Most people start the year with resolutions they hope to accomplish within the next 12 months. Most resolutions include exercising to lose weight, and adopting a healthier diet by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Some consider becoming vegetarians or vegans (the web site wiseGEEK says “a vegan eliminates all animal products from his/her diet, including dairy… Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry, but might eat dairy products such as cheese, eggs, yogurt or milk.”)
If you are considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan, a statement from the International Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published recently in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, may help you to stay the course.
The academy, according to a Reuters report, says plant-based diets mean lower risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. Vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for “all stages of life,” from infancy to old age.
But those adopting a plant-based food regimen “should make sure the diets are well-planned out and well-balanced,” according to Vandana Sheth, spokesperson for the academy.
Sheth says, “Any diet that is not well-planned and balanced can have negative side effects.” Many foods may be completely plant-based but may not have a lot of nutritional value. It is important for younger vegetarians and vegans, Sheth notes, to plan meals that include enough iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and, for some, calcium and vitamin D.
Malnutrition on the rise
Adopting a healthy diet, plant-based or not, is a resolution worth keeping. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says malnutrition, which includes hunger and obesity, remains on the rise and may affect half of the world’s population by 2035.
Reuters reports that at the recent International Conference on Nutrition in Rome, Patrick Webb, professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, urged governments to introduce food industry incentives or taxes to help boost healthier foods and educate consumers on healthy eating.
Webb urged governments to give more subsidies for growing nutritious foods and broadening agricultural research focused on these foods.
FAO says malnutrition already affects a third of the global population, which is costing the global economy about $3.5 trillion a year in healthcare and lost productivity.
Research by the London-based Overseas Development Institute in five countries shows that the problem is aggravated when the cost of processed foods is falling while prices of fresh fruits and vegetables are rising.
In the Philippines, rice is no longer the major part of the meal of poor Filipinos. Families eat instant noodles morning, noon and night. Although manufacturers claim their products are “fortified” with essential nutrients, the fortification is not enough to meet the daily needs of people, particularly children.
And even if every cup or packet of instant noodles contains the recommended daily allowance of vital nutrients, it is often shared by the whole family and sometimes made to last the whole day.
Webb says, “Business as usual will generate a catastrophic health crisis… We need a radical transformation of our food systems to nourish—not just feed—9 billion people.”
FAO director general Jose Graziano Da Silva says, “Nutrition must be considered a public issue, a state responsibility.”
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