Note: This #sponsored post was inspired by a virtual presentation I did with my #client Corteva on this incredibly timely and important topic. #transparency
Most of us would have never predicted that our immune systems would be making headlines in 2020, and yet, here we are. The curiosity about the connections between our health and food seems to be at an all time high. Overall interest in what food specifically does for us is driving conversations. Our shopping, cooking, and eating habits have changed dramatically, with most meals and snacks happening at home and more people shopping online (and in store), looking for new ways to eat and practice self-care. This is providing an opportunity to connect food and health like never before.
Each person has their own set of needs and personal values to consider as they select the foods they want to eat to support their health. We dietitians help people navigate the complexities of food and nutrition. We talk about portion control, nutrient density, types of fat and the complex, wonderful matrix of nutrients within each food and food group. There is primary consideration for the cultural and overall personal relevancy of choice. How food impacts medical history and individual goals is connected to all of this within the context of budget and culinary skills, too.
Today, many people also consider planetary health in their purchasing decisions. They are curious about natural resources and details farmers navigate seamlessly on a daily basis to bring us a safe, affordable food supply.
These food and nutrition conversations with people are usually in the context of a grocery store or restaurant. We help bring the “farm to table” conversation to life, working in collaboration with farmers and other agriculture experts to tell the story of food from the fields to our forks.
What is surprising to some is that the story of nutrition – not just food – actually starts on the farm.
Recently, I had the good fortune to talk with Tyler Groeneveld, North American Grains and Oils Leader at Corteva Agriscience and we discussed this very topic. We talked about how the partnership between agriculture and nutrition experts to provide healthful solutions is even deeper than most people realize. It actually starts with the planning of what crops to grow and what nutrient profile these crops should have to address people’s needs and interests.
What do people want to eat?
What does science say we need for our best health outcomes?
How do farmers choose what to grow? By knowing and providing what people want and need.
Too often we start in the middle of the story about food. We pick up where we first encounter food, in a store or restaurant. In fact, the choices we see in these places actually begin when a farmer chooses what to grow or raise. These choices are driven by science and insights. One might say that the story starts at the end, looking to provide answers to the questions people have about what – and why – they eat what they do. How food impacts health, what specific traits food should have to offer nutrients we need, how it impacts the planet and how it tastes on our plate.
Tyler shared what was happening through various breeding techniques to create healthier oils. He talked about how the desire for a better nutrient profile paired with the simultaneous goal to manage food waste is driving innovation to develop crops that would meet these needs. Let’s use trans fats as an example. Perhaps you are now visualizing a restaurant menu or grocery store with a sign that says they use trans-fat free oil. Perhaps your mind jumped to a conversation you had about unsaturated fats in canola, soy, and sunflower oils as heart smart options. Maybe you also considered what the shelf life and use of these choices would mean to both the quality of food and to the bottom line in production.
We must look at this from that health perspective, for people, for the planet, and for healthy businesses. These are intertwined, and with so many people disconnected from agriculture worldwide, we have to look at the entire journey of food and share that story. Trust and confidence in choices is easier when we are exposed to the incredible thought and care that goes into each food producing decision. This starts with the planning process and what it means to our overall food supply when we collectively decide to shift eating patterns to specific foods.
What does current science tell us? How do we apply that science on the farm and on our plate? People are talking. Health and agriculture experts are listening. The food we have to choose from starts with innovation and selection to meet a need and support our choices. Then, the choices people make start with understanding what each option we have does for us.
What this means for my fellow dietitian colleagues in our quest to help people make informed choices is that we have a true partner in agriculture experts of all types. The very choices we are talking with our patients about are being studied, selected, and grown to support informed decision making. Through traditional plant breeding and modern technology, science-based innovation is contributing to the food supply we need to support both enjoyment and health.
The true goal of food and nutrition conversations is to inform decisions. The best news is, as this conversation continues to grow and evolve, we can collaborate from farm to fork and fork to farm. Our audiences are our partners. Farmers and health professionals are partners. Together, we make a complete team that can bring the full story of food to life and provide the knowledge people need to help them confidently make informed choices and feel good about food.
Grow your network. Keep learning and listening. Inspire audiences to ask more questions and learn about the science and data that helps the choices people make continue to work harder for us. And next time we find ourselves in a conversation about food, let’s start at the beginning and tell the story together.