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Improving diet and nutrition

Eating a balanced diet is vital for our good health and wellbeing; however, food security has tended to be concerned with producing more food, but not necessarily more nutritious food. The double burden of under and over nutrition needs to be at the centre of national and international policy agendas and addressing it requires complex responses and political leadership.

Food-based strategies (including food production, dietary diversification and food fortification), focus on the necessity of improving diets in order to overcome and prevent malnutrition and stress the multiple benefits derived from enjoying a balanced variety of foods (FAO 2014). Even the availability of food does not necessarily assure good nutrition, with many 'western' retail outlets providing food environments with low-priced, nutrient-poor, but energy-dense products.


In addition, we need to consider the impact of our diets on the planet. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) defines sustainable diets as: 

“Those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.”

Dietary changes towards healthier more plant-based (flexitarian) diets can reduce the environmental impacts of the food system. In particular, staple crops have generally lower environmental footprints (impacts per kg of product) than animal products, particulalry for GHG emissions. Yet, to enable dietary change, comprehensive policy and business approaches are essential to making serious changes possible. These include economic incentives and labelling, as well as aligning national dietary guidelines with current scientific evidence on the health and environmental impacts of our diet.




Dr Marco Springman on the BBC explaining the results from his recent paper in Nature 'Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits '


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