FOOD CHOICES AND HEALING THE PLANET
What are some ways that people can help heal the planet through their food choices?
III. Main Body
Being a vegetarian or eating vegan and healthier diets are some of the suggested options for correcting the current diet’s environmental impact. This paper will show that it is possible to identify proper diets that have reduced the environmental impact that is similar to the present diet. Such diets are consistent with the commonly available foods and are adequate. The research method for collecting data is on linear programming for finding solutions that are very close to the current diet. Data has collected from women aged between 31 to 50 years who at first lacked any food group constraints but were later to experience the constraints of dairy, fish meat, and eggs. I will also use a similar technique in searching for a closet diet hat have the same environmental reductions as its most restricted option (meaning that there is no intake of eggs, dairy, fish or meat) with no restrictions on products. There was the need to incorporate food products that are popular in designing a menu that is feasible for the American population to attain a logarithm optimization,
There is the need for sustainable diets due to the increase of population growth meaning that there is a high level of food consumption. High demand is mainly in animal protein, yet the production of such food have an adverse impact on water, land, GHG emissions, fisheries, and animal welfare and biodiversity. High level of animal protein food also undermines the natural resources resilience in the process of food productions and undertakes the security of food for the future generations. It means that the food system has strong links to some of the most pressing challenges that we are experiencing today. For instance, the food system contributes to about 30% of the world climate by changing the emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) which is the main driver of biodiversity loss and deforestation. The food system is also a major user as well as a polluter of water resources that is now becoming increasingly scarce. Furthermore, overfishing has contributed to the death of essential fish stock which poses more threats to the marine ecosystem stability (Garnett et al., 2015).
Additionally, livestock is one of the greatest users of land all over the globe. Almost 80% of all agricultural land is for livestock feed production and grazing. 20% of this rangeland and pastures are degraded mostly due to over-grazing. Additionally, livestock consumes almost 8% of global water. The biodiversity impact through water pollution, land degradation and reduced biodiversity for agricultural purposes. Livestock contributes to a high proportional level of agricultural emissions of GHG (FAO, 2009).
The global per capita consumption of fish since the 1960s to 2012 has increased from 9.9 kilos to 19.2. This high demand for fish also means that there is a global overfishing of almost 29% in which 61% of full fishing. Each of the fish species is ten which account for twenty-four percent of fish production (FAO, 2014). Diets that have a low environmental impact do contribute to nutrition and food security as well as enabling the present and future generations to live a healthy life. Also, sustainable diets are respectful and protective of the ecosystem and biodiversity. These are diets which are culturally acceptable, affordable, economically fair, and are nutritionally adequate. The sustainable diets are also healthy and safe, and they do help in optimizing human and natural resources (Burlingame et al., 2012). Thus, the main characteristics of sustainable diets are that they are healthy, use less land intensity and produce low GHG. Thus, they do not lead to adverse impacts on biodiversity and Water (Garnett et al., 2015). Thus, there is the need to consider how food production has to be sustainable to cater for the rapidly increasing population of the world. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recommends that agricultural production has to be increased to almost 70% by the year 2050 to cater to the needs of the population (FAO, 2011).
Thus, the main question is how to decrease our current food system impact on environment degradation. One way is through the supply side improvements and the second one changes in food choices, demand and food products. FAO (2010) indicates that when crop production is done in a sustainable and most intensified manner together with the implementation of practices and technologies that reduce livestock production emissions (Gerber et al., 2013). Such activities have a huge potential as can be shown from the differences in GHG emissions from dairy production worldwide (Hagemann ET al.2012). A change in eating patterns and healthier food choices can be some direct options on the demand side. The focus of this paper is to determine how food choices and change in eating pattern and help the food system in lowering its environmental impact.
This paper will analyze some of the environmental impacts of some scenarios. We start by looking at the present average diet of American women aged from 31 to 50. And analyze a closer healthier diet to fit their eating habit that has all the nutritional requirements. However we acknowledge that eating healthier does not simply guarantee the existence of an environmentally friendly diet. We also analyze other predefined dietary interventions with three different types of animal products that exclude eggs and dairy. The final stage will be to compare these scenarios changes and providing optimal solutions as calculated by the LP after establishing restrictions on diets that have negative environmental impact. We use the target that can be attained maximally in each scenario on food product restrictions. From the analysis, we will have a good impression in understanding the food patterns that are not healthy as well as those with a low impact on the environment. Furthermore, diet patterns do remain close as possible to the current diet average
Various authors have given suggestions that healthier food choices as well as changing to the Mediterranean types of foods can help in reducing the food system environmental impact (van Dooren ET al.2014; Carlsson-Panama and González 2009; and Duchin 2008). The same concept is further shown by Vieux et al. (2013) by comparing the self-selected diets from a survey on GHGe of a French dietary. The researchers point out that despite these effective approaches they did not consider the role of consumers in adopting proper dietary changes. Thus, the best way to design a such an alternative option is through the application of linear programming to minimize the number of changes to be done to the current diet as proposed by Maillot et al. (2010). Also, there is the need for including nutritional restrictions as part of the LP model that act as safeguards in ensuring the adequate intake of energy and nutrients.
d. Data Gathering
For this study, we select on -active women aged between 31 to 50 years. The selected group is appropriate since they need a high requirement of iron in their diet and it is most critical when meat is elimination from their diet, yet it’s an essential source of iron (Macdiarmid et al. 2012). The nutritional requirements are based on dietary guidelines of America and other international recommendations for nutrients and energy ((WHO et al. 2007). For diet promotion, there were constraints passed on the maximum amount of products is part of the week’s diet.
Current American diet data
The unfortunate aspect is that Americans have one of the poorest diets around the globe. On an average year, an American consumes 29 LBN of French fries, 24 lbs of artificial sweeteners and more than 600 lbs of dairy. The weekly current average American diet comprises of 207 products among the 15000 consumed by the population on the survey (n= 3919). The selected items are those that mostly contribute to total intake among the survey population that is 86% by weight. So as to compensate for the eliminated products, we had to scale those on the lists so that the total amount of each of the product is equivalent to the original average. The nutrient value of the observed average diet, as well as the current diet, does show similarities.
Environmental and nutritional data
The data on food consumption comprises of micronutrient, and macronutrient was of the American food composition. Data on essential amino acids is from the American Department of Agriculture database (USDA, 2012). Another representative data of Fossil Energy Use (FEU), Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGe), and Land Occupation (LO) of all foods are collected from various sources such as at the consumer phase, the retail phase, and end of life materials for packaging (Kramer et al. 2013)
. Some individual environmental indicators will be utilized in calculating the weighted score as per the ReCiPe method (Goedkoop et al. 2013). Combining normalization, characterization and weighing factors of the three indicators will be in the formula below;
GHGe = kg CO2-equivalents/kg
FEU = MegaJoules/kg
LO = m2*year/kg
We had to omit some midpoints contributing to the equation because of lack of consistent and reliable inventory data for the case of all products within the scope as well as recognizing the fact that the three indicators are critical contributors to the single score of ReCiPe (Sevenster et al. 2010).
The change metrics and linear programming
Diets optimization was undertaken using the commercial Linear Programming (LP) and Optimeal®, tools from Blank Consultants. The Leaner Programming Model deviations and amounts are via the per serving. LP main goal is to maximize the changes, for instance, a solution diet can satisfy all environmental and nutritional constraints. The changes metrics is operationalized using the penalty scope which also shows the food popularity. The current diet deviations lead to a penalty score. However, the contribution of penalties for each serving changes is directional and food dependent. The specific aspect is that the changes in an amount of serving given food multiplication through the total quantity normalization in grams consumption of that food as part of the dietary survey. Through such a way the popular food has a lower penalty for increases and the higher its penalty for the decrease. Thus, in the same way, the less popular food will have a high penalty for the increase and lower penalty for its decrease. The interpretation of the penalty score interpretation is a measure of dietary distance. The actual reasons that support this modeling are that the diet principle that is much similar to the present diet and will most likely be acceptable to the participants and populations more than the extreme diets. Also, the introduction of unpopular foods or removal of popular products will be much easily being put into practice. The comparison of the penalty score of various diets can act as a possible measure in determining its similarity with the current diet.
For the case of the six dietary scenarios, we began by evaluating the current American diet with a starting point in their optimizations. The other five dietary scenarios involved the optimized diets that include nutritional constraints and promote healthy diets. The diet different comprise of the imposed constraints. The first scenario does not include any environmental and product constraints. A sustainable diet is one that is of the Vegetarian M diet that excludes animal products, especially meat. There is the Vegetarian MF diet that excludes fish and meat and finally, the Vegan diet that excludes egg products, dairy, fish n.d meat products. We also had to analyze a diet that has less than 30% of less impact to the environment which does not impose constraints on food groups but has only the environment impact constraints. The largest reduction was the Vegan diet.
The findings from the study show that the American diet fails to meet all the recommended dietary guidelines. It has a very low level of dietary fiber high fat, salt, sodium and sugar and low level of essential minerals and vitamins. Thus, the study shows that for Americans to attain a healthier diet that is much close to the present one, there is a need for more products to be added and not deleted. There is a need to attain a healthier diet by adding legumes, vegetables, and fruit whereby legumes can supply vitamin BI and fiber. These are the two dietary requirements that are below the recommended intake in the present diet. There is also need to reduce the intake of saturated fatty acid found in processed proteins such as cheese and sausages.
The study managed to impose constraints on meat intake and optimize into the desired solution of Vegetarian M in which both GHGe and LO have a lower value than the stated value in the present diet. Thus eliminating meat from the present diet can lead to the desired changes since it is a crucial source of other nutrients that are on the lower limit in the present diet such as copper, selenium, B6 and BI. Thus replacing these nutrients from eating we proposed the intake of substantial amount of legumes, fish, and cheese to add to the diet. It also provides an explanation for the reductions in nutritional and environmental impact in the scenarios. Due to a high level of sodium, goodies soup is removed so that cheese addition. We also had to restrict the intake of fish under Vegetarian MF categories and finally eliminate eggs and dairy for Vegan so as to contribute to a decrease of environmental impact. It was necessary to add eggs, nuts, and soy drink to the Vegetarian MF to replace the essential nutrients derived from fish,.
The study indicates that the linear optimization is a systematic and innovative method of establishing how to improve diet to match with the current average diet which satisfies all the additional environmental and nutritional constraints. The provision of a diet that fulfills all the necessary dietary requirements is an essential aspect. Most importantly the elimination of animal-based products from diets is not a valid option. There is a need to add other food groups that will guarantee nutritional adequacy. Based on that respect our main focus should not simply be on proteins but ensuring that there is an adequate intake of other nutrients provided by the animal based products.
The health professionals should have the guidelines on how to define the main message that will facilitate a change of behavior in assisting people to make food choices that are both sustainable and healthy. Dieticians and nutritionist are the ones playing a crucial role in giving such messages and they need to be knowledgeable on matters that affect the health and welfare of consumers. They should assist people at the local level in making appropriate food choices and how to meet the required nutritional demand even within a limited budget for food. There is also need for careful consideration of food groups that are presenting major challenges that do not fit within the current guidelines of food-based dietary such as meat and fish (Clonan, 2012). There is the need for careful considerations in the proceeds of determining the best way of communicating on other dietary shift to the overall public. When designing interventions for public health nutrition, it is crucial for the specialists to broaden the criteria by including the process of food consumption as a whole such as cooking, eating, growing and purchasing. In doing so, they establish a link between the intakes of healthier dietary as a shift of attitude towards the sustainable foods (Clonan et al., 2012). This step may require collaborations of various elements of the government at the local level such as environment issues, transport, and plan in ensuring a cohesive delivery of the necessary steps. Researchers have to incorporate evidence-based aspects in assessing the interventions impact that incorporate environmental sustainability and health objectives.
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