaking havoc on the environment. Activists, scientists, and even cuisine critics are urging us to stop eating these foods immediately in order to ensure the health of our planet and ourselves. If you're a big fan of the affordable burger or expensive tuna roll, you are in for very enlightening (and slightly disappointing) surprise!

Here's the list:

1. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Time to switch back to California rolls! Because of its famously delicious flavor, bluefin tuna is extremely prized in Japanese cuisine, notably in high-end sushi, and is quite lucrative within the fishing industry. Unfortunately, consistent overfishing has led to a huge depletion in bluefin population, and these lovely fish have officially become an endangered species. Bluefin is usually found in more expensive sushi restaurants so, if you find yourself in one such establishment, make a difference by recommending to your waiter that this ingredient be removed from their menu. From nutritional and health standpoints, eating large fish such as bluefin is generally a bad idea. Just remember; the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury content.

2. GMO Corn

Douglas Fox, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Unity College makes a powerful point when it comes to the cultivation and consumption of GM maize: "Genetically modified corn violates so many sustainability boundaries—destroying habitats, depleting soils, breaking nutrient cycles, polluting air and water, contaminating native maize varieties, and on and on..." And don't forget wiping out millions upon millions of bees worldwide and contributing to the rise of superpests. The bi-product high-fructose corn syrup has been found to deplete soil levels, and requires a huge amount of pesticide use and processing. Our advice? Stay clear of corn until GMO labeling is approved in your state.  

3. Conventional Coffee

It's simple, really. Coffee is shady, by which we mean it is a plant that loves and requires shade to grow. However, with the enormous demand for coffee beans, we have manipulated the plant into one that's grown in sunlight and requires large amounts of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers to grow. As if that weren't enough, a huge amount of tropical deforestation is being sanctioned in order to grow coffee crop, and many animals, such as migratory birds, are consequently losing their habitats. But don't give up hope, coffee lovers! Step up your expectations and buy organic java to ensure that no pesticides were used during cultivation. More importantly, make sure you're always drinking "shad-grown" product, so that no tropical forest was cleared nor animals displaced. Doing this will help ensure the biodiversity of our rainforests!

4. Palm Oil

According to the Rainforest Action Network, modern Palm Oil cultivation is the number one cause of rainforest destruction worldwide. In an age when half all packaged foods contain palm oil as an ingredient, use of the product has increased by a staggering five hundred percent in the past ten years. An estimated eight million acres of ancient rainforest have been cleared and burned to create palm plantations, resulting in the endangerment and now near extinction of the orangutan. Hold tight- you haven't heard the shocker yet! In Indonesia, carbon emissions caused by deforestation (mostly in favor of palm oil) are higher than all U.S. transportation vehicles put together. The considerable destruction caused by our cars, planes, trucks, trains, and ships doesn't even come close to the massive toll deforestation takes on our Earth. Long story short, don't buy anything with palm oil listed as an ingredient. 

5. Factory Farmed Beef

Factory-farmed cows are fed loads of genetically modified corn and soy, the cultivation of which requires replacing tropical forests with crops laced heavily with pesticides that pollute nearby streams, rivers and lakes. Get this: for a cow to gain just one pound of flesh, it needs to eat ten to fourteen pounds of GMO feed. These cows are overfed to gain weight and then, once their flesh is harvested, enormous amounts of energy are required to keep the meat cold and fresh. In the words of Mary O'Brien, who directs the Utah Forest Program of the Grand Canyon Trust, "In the western U.S., cattle have the single most pervasive impact on public lands, depleting native biodiversity, increasing invasive exotics, diverting water, fouling streams, and baring the soil." If you must eat beef, go with organic, grass-fed brands.