Many global health risks are related to what and how much we eat. At the same time, the production of food, especially from animal origin, contributes to environmental change at a scale that threatens boundaries of a safe operating space for humanity. Here we outline viable solutions how to reconcile healthy protein consumption and sustainable protein production which requires a solid, interdisciplinary evidence base. We review the role of proteins for human and ecosystem health, including physiological effects of dietary proteins, production potentials from agricultural and aquaculture systems, environmental impacts of protein production, and mitigation potentials of transforming current production systems. Various protein sources from plant and animal origin, including insects and fish, are discussed in the light of their health and environmental implications. Integration of available knowledge is essential to move from a dual problem description (“healthy diets versus environment”) towards approaches that frame the food challenge of reconciling human and ecosystem health in the context of planetary health. This endeavor requires a shifting focus from metrics at the level of macronutrients to whole diets and a better understanding of the full cascade of health effects caused by dietary proteins, including health risks from food-related environmental degradation.
This resource has been peer reviewed