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Can health and sustainability go hand in hand?

Many of us want to enjoy a healthy diet. At the same time, there is a great need and demand for more sustainable consumption. There are a number of links between healthy and sustainable foodstuffs, but also a lot of  exceptions that needs handling. RISE is studying future foods that support both health and sustainability.

Public health is one of the greatest challenges facing us, both nationally and globally; however, taking healthy eating to extremes is often environmentally unsustainable, while allowing environmental ambitions to steer diet can actually be damaging to both the individual and society as a whole. Ulf Sonesson is R&I manager for sustainable food systems at RISE.

“In all likelihood, introducing vegetarian diets into residential homes for the elderly would prove unsustainable, as the elderly often eat too little and so require nutritionally dense foods. Nor would it be sustainable for everyone to eat three avocados per day, given the environmental footprint of avocado farming. And it can even prove fatal to ingest too many vitamins,” explains Ulf Sonesson.

RISE wants to make it easier to eat more healthily and more sustainably

RISE wants to make it easier for consumers, diet planners and other professionals who make dietary decisions to make wise and well-informed choices, both in terms of health and sustainability.

“In order to measure performance, we need metrics for how healthy and sustainable foodstuffs are. When we have metrics, we can create unambiguous, accessible tools that provide personalised advice based on one’s diet and lifestyle,” says Ulf Sonesson.

Tomorrows digital tools, user-friendly apps for example, should be able to offer advice about the need for supplementary vitamins or minerals to increase wellbeing. This advice could also include suggestions regarding which products one should eat and how much is required to obtain the correct nutrition at the minimum environmental cost. All proposals will be based on both health and sustainability data.  

Interdisciplinary team develops new products

Eating healthily and sustainably can sound both boring and tasteless. RISE is conducting a number of product development projects within a variety of food categories. Medical practitioners, environmental researchers, behavioural scientists and flavour designers work side by side in interdisciplinary research groups to develop new healthy, tasty and sustainable foods, often in collaboration with the product development departments of various food producers.

“The secret lies not in encouraging someone to try a product but getting them to use it repeatedly. We want the product to be so good, easy to prepare and appealing that it becomes a staple on shopping lists and dinner tables. It is only then that it can be of benefit from health and sustainability perspectives,” says Ulf Sonesson.

Sweden at the forefront

The Swedish food industry is at the cutting-edge of developing new concepts and products. RISE is leading this development and interest within the industry and among consumers is great.

“We enjoy a healthy climate of collaboration between business and research. Our innovation system is beneficial in this way. Swedes are also both health conscious and very interested in contributing to a better world,” says Ulf Sonesson.

Globally, we see that when a country increases its welfare, meat consumption increases; however, there is also an increased interest in consuming more healthily and sustainably.

Sweden is at the forefront of this and multinational corporations are observing how we act,” concludes Ulf Sonesson.

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Ulf Sonesson

Forsknings och affärsutvecklare

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