Can eating California Raisins help save our planet?

By Rick Miller, Clinical and Sports Dietitian, Harley Street, London

This year’s National Vegetarian Week is upon us and it’s a great opportunity to use this time to celebrate the health and environmental benefits that eating a little more ‘plant-based’ can demonstrate.

If the statistics are anything to go by then the UK are certainly leading this trend. According to the Mintel global new products database, in 2018 the UK was the nation with the highest number of vegan food products – removing Germany from pole position.

But before I delve into all things veggie, it is worth stating that eating meat is a nutritious part of a balanced diet – a good source of several minerals, zinc, copper, iron and vitamin B12. However you can have too much of a good thing.

There are two reasons for the ‘eat less meat’ message. As a global community we appear to be overindulging and research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that cutting back a bit on meat, particularly processed red meat, might have some health benefits for fighting cancer, particularly bowel cancer.

However, this article is not about vilifying meat but cutting down a little will make room for other foods that often, we are not good at consuming – such as more fruits and vegetables and working towards at least 5-a-day.

Interestingly, I covered the link between consuming foods rich in fibre such as fruits and vegetables, including traditional dried fruit like California Raisins and reducing the incidence of ‘The Big C’ during bowel cancer awareness month.

The other reason for the more ‘plant-based’ lifestyle is the impact it may have on the environment.

Many statistics get published and make the headlines on this important issue but what the United Nations suggest in their ‘How to Feed the World in 2050’ review is that animal agriculture contribute between 13 to 18% of global greenhouse emissions – those that contribute to global warming.

So there’s no getting away from it, reducing our meat consumption alongside improving our use of renewable energy over fossil fuels such as wind, solar and hydroelectric, isn’t just a marketing ploy – it will very likely make a difference to the ‘health’ of our planet in the long term.

Perhaps you’re convinced and ‘meat free monday’ might be on the menu. Yet, you may be thinking are all fruits and vegetables as environmentally friendly as each other?

Sadly not, we still have to be savvy consumers. A good example is palm oil, used extensively in many products, from cosmetics to health foods, causes destruction of hectares of the rainforest. Luckily, charities such as Greenpeace are campaigning hard to change hearts and minds on this issue.

So what about the humble California Raisin? How do they stack up in the environmental challenge?

You’ll be happy to know that adding an serving of California Raisins a day won’t just boost your fibre intake, alongside vitamins, minerals; but growing grapes (raisins before they are dried) appears to have a much smaller global warming potential or ‘carbon footprint’ during growing and production than many other fruits and vegetables across the globe.

That is surely in part due to the growers’ focus on sustainability. The national raisin company reports that 85% of the power for production of California Raisins comes from solar power, their entire waste stream is 100% recyclable and even organic waste and water is processed in a biological manner to fertilise future crops. That’s a pretty impressive effort for the humble dried grape.

So if part of your ‘eat more plant based’ promise includes you and the family munching on a handful of raisins or being inspired by one of the recipes on the California website not only are you doing your part for your health but you could be doing your part for the planet.

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About the Author:

Rick Miller is a registered Clinical and Sports Dietitian based in Harley Street, London.

You can find out more about Rick at