Read full article By Adam Thomas, University of Delaware @ Phys Org Photo Credit: Public Domain
One of the biggest factors in determining the health of humans and the environment is the foods that we grow and consume. While there have been many efforts over the years to define sustainable diets and to try to get people all over the world the proper nutrition that they need, many of these efforts do not take into account local dietary preferences or the adverse impacts that growing certain foods have on the environment.
A new paper from the University of Delaware’s Dongyang Wei and Kyle Davis attempts to remedy this situation by looking at how staple grains can be used as an effective food group for dietary shifts that can be culturally appropriate as well as environmentally sustainable.
Their paper was recently published in Environmental Research Letters.
Wei, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, served as the lead author on the paper and said that while previous studies have focused on parts of this issue—such as considering foods that have lower environmental impacts and offer higher nutrition levels—this study wanted to incorporate local dietary preferences to see if the proposed shifts would actually be feasible.
“We wanted to take the local preferences and the cultural acceptance into consideration because that will increase the chances that sustainable diets will actually be accepted,” said Wei.
Working with Davis, assistant professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a resident faculty member with UD’s Data Science Institute, Wei examined how country-specific shifts in cereal supply, which currently accounts for more than 40% of dietary calories, protein, iron and zinc world-wide, could contribute to more sustainable diets.
While cereals are not consumed as widely in the United States, western Europe and Australia, they play a vital nutritional role in many other countries.