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Climate-friendly diets may come at higher cost for New Zealand families

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Switching to a greener diet can help cut emissions – but it could also lead to much higher food bills for families who can least afford it, a first Kiwi study finds. Photo / 123RF

Switching to a more environmentally friendly diet can help reduce emissions – but it can also mean higher food bills for families who can least afford it, a first Kiwi study finds.

The University of Auckland researchers behind the analysis say their results show that kiwifruit must be affordable if they are expected to switch to a more sustainable diet.

In the study published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, the researchers calculated the costs and climate impacts of four nutritional scenarios: current, healthy, flexitarian and vegan.

While the “current” diet reflected what kiwis normally ate, the “healthy diet” followed official New Zealand eating and activity guidelines based on national nutrition surveys.

They recommended lots of fruits and vegetables, grain foods, some milk, legumes, nuts, eggs and poultry and fish, and less than 500 grams of cooked red meat per week.

The other two nutritional scenarios were based on the “Planetary Diet” of the Eat Lancet Commission, whereby “flexitarian” was mainly based on plant-based foods and vegan based entirely on it.

Study lead author Bruce Kidd said New Zealand needed to switch to a planetary diet as the country’s food system contributed about half of our emissions and poor diet was a large part of our health problems.

“We know, however, that inadequate income and the cost of food have a huge impact on food choices.”

In evaluating each of the four nutritional scenarios, the researchers modeled multiple possible meals for a family of four over a fortnight.

“Each scenario had restrictions on the number of servings allowed of each food and had to meet health criteria, such as a maximum limit on salt content.”

The team also collected food prices from online supermarkets and also calculated emissions from a recently published database on the life cycle assessment of various foods and beverages in New Zealand.

Household food waste data has also been included to account for the emissions associated with food waste.

The results showed that switching from the current diet to a more sustainable and healthier diet was accompanied by higher average prices.

While a typical kiwi diet was the lowest of the four costs – about $ 584 for a family – it had the highest average climate impact, or 597 kg carbon dioxide equivalent (kg CO2e).

A healthy diet cost a little more – $ 637 – in 14 days, but it also had a slightly smaller carbon footprint of 452 kg CO2e.

However, the prices of the other two were much higher – $ 728 for flexitarians and $ 798 for vegans – even though their climate impacts were only 263 kg CO2e and 203 kg CO2e, respectively.

“This was noticeable, but mostly because of the rising cost of dairy alternatives, larger servings of fruits and vegetables, and some plant-based protein alternatives such as falafel and burger patties.”

Kidd added that alcohol and takeaway food, which accounted for about 27 percent of household food spending, weren’t included in any of the diets.

If this were the case, the “current” diet would have been more expensive than calculated in the study.

Elsewhere in their analysis, the researchers found that within any diet, households are generally able to cut food costs by increasing the amount of plant-based foods.

“That includes foods like beans and lentils that are inexpensive, significantly lower ones [emissions] than animal products and are a healthy addition to any meal. “

The study also pointed to some notable tradeoffs.

“One of them involved the trade-off between health, cost and low-carbon foods, such as replacing soy milk with milk milk, which was more expensive and complemented the nutritional benefits of milk milk but had fewer emissions.”

But ultimately, the results pointed to issues of equity – especially for families who wanted to eat greener food.

If kiwifruit are expected to switch to a more sustainable diet, it has to be affordable, researchers say.  Photo / 123RFIf kiwifruit are expected to switch to a more sustainable diet, it has to be affordable, researchers say. Photo / 123RF

“For example, a household moving from a current to a flexitarian diet would spend $ 144 more every 14 days with the climate benefit of 334 kg of CO2e fewer emissions,” he said, adding that this is far higher than the current price of carbon.

“There are foods that are cheap, healthy and good for the environment, such as replacing beans or lentils with meat and increasing seasonal vegetables and whole grains.

“But we need to lobby the government for action to help everyone in Aotearoa, especially the most deprived, make the transition to sustainable healthy eating.

“According to the articles by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, this requires reshaping our food system to ensure it protects and improves the health of our people and our planet, and empowers communities.”

The study follows a study by Otago University that found that eating fewer red meats could be key to not only reducing New Zealand emissions significantly, but also saving billions of dollars in healthcare in the decades to come.

Specifically, they showed that a population-level switch to a diet rich in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes could reduce diet-related emissions by 4 to 42 percent annually, depending on the extent of the changes made.

Even more remarkable: if all kiwis were to eat exclusively plant-based tomorrow and not avoid unnecessary food waste, we would achieve a 60 percent reduction in emissions from cars.

As a bonus, Kiwis together could enjoy up to 1.5 million more “years of life” – that is one year of optimal health – and save our healthcare system between 14 and 20 billion dollars over the lifetime of our current population.

There are already many signs that a green shift is taking place.

By 2016, the proportion of kiwifruit who said all – or almost all – of their diet was vegetarian had increased by almost a third from four years earlier.

The biggest increases were among 14- to 34-year-olds, the North Islands and, perhaps surprisingly, among men.

Recent surveys by Colmar Brunton found that roughly one in ten of us now largely avoid meat amid an increasing shift towards a sustainable lifestyle.

Whole Grain Benefits

Which diet is the healthiest? One eating hack can boost more than your body

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Scientists, nutritionists, and social media influencers have made their careers researching what—exactly—makes the best diet. In recent years, the Paleo diet, which attempts to replicate what our ancient ancestors were said to have eaten, has been pitted against the keto diet (essentially a version of the Atkins diet) and intermittent fasting (which insists there isn’t any diet is) fought for supremacy. But there’s one diet that almost all scientists agree is healthy for your body, your brain — and maybe even the planet.

Many nutritionists have long emphasized that a balanced diet consisting primarily of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and fruits is ideal for a healthy adult body and has numerous health benefits.

In other words: a plant-based diet. As it turns out, this type of diet is not only good for human health — it can also save the planet from the climate crisis.

In a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists show how people in higher-income countries could remove enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep the global temperature from rising above 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius by switching to a plant-based diet change.

Two degrees is the upper warming limit set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel to contain the worst effects of the climate crisis.

Specifically, researchers cite the EAT-Lancet diet as the healthiest diet for you and the planet. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the EAT Lancet Diet?

An infographic summarizing the plant-based diet recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission. The diet is high in vegetables and low in meat.

The world population is expected to grow to 10 billion people over the course of the 21st century. Feeding this growing population in a way that is sustainable for the planet will be a challenge.

The EAT-LANCET Commission brought together leading scientists to determine the best “Planetary Health” diet – a diet to promote human health and protect the sustainability of the environment in line with the UN’s climate goals. (You can read the full report here.)

People in higher-income countries make up just 17 percent of the world’s population, but if they switch to a plant-based diet, we could eliminate the equivalent of “about 14 years of current global agricultural emissions,” the researchers say.

According to the Commission, the two main components a meal that follows the guidelines of the Planetary Health Diet:

  1. Half a plate of vegetables and fruit.
  2. Half a plate with a mix of “whole grains, plant-based protein sources, unsaturated vegetable oils, and (optionally) modest amounts of animal-based protein sources.”

The number of calories, on the other hand, would depend on the needs of the person.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of what a person can eat on an average day as part of the planetary health diet:

  • Whole grains (rice, wheat, corn, etc.): 232 grams or 811 calories
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava): 39 calories
  • Fruit: 200 grams or 78 calories
  • Dairy: 250 grams or 153 calories
  • Protein: Can vary from 14 to 50 grams (30 to 291 calories) depending on whether it is animal protein (ie beef, lamb, poultry, fish, eggs) or plant protein (legumes and nuts).
  • Added Fats: Unsaturated Oils (40 grams or 354 calories) or Saturated Oils (11.8 grams or 96 calories)
  • Added Sugar: 31 grams or 120 calories

The commission’s scientists conclude that a plant-based diet is a “win-win” for the earth and humanity, stating: “A diet high in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods brings both improved health and environmental benefits.”

Why is the planetary health diet good for the earth?

If people in high-income countries switch to a plant-based diet and we convert farmland to natural vegetation, we can make a big contribution to curbing global warming, researchers find.Getty

Food systems in rich countries contribute a lot to the climate crisis. As the researchers report in the latest Nature study, the global food system emits 13.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, or about 26 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Animal production, along with land use, “constitutes the majority of these emissions.”

Per capita meat consumption in richer countries is six times higher than in lower-income countries. Greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption are also significantly higher: animal-based products account for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from food systems in richer countries, but only 22 percent in lower-middle-income countries.

“Hence, dietary changes in high-income countries could have the potential to significantly reduce agricultural emissions around the world,” the researchers write.

If people in higher-income countries transition to the plant-based diets outlined here and return farmland of animal origin to natural vegetation, researchers say we can reduce annual agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from those countries by 61.5 percent and save up to 98.3 gigatons carbon dioxide in the soil.

Besides saving the planet, EAT-Lancet is also crucially good for human health, which can help people in wealthier countries adapt to a plant-based diet.

Why is the planetary health diet good for humans?

Eating a plant-based diet has numerous benefits, from reducing obesity to improving heart health. Getty

The food best suited to cooling down a warming planet is also extraordinarily good for human health.

“Healthy plant-based eating should be recommended as an environmentally responsible dietary option for improved cardiovascular health,” researchers write in a separate 2018 report.

Numerous studies shed light on how plant-based eating can improve or reduce the risk of a variety of health conditions, including:

“Improving plant-based diet quality over a 12-year period was associated with a reduced risk of total and [cardiovascular disease] mortality, while increased consumption of an unhealthy plant-based diet is associated with a higher risk of total and [cardiovascular disease] mortality,” researchers write in another 2019 study.

Animal proteins provide essential nutrients like iron and zinc. So if you choose to eat a plant-based diet, it’s important to get enough plant-based protein from other sources to make up for the loss.

Iron-rich foods include legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grain breads – all of which are included on the ideal plate, according to EAT-Lancet guidelines.

For this reason, following a diet with specific guidelines for consumption — like the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet — can ensure you’re still getting essential nutrients and protein despite following a plant-based diet.

The reverse analysis – Whether you’re trying to convince a friend to cut down on his meat intake or working to include more leafy greens in your own diet, it’s helpful to remember the connections between the planet and our own bodies.

After all, skipping a cheeseburger because of global warming might seem like an abstraction, but when you consider that your heart health is at stake, you’re more likely to choose a healthier, plant-based option that also has tremendous benefits for the planet.

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Whole Grain Benefits

Fiber offers many health benefits

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Conversations and advice about nutritional components seem to be in the news all the time. Low carb here, high protein there. But one thing that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should is fiber.

When you learn about all the benefits of getting enough fiber, you’re wondering why we’re not talking about it more. According to the National Institutes of Health, fiber is found in the plants you eat, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is sometimes referred to as bulk or roughage.

Some people probably don’t talk much about fiber because we primarily associate it with normalizing bowel movements and relieving constipation. However, there are many other health benefits of fiber as well. Some studies suggest that a high-fiber diet may also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

There are two forms of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both are good for us for different reasons. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that binds to fats. This helps lower blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL or bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose, which may help people with diabetes. Insoluble fiber is also helpful as it bulks up the stool and helps it move through the body more efficiently.

In general, whole fruits, legumes, and vegetables are good sources of both types of fiber. Take an apple for example; The skin consists of insoluble fiber and the fleshy part contains soluble fiber.

The latest USDA dietary guidelines recommend women eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams per day. Our American average is only about 10 to 15 grams per day. In practice, you could get 27 grams of fiber by eating ½ cup chopped vegetables (4g fiber), 1 medium whole fruit with peel (4g fiber), 2 slices of 100% whole wheat bread (6g fiber), ½ cup eat black beans (8 g fiber) and ¾ oatmeal (5 g fiber).

Dan Remley, our OSU Extension Food, Nutrition and Wellness field specialist, has developed a great resource called Fiber Fills You Up, Fills your Wallet and Fuels Your Health. In it, Remley says, “High-fiber meals are lower in calories, affordable, and can help your family feel full after a meal.”

He has a few fiber tips to help you gradually add more fiber to your day:

  • Eat oatmeal several times a week.
  • For breakfast, choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Choose grains with “whole grain,” “bran,” or “fiber” in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
  • Serve a meatless dinner once a week. Replace meat with beans.
  • Eat two servings of vegetables per meal.
  • Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables.
  • Add oatmeal to cookies.
  • Snack on nuts, dried fruits and popcorn.
  • Choose chips or crackers with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.

On the other hand, there are some processed foods with added fiber sources. In some cases, this can be a helpful way to add more fiber to your diet. Be aware that these products are high in calories and may add more sugar or sodium than you think. Your best bet is to eat as many whole fruits and whole grains as possible rather than these formulated products.

Today I leave you with this quote from Desmond Tutu: “Do your little good where you are; It’s those little bits of good that overwhelm the world.”

Emily Marrison is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and can be reached at 740-622-2265.

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Whole Grain Benefits

The case for making whole-wheat pizza dough

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The Perfect Loaf is a column by Maurizio Leo-turned-bread expert (and resident bread baker of Food52). Maurizio is here to show us anything that’s naturally leavened, enriched, yeasted, whatever – basically any vehicle to smear a lot of butter. Today he talks about the pros and cons of whole wheat pizza dough.

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The longer I bake bread and bake pizza, the more I like increasing the whole grain content of the dough. Sure, there’s an undeniable charm that comes with the classic Italian way: a 00-flour-based pizza baked at a super-high temperature, resulting in an extremely soft texture, high rise, and an open, airy crust . And while my sourdough bread almost always includes a whole grain component, lately I’ve been pushing the whole grains into my naturally leavened pizza dough as well. Swapping out some white flour is an easy way to take flavor to the next level: the addition of bran and germ mixed into the batter brings deeper grain flavors (read: nutty, earthy, and hints of minerality) and in Combined with long natural fermentation you get a double whammy of flavor and nutrients.

The challenge, however, is that adding more whole grains to a recipe (pizza and bread alike) usually results in a sturdier end result. The increase in bran and germ in the dough begins to affect the dough structure, inhibiting that high rise and open, airy interior. But what these doughs lack in volume, they more than make up for in flavor.

Let’s look at how we can bring these flavor and nutritional benefits to a whole wheat sourdough pizza dough.

How much whole wheat flour should be in pizza?

To be honest, I don’t think you can go too far! I had pizza made from 100 percent whole wheat flour, and while it was a bit more squat, a bit chewy, and a lot heartier than a classic pizza, the flavor was great. Personally, I like to split the difference. Using half white flour (00 or all-purpose flour) and half whole wheat flour is the best of both worlds: nice rise from the white flour and added flavor from the whole grains, all in a dough that still stretches easily to make cakes .

Typically, with sourdough pizza, the more whole grains you have in the mix, the more sour or complex the final flavor profile. I think that’s partly why the longer I bake bread and cook pizza, the more I value adding whole grains to a mix – the depth of flavor is just unmistakable. For pizza, however, a 50:50 mix of whole wheat and white flour means extra acidity, but not too much. It makes a wonderful addition to any toppings you might add and will brighten up the flavor of any cheese, meat or veg you throw on your pizza.

What other flour can I use?

In addition to pure whole wheat flour, using another sifted variety like Type 85 (which falls somewhere between whole wheat and white flour) is also a good option. This flour contains more bran and germ than white flour, but it’s not as much that you get all the wheat berries as it is with 100 percent whole grain. What I like about Type 85, which can sometimes be described as a “high extractive” flour, is that it works and works very similarly to white flour, but there’s a big flavor boost from the fine bits of bran and germ that are still present in the flour . And there’s a wide range of these balanced flours too, from Type 80 all the way up to Type 110, which is much closer to whole grain than white – experiment to see which you prefer. White wholemeal flour, i.e. wholemeal flour made from white wheat berries, would also work here. It produces a milder flavor profile due to the reduction in tannins.

What mods do I need to increase whole grains even more?

When topping up the whole wheat flour in a recipe, you need to increase hydration since the flour contains more particles of bran and germ, which tend to absorb more water. Also, you need to watch the fermentation activity in the dough as whole wheat flour tends to increase fermentation activity due to the increased nutrients. I like to add my sourdough starter or levain portion to a batter in step with whole wheat flour increases. For example, if I wanted to make a 75 percent whole wheat pizza dough, I would reduce the 18 percent starter called for in a 50 percent whole wheat dough to 15 percent.

How can I make my dough softer?

One thought I had in mind when developing my whole wheat sourdough pizza dough was to add a small percentage of extra virgin olive oil to the dough. Some pizza enthusiasts may balk at the idea of ​​a free-form pizza, but adding fat to a dough helps create tenderness. We must also take into account the fact that we are preparing this pizza in a home oven, not in a professional pizza oven where it will still take a few minutes to fully bake; The added fat keeps the crust from drying out.

Adding a little olive oil — I use 1 to 2 percent of the total flour weight — brings just enough softness to offset the longer cooking time required in a home oven. In fact, I go this route with my sourdough pizza romana, which is baked on a sheet pan and results in a firm and crunchy, yet somewhat chewy and soft dough. With this recipe, however, I found the batter to be overcooked and soft enough for me, but if you’re looking for a little more tenderness, a drizzle of olive oil added during the batter mixing step is the answer

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