Is the food that is good for us also good for the planet?

A 350 per cent rise in online searches for “immunity-boosting foods” at the pandemic’s start prompted a global search of 150 webpages from six regions to identify the health effects of recommended foods against their environmental impacts.

QUT ecologist Dr Ayesha Tulloch, dietitian Professor Gallegos and UQ ecologist Dr Rachel Oh analysed 150 webpages from six world regions and found 83 per cent of the 2556 recommendations for food items that might “boost” immunity were plant-based.

“We found a variation – from a high of Australia’s 82.5 per cent plant-based food recommendations to a low of 77.7 per cent in the UK,” Professor Gallegos said. Continue reading

How plant-based beverages stack up on cost and nutritional benefits against cow’s milk

Plant-based beverages are expensive and provide only a small fraction of the nutritional goodness of cow’s milk, according to a new study.

The study, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, assessed the nutritional profiles of a range of plant-based beverages, such as soy, oat, coconut, almond or rice drinks, and compared them to standard bovine milk. Researchers collected 103 plant-based products from supermarkets in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

The drinks were found to have much lower quantities of the 20 nutrients measured, such as calcium and protein, and were significantly more costly than cow’s milk.

The study was carried out by Riddet Institute scientists, from Massey University in Palmerston North. The Riddet Institute is a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) hosted by Massey University, which focuses on fundamental and advanced food research.

One of the study’s authors, Riddet Institute Professor of Nutritional Sciences Warren McNabb, says plant-based beverages were often marketed as alternatives to ruminant milks such as cow’s milk, and consumers could easily believe they were nutritionally interchangeable. Continue reading

Scientists launch study into what makes the best New Zealand pork

Scientists at AgResearch, investigating what makes great-tasting pork, are examining how factors such as gender and pH values impact the eating quality of pork.

Consumer testing will help the researchers evaluate attributes such as aroma, tenderness, juiciness, flavour and liking and overall perception of quality – and how likely they would be to purchase the pork.

The New Zealand pork industry aims to use the findings of the study to develop a quality mark for pork so Kiwis can be confident they’ll have a consistently excellent eating experience every time.

The research is a collaboration between NZPork, the industry organisation for commercial pig farmers, and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. Continue reading

 Plan to transform food processing waste could benefit NZ economy and environment

Micro-organisms found in bacteria and fungi could help change food waste into high-value products that would boost New Zealand’s economy by $1.6 billion a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A research project led by University of Canterbury Environmental Science Professor Brett Robinson aims to find ways to turn waste products from New Zealand’s food production industry – such as milk processing waste and grape marc (skins and stalks) – into high-value soil conditioners and animal feed.

He says about 2.2 million tonnes of food processing waste products are dumped each year in New Zealand, costing about $270 million a year and increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.

“What we are aiming to do is create a more sustainable, circular agricultural economy, where biowaste can be transformed into useful new products to help feed animals or improve our soils.

“There’s huge potential to create a win-win situation where we dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also potentially boosting our economy by more than $1.6 billion annually.” Continue reading

Substituting animal products for insect protein to help save the planet

Replacing animal-source foods (ASFs) in European diets with novel or future foods (NFFs) — such as cultured milk, insect meal or mycoprotein —  could reduce global warming potential, water use and land use each by over 80%, according to the findings of a modelling study published in Nature Food.

Existing literature on alternative diets, such as vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian, has demonstrated the health and environmental benefits of shifting towards lower meat consumption.

But compared with currently available plant-based protein-rich (PBPR) options, such as legumes, pulses and grains, NFFs — produced through new technologies, such as cell-culturing technologies, or under novel regulatory frameworks — can contain a more complete array of essential nutrients. NFFs also tend to be more land- and water-efficient than existing ASFs.

Rachel Mazac and colleagues applied a linear programming model to identify optimal combinations of ASFs, PBPR options and NFFs with the goal of meeting nutritional adequacy, while minimising global warming potential, as well as water use and land use.

Feasible consumption constraints related to cultural acceptability were also considered, as well as scalability potential.

Overall, the authors found that substituting ASFs in European diets with NFFs (namely insect meal, cultured milk and microbial protein) could reduce all environmental impacts (global warming potential, water use and land use) by more than 80%, while being nutritionally adequate and meeting the constraints for what can be feasibly consumed.

The authors conclude that, besides showing the potential contribution of novel foods towards a more sustainable food system, these findings reveal synergies and trade-offs related to each dietary option within the European context.

Source:  Scimex

A global love for processed foods is hurting agricultural biodiversity – and our health

A global diet that increasingly includes ultra-processed foods is having a negative impact on the diversity of plant species available for human consumption while damaging human and planetary health, according to a commentary published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

Experts are warning that an increasingly unhealthy diet is not only bad for human health directly but is causing environmental damage to the planet.

Ultra-processed foods such as sweetened or salty snacks, soft drinks, instant noodles, reconstituted meat products, pre-prepared pizza and pasta dishes, biscuits and confectionery, are made by assembling food substances, mostly commodity ingredients, and ‘cosmetic’ additives (notably flavours, colours and emulsifiers) through a series of industrial processes.

These products are the basis of a ‘globalised diet’ and are becoming dominant in the global food supply, with sales and consumption growing in all regions and almost all countries. Currently, their consumption is growing fastest in upper-middle-income and lower-middle income countries.

Consequently, dietary patterns worldwide are becoming increasingly more processed and less diverse, having an impact on agrobiodiversity – the variety and variability of animals, plants and microorganisms used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture. Continue reading

Seeds sown for farmers to grow profits and sustainability

Converting wastewater from legumes into new plant-based products could revolutionise the food industry and have crucial implications for sustainability, Lincoln University says in a news release.

Lincoln University food science lecturer Dr Luca Serventi, with Dr Sung Je Lee of Massey University, are involved n a research project that looks at using waste by-products to create ingredients like stabilisers or replacements for dairy and egg-based items.

“Food manufacturing generates a huge amount of wastewater, and the legume industry is one of the top contributors to this environmental issue,” Dr Serventi said.

“Soaking and boiling are necessary to create canned items and other products like soy milk, tofu, hummus and flours.

“New Zealand farmers produce a lot of legumes and the resulting wastewater places a heavy burden on their budgets as well as the environment.” Continue reading

Animal agriculture is described as essential to the global food system

Animal foods can form part of a healthy, sustainable and ethical lifestyle, despite increasing claims to the contrary, says Lincoln University Professor of Livestock, Pablo Gregorini.

His recent article, Animal source foods in healthy, sustainable and ethical diets – An argument against drastic limitation of livestock in the food system, is reported to be sparking discussion worldwide, including from members of the US National Academy of Sciences.

The paper argues that animal foods are evolutionarily appropriate and healthy for humans and points to evidence that livestock farming is integral to the overall agricultural system, contributing to biodiversity and improved plant food production while creating food security and a path out of poverty for some.

However, many in the urban West deem animal foods universally unhealthy, unsustainable and unethical, which Professor Gregorini said ignores the complexity of the food system.

“Whether any food production system is harmful or benign is extremely nuanced and depends on differing geographical and cultural factors. But mainstream – and mostly Western – narratives seem to want to simplify the global reality,” he said.

According to the paper, animal foods “offer a wide spectrum of nutrients that are needed for cell tissue development, function, health and survival”. Continue reading

3D food printing on the menu for summer scholar

A Lincoln undergraduate has had a taste of a new concept in food production after completing a 10-week summer scholarship using 3D printing technology on campus.

Sahiti Peddisetti, who is about to begin her final year of a Bachelor of Science (Food Science), was tasked with creating 3D reconstructed food products from low-value cuts of meat and additional natural ingredients, such as plant-based protein.

The pilot study involved producing new foods in a range of shapes, textures and colours via a 3D food printer, allowing her to experiment with different ways of reshaping the materials into desirable products.

Sahiti’s supervisors, Drs Hannah Lee and Damir Torrico, say the project has important implications for sustainability, as increasing available protein in foods can reduce waste and fully utilise existing animal and plant-based proteins by improving their functional and nutritional value.

The reconstructed foods that Sahiti created used tough, low-value meat cuts, with the addition of pea plant protein isolate and gelatine. Continue reading

Researchers gauge nutritional properties of protein in cricket, locust and silkworm pupae insect powders

Brace yourself to dine on bugs – or to take a powder to provide yourself with protein.

As the human population grows to a predicted 10 billion by 2050 and overall land mass remains constant, traditional animal farming may become a less viable method for food production.

Animal farming has traditionally fulfilled human nutritional requirements for protein, but insects may serve as an alternative for direct human consumption in the future.

American researchers have determined the nutritional and functional properties of protein for cricket, locust and silk worm pupae powders, laying a foundation to develop efficient protein isolation techniques.

The findings by Jacek Jaczynski, professor food science and muscle food safety at West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Yong-Lak Park, professor of entomology, and Kristen Matak, professor of animal and nutritional sciences, are published in LWT.

“We have a patent on a protein isolation procedure,” Jaczynski said.

We use our patented technique to isolate protein and then we also learn about properties of isolated protein and how it can be potentially used in food for human consumption.” Continue reading