Two main features –
- Healthy eating that has the lowest carbon footprint possible – although buying foods locally would seem the idea, this doesn’t always apply as it would be hard to grow certain fruits for example without expensive heating and production costs and fairtrade is also an important consideration.
- Health eating that is sustainable – basically eating healthily from food sources that will not be threatened with extinction by for example over fishing or whose increased demand leads to the destruction of important environments such as the rain forest.
According to Greenpeace three-quarters of the world’s fish stocks are “fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted” with nine out of ten of large predatory fish like tuna, swordfish and cod already fished out. Fishing practices are contributing to the sharp decline in sea turtle, shark, and other marine animal populations but from a nutritional point of view western diets would benefit from more fish, particularly oily. Omega 3 deficiency is also a western problem so its not just about eating more fish but also all the supplements being produced to fulfil a growing market. Eco-nutrition focus is on finding ways to improve seafood sustainability and maintaining nutritional density.
Friends of the Earth estimate 1 in 10 products contain palm oil. With the nutritional trend towards healthier fats, palm oil although high in saturated fat it has been perceived as a healthier option because it also contains oleic acid the unsaturated fatty acid, Omega 9. It also contains vitamin K, magnesium and beta-carotene, although this can be destroyed with heat. It has become an ingredient in many healthier option foods and demand is rocketing. The problem is increased production has lead to large-scale forest clearance and draining and burning peatlands, creating more carbon emissions, destroying bio diversity and is often associated with human rights violations and worker exploitation.
A new sub class of health food has become popular. Super foods are individual food items with a high phytonutrient content. Unfortunately many such as Aloe Vera, papaya and Gogi Berries also have to travel halfway across the world producing a big carbon food print. There are also growing problems with the destruction of ecological environments. For example Brazil has cleared vast areas of virgin forests to grow soya for the world market. Although the nutritional properties may be good, the hype can make us forget that there are superfoods such as blackberries and black currents on our own doorstep.
Eco-nutrition encompasses the need to eat and live healthily whilst looking after the planet; to consider where food comes from and how it is produced.