By Kim Anastasiou and Mark Lawrence, Michalis hadjikakou, and Phillip Baker, Deakin University Geelong Mar 29 (The Conversation). Our world faces a major challenge: We need to produce enough nutritious, high-quality food to feed our growing population while keeping within the limits of our planet. This means significantly reducing environmental impact of the global agricultural system.
There are over 7,000 edible plant species that could be eaten for food. Today, 90% of global energy intake comes only from 15 species of plants, with more than half the world’s population relying only on three cereal crops: maize, wheat, and rice.
Our latest research indicates that the rise in ultra-processed foods may be a key factor in this change. This is a unique opportunity for improving both our health as well as the sustainability of our food system by reducing our consumption of and production of these foods.
Environmental change: The impact of agriculture It is responsible to one-third of all greenhouse gases emissions and for 70% of freshwater usage. It also consumes 38% global land and is the largest contributor to biodiversity loss.
Research has shown that western diets high in calories and livestock products can have significant environmental impacts. However, ultra-processed foods are also a concern.
Although the impacts of these foods have been well documented on human health, the effects on the environment are less well known. This is surprising considering that ultra-processed foods make up a large portion of the food supply in high income countries. Sales are also rapidly rising in low- and middle-income countries.
Our latest research, conducted by colleagues in Brazil suggests that an increasing globalized diet high in processed foods leads to the destruction of traditional foods.
How to spot ultra-processed food. Ultra-processed food is a category of foods that are made from a series industrial processes.
They are often made with cosmetic additives and very few whole foods. You can think about them as foods that are difficult to prepare in your own home. You can think of these products as confectionery, soft drinks and chips.
This is in contrast to traditional foods such as fruits and vegetables, wholegrains preserved legumes, dairy products, and meat products that are minimally processed or made using traditional processing techniques.
Traditional processing is important for food safety and security. However, bottling, fermentation, canning, and canning are all key methods to ensure food safety and security. Ultra-processed food is however anything that is not necessary to ensure food safety.
Australians consume a lot of processed foods. These foods account for 39% total energy intake in Australia. This is more than what is found in Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, but less than what is found in the United States, which accounts for 57.9% of adult dietary energy.
An analysis of the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey (the most current national data on this) revealed that the most nutritious foods for Australians aged 2-12 years included ready-made meals and fast food, pastries and cakes, breads and pastries, breakfast cereals, fruit drinks and confectionery.
What are the environmental consequences? What are the environmental impacts?
You can find good examples in maize, wheat and soy. Food manufacturers choose these crops for their low production costs and high yielding. This allows them to be produced in large quantities.
Animal-derived ingredients in ultraprocessed foods are also sourced from animals that depend on these crops as feed.
The popularity of ultra-processed foods, which are convenient and inexpensive, has led to the loss of many wholefoods like fruits, vegetables and grains, as well as meat, dairy, and legumes. This has impacted both the quality of our diets and the variety of food available to us.
The most commonly used ingredients in Australia’s 2019 packaged food and beverage supply were sugar (40.7%) and wheat flour (15.6%), vegetable oils (12.8%) and dairy (11.0%).
Some ingredients in ultra-processed foods like sugar, cocoa, and some vegetable oils are strongly associated with biodiversity destruction.
What can be done? It is possible to reduce the environmental impact of ultra-processed food. These foods are not only dangerous, but they are also harmful to human nutrition. Consuming high amounts of ultra-processed food is linked to poor health outcomes such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.
This could be countered by redirecting food production resources around the globe to produce healthier, less processed foods. Globally, for example, significant amounts of cereals such wheat, maize, and rye are milled into refined flours in order to produce refined breads and cakes, as well as other bakery products.
These could be used to make wholemeal breads or pasta. This would increase global food security and provide more protection against natural catastrophes and conflicts in major breadbasket countries.
Avoiding certain ingredients could save other environmental resources. Consumers could shift their preferences towards healthier foods to reduce the demand for palm oil, a common ingredient found in ultra-processed foods. It is also associated with deforestation and deforestation in Southeast Asia.
Reduce your consumption ultra-processed foods can help you reduce your environmental footprint while improving your health. (The Conversation) AMS AMS
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff. It is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.