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Can relatively small changes in food choice translate to both health and environmental benefits?

jamiepopeauthor
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Can relatively small changes in food choice translate to both health and environmental benefits? The answer is “yes” according to a recent study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health  entitled “Small targeted dietary changes can yield substantial gains for human and environmental health”.  The researchers developed a nutritional index that ranked over 5,800 foods by minutes gained or lost off healthy life per serving – with processed meats and sugary drinks cutting the most time.  In their analysis, substituting a wide variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans added minutes. The rankings also considered environmental impacts and classified individual foods into color-coded categories analogous to a traffic light with green foods having more nutritional and environmental beneficial effects, yellow more moderate, and red indicating foods that compromise nutrition, health, and the environment.  Interesting approach and concept.  A summary of the study with can be found here.  Also, a 20 minute presentation from the lead researcher,  Olivier Jolliet, entitled "Healthy and Sustainable Foods:  Do We All Need to Become Vegan?" (short answer "no" according to Jolliet) is worth the watch.  Drastic and generally unrealistic dietary approaches likely not warranted to see nutritional, health, and environmental impact.  Could generate some great discussion - and likely debate - in the classroom.   🙂

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About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for Learn25.com (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.