What’s next for the future of nutrition?

What’s next for the future of nutrition?

Forget kombucha and think bugs – an RMIT expert says we need to look towards nutrients and foods that are both kinder to us, and to the planet.

Our relationship with the food we eat is evolving constantly, with new flavours, diets and trends arriving all the time.

But nutrition expert Dr Jessica Danaher says the future of nutrition is about more than just waistlines.

She gives her insights into the biggest trends and issues in the world of nutrition for 2020 and beyond.

As consumers become more environmentally conscious, meat substitutes are catching on.

We’ve had no shortage of food trends in 2019 – what’s next?

As consumers become more environmentally conscious, future foods are becoming a hot topic.

We are seeing a rising trend of flexiterianism and a move away from animal-sourced foods.

Future foods such as insects, seaweed or cultured meat that’s produced in a lab instead of from animals, are all emerging as important solutions that may help to feed the world’s growing population.

These foods have a minimised impact on the environment while still providing essential nutrients for health – making them good-quality meat substitutes that are bound to become even more popular.

The big fast food chains are catching on, and we’re starting to see the development of meat substitutes like ‘fakon’ and ‘the beyond burger’ – these have a wider environmental purpose than just meeting dietary preferences.

Sustainability is more important than ever, and it sounds like this is no exception when it comes to the world of nutrition. But how exactly does it impact food production and consumption?

Population growth is one of the main factors that’s driving the vital need to develop a sustainable food system.

With the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, we will need to increase our food production by about 70% to meet increased demand.

However, our agricultural sectors’ ability to produce sufficient and quality protein - animal meat -  from traditional livestock is constrained by a lack of key resources such as water and farmable land, and its negative environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions.

Another important issue is that much of the food we produce is wasted. It’s estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption goes to waste every year.

This waste commonly ends up in landfill and also causes negative environmental impacts, particularly from emissions.

Insects are a great source of protein - but some consumers are still averse to the idea of eating bugs.

What are some alternative ways that we can approach these problems?

Meat substitutes are a great way we can approach some of the issues of both food waste and production – but insects may provide us with another solution.

Like traditional food sources such as meat from livestock, insects are also a great source of protein.

Decomposer insects such as Black Solider Fly can quickly and efficiently digest food waste and turn this into a protein product that can later be used in human food, like flour and protein powder.

This has the potential to provide a full-circle solution with a huge range of nutritional and environmental benefits – but many people are still averse to this food source.

To learn more about how we can use insect products to lower the environmental cost of food production, we first we need to know more about what is and isn’t considered acceptable by the Australian population, when it comes to eating insects.

RMIT PhD student Indee Hopkins is currently conducting research in this area, examining Australians’ attitudes to entomophagy - the eating of insects – through a national survey.

Sounds like we’re going to need a lot of new ideas and solutions to make sure future of nutrition is not just good for us, but also the planet. How do we support the development of that kind of innovative thinking?

From production to plate, the food industry is the largest in the world, meaning there’s a constant demand for graduates who can apply the relevant science and technology knowledge in this field.

That’s why it’s important for our next generation of food technologist and nutritionists to have a solid theoretical base - and that starts at university.

But at RMIT, we don’t just stop at the theory.

Our programs in food science and technology offer the skills to set graduates up for several career paths, from the development of novel food products that meet consumer demands to improving the health of the community through nutrition.

We also provide practical aspects of food technology and nutrition in our state-of-the-art Food Research and Innovation Centre, while offering opportunities for our students to engage in work placements and industry-based projects.

Story: Jasmijn van Houten

11 December 2019

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11 December 2019

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