Sustainable food

Sustainable food: what it is and how to achieve it

With industrialization, technological advances, globalization, and the capitalist market model, agricultural activity has taken a relevant turn, leaving behind more artisanal practices and promoting large-scale productive approaches. Such transformations characterize the growing tendencies of resource overexploitation that have pushed to the limit, never better said, the capacities of our planet. Taking into account the finiteness of natural resources and upward population growth trends. It is necessary to look for alternatives that lead us to sustainable life models in order to guarantee food for present and future generations.

If you do not know what sustainable eating is and how to achieve it but are curious and want to delve into this concept, check out this interesting Green Ecology article, where you will also be able to learn some tips to lead a sustainable diet.

What is sustainable food?

The definition of sustainable food provided by the WHO, inspired by the concept of sustainable development and its objectives (SDG), refers to a type of diet with low environmental impact, which guarantees food sovereignty and security for both present generations and for the future. In this way, sustainable food must also be healthy, supportive, and fair (SENC, 2016).

Other characteristics of sustainable and healthy eating are:

  • Balanced, that is, it has a variety of foods, with a predominance of fresh and plant-based foods. In relation to the latter, there are many experts who agree that a diet based on vegetables, greens, fruits, legumes, cereals, generates less environmental and health impact than one based on the consumption of foods of animal origin.
  • Adapted to individual, personal, cultural, and environmental characteristics.
  • Complete in nutrients, sufficient in needs, and satisfactory.
  • Affordable economically.

In short, orienting food, at all levels of production and consumption, towards sustainable and responsible practices aims to respond to the concerns that the food sector generates about its health and environmental conditions and therefore requires an ecological and social approach.

How to achieve a sustainable diet

The dietary guidelines for the Spanish population [1] indicate that applying the 3R or 3 R rule, associated mainly with waste and garbage management, to the food sector can be useful to achieve sustainable eating and consumption habits and responsible. Implementing such indications (3R) can guide us towards food sustainability in our homes:

how to eat a sustainable diet

  • 1st R: Reduce food waste.
  • 2nd R: Reuse leftovers safely.
  • 3rd R: Recycle properly.

If we think of diets as a possible way, we give you the following recommendations for sustainable nutrition. It is important to focus on the Mediterranean diet. In this context, scientifically there is a broad consensus on what a sustainable and healthy diet should look like and, although the differences may be several depending on the context, many studies refer to the Mediterranean diet as an example of a sustainable eating pattern. Why? Well, because this type of diet, beyond being considered a pattern, constitutes a way of life based on the consumption of local, traditional, and organic products, mostly of plant origin. In fact, another way of moving towards sustainability implies that, from companies, plant-based nutrition is promoted ( plant-forward ). In any case, sustainable diets fall outside the spectrum of hyper-processed or ultra-processed foods. Here you can learn more about organic food.

In relation to diets, in consumption habits, as has been mentioned in previous sections. It is important to prioritize local commerce and its fresh and quality products. For example: in fishing, this would favor the minor arts. Which in addition to being more respectful with the environment, obtain products with such characteristics.

Drawing attention to extractive activities and the approaches they can take to achieve a sustainable and healthy diet, focusing on fishing as an example, it is possible to think about sustainable, seasonal catches, with adequate size and in adjusted quantities, avoiding damage to natural resources and the ecosystem.

The importance of sustainability in food consumption

Incorporating a sustainable diet in our lives benefits our health and well-being. But also the natural environment by reducing our environmental footprint. The environmental impact would be reduced for several reasons, some of which are:

  • Every year, around the world, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted, exacerbating inequalities between countries and disrupting the balance of the food system. It is important to bear in mind that, wasting food implies wasting all those resources, human, natural, and material that gives rise to the food product. By reducing the amount of food we waste, we can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As well as promote a fairer and more equitable distribution of resources. In this other article, we talk about the causes and consequences of food waste and how to avoid it.
  • By consuming local and seasonal food, the loss of native species could be halted. And, therefore, the water and energy needs of the crops could be adapted to the characteristics and properties of the territory.
  • Abandoning the use of chemicals and chemicals, which allows intensive agricultural practices. Would reduce the sources of soil and water pollution. Thereby improving the quality of these resources and their agricultural potential.
  • Encouraging crop rotation to the detriment of monoculture avoids soil erosion, water erosion, and pests and diseases.
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