In recent times, we are more connected to each other than ever before, particularly in terms of the food we eat. With the advent of modern farming practices, as well as the fast paced lifestyle of most people, our diet has been hugely affected.
Our current diet is extremely unsustainable with large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers used to grow fruits and vegetables. For a fast paced lifestyle such as that of many people today, people often prefer fast food and quick options that are lacking in terms of nutritional value. Large amounts of such food in our diet has also been linked to many health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. With the world being more accessible to us as well as acculturation, the focus is shifting from locally grown, seasonal produce to imported food as well. It is now no surprise to be eating mangoes in the winter season or avocado imported from foreign countries. Such foods are far from fresh and have likely been exposed to chemical treatments in order to maintain a longer shelf life. The effects of unsustainable diets have been seen on the environment in past years. Food production contributes approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions with the livestock industry alone representing half of these.
In addition to being unsustainable, modern day diets have also been linked to degrading mental health. A meta-analysis done by researchers from China in 2017 showed that diets containing large amounts of red or processed meat, refined sugars, high-fat dairy products, and lower amounts of fruits and vegetables were associated with an increased risk of depression (Li et al.,2017). Another study focusing on children and adolescents found that a diet high in saturated fat, refined sugars and processed food was associated with risk of ADHD (Ríos-Hernández, Alda, Farran-Codina, Ferreira-García & Izquierdo-Pulido, 2017)
Although changing global food systems is an issue that needs to be addressed at a larger level, we can help out by making changes in our lives as well. Eating locally-grown and seasonal food is one such way. Another is to limit our consumption of meat and seafood. Finally, reading up on and being aware of how the food we eat impacts our mental health as well as the environment around us, can help us make sustainable choices.
1. Li, Y., Lv, M. R., Wei, Y. J., Sun, L., Zhang, J. X., Zhang, H. G., & Li,B. (2017). Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry research, 253, 373–382.
2. Ríos-Hernández, A., Alda, J. A., Farran-Codina, A., Ferreira-García, E., & Izquierdo-Pulido,M. (2017). The Mediterranean Diet and ADHD in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 139(2), e20162027. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2027
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