The United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will be held at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, aims to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030. One such goal is to promote a healthy and nutritious diet. However, while we often talk about a healthy diet and nutritious food, we have little idea about nutrition profiling and what exactly makes a healthy diet. So, before the summit, let’s revisit the UN paper titled ‘Healthy diet: A definition for the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021’ authored by Lynnette M Neufeld, Sheryl Hendriks, and Marta Hugas to get a better understanding of a healthy diet.
What Is a Healthy Diet?
The paper says, “A healthy diet is health-promoting and disease-preventing. It provides adequacy without an excess of nutrients and health-promoting substances from nutritious foods and avoids the consumption of health-harming substances.”
A diet is basically foods consumed by an individual during a given period. However, what constitutes a healthy diet depends on various factors including cultural, and economic. The paper propounds, before the nutrient content, any healthy diet must ensure food safety.
The paper says, “Without ensuring safety, diets cannot nourish and instead will cause illness. To inform policy and programmatic action, however, this definition must be translated into specific food-based recommendations. In doing so, considerations of the sustainability of food systems, food affordability, and cultural and other preferences must be considered. There will always be tensions between the indicative or guiding principles and approaches that propose more quantified recommendations. The former leaves much room for interpretation. The latter tends to underestimate the complexities of extrapolating prescribed diets to varying age, sex, life-stage, culture, food availability, affordability, among other considerations. The FAO and WHO have now set out a series of guiding principles to achieve contextually appropriate sustainable, affordable, healthy diets that are aligned with the guiding principles for healthy diets and form the basis for such actions.
The Need for Nutrition Profiling
In common parlance, nutritious food contains nutrients that are good for our health, like protein, vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre etc. Moreover, such food also reduces harmful elements like antinutrients, quantities of sodium, saturated fats, sugars from our body. Therefore, nutrition profiling is crucial.
The paper explains, “Nutrient profiling” or the rating of foods based on their nutrient density (i.e., nutrient content per 100 g or per 100 kcal of energy or per serving) has evolved substantially in recent years as an approach to classifying individual foods as more or less nutritious (18,20). Such scores now provide the basis for several regulatory and health promotion-aimed efforts, including front of pack labelling and health claims (21). Recent efforts have also proposed more complete profiling approaches that, in addition to nutrient density, take into consideration the food groups of ingredients (e.g., fruit or vegetable content) and further develop the content of ingredients (e.g., types of fat) that should be limited.”
Nutrient profiling is mainly done for packaged foods in many high-income and several middle-income countries. However, considerable limitations remain for extending its utility to unpackaged foods and in contexts where a large portion of food is not commercially produced.
Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Afghanistan News here