07. April 2021 — Press Release
07.04.2021 — خبر صحفى

Food for Thought: Let’s Eat our Way to a Healthier tomorrow

Opinion-piece by Helena Carless, Marketing and Engagement Director, Emirates Nature-WWF

Eat our Way to a Healthier tomorrow

Food for Thought: Let’s Eat our Way to a Healthier tomorrow

Health has been on everyone’s mind these past months. We’ve sought ways to boost our immunity, shielded ourselves and loved ones from COVID-19 and witnessed the hazard posed by comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes which are increasingly commonplace today. We’ve also realised that we are at constant risk of facing more pandemics, of similar or increased severity, until we fix the health of our planet.

Environmental issues such as deforestation and nature loss have created conditions that are ripe for future pandemics. By encroaching on natural habitats, we have unwittingly decreased the proximity between ourselves, livestock and wild species, and increased the likelihood of animal pathogens jumping to humans. It’s ironic that one of the biggest causes of deforestation is the very industry that is meant to literally sustain us – agriculture.

Our Health, Food and Nature are Closely Interlinked

Our global food system has been flawed for quite some time. Worldwide, over a third of our land and two-thirds of our freshwater resources are used to produce food. Yet, we simultaneously face severe, often life-threatening, issues related to malnutrition, obesity and hunger. We overconsume our natural resources and pollute our environment while producing precious food, and simultaneously throw away 1/3rd of all food produced globally (that’s up to 1.3 billion tons every year). It’s senseless, unhealthy and simply unsustainable in the long run.

The ongoing pandemic has demonstrated that our health, our food system and nature are closely interlinked. To secure our health and the health of our planet for the long-term, we must change the way we produce and consume food.

Our global food system prioritises short term economic gains over long term prosperity, supported by an unwavering demand for resource-intense products, unhealthy processed foods and specialties that are transported all over the world thus inflating greenhouse gas emissions, deepening our climate crisis and threatening national food security.

We’ve reached this stage as a result of hyper consumerism. A shift to more conscious consumption can help us find our way out.

A Healthy and Sustainable Diet is a Win-Win-Win for All

On the occasion of World Health Day, let’s act to safeguard the health of our families, our planet and our food systems. By making four simple changes to the food that we purchase and put on our plates, we can promote consumption of food that is high in health and nutritional benefits, and support sustainable food production practices that are low in environmental impacts.

  1. Eat healthy and minimally processed foods. Foods like fruit and vegetables are nutritious and good for us. With a lower environmental footprint than processed foods, they are good for the health of our planet too.
  2. Eat more plants than animals. Plants are rich in nutrients, fibre and even protein. They also require less water, energy and land, than meats, poultry, seafood and dairy.
  3. Eat lots of different foods. Our bodies need a variety of nutrients. Biodiversity in agriculture also helps promote the resilience of our food system, by ensuring a diverse range of food is cultivated and protecting us against the risk of pests, disease and extreme weather.
  4. Buy food that’s local and sustainably produced. These foods are cleaner, produced with less or no chemical pesticides and have smaller environmental footprints. Buying locally produced food also means its freshly picked, supports the local economy and strengthens the UAE’s food security. 

The movement towards a healthier and sustainable diet has begun in the UAE. Plant-based diets are rising in popularity. The UAE has prioritised Food and Water Security and made significant investments to encourage sustainable practices and local production of food. The local food industry is rising up to the challenge – 20% of fruit and vegetables consumed in the UAE are now produced locally with more variety and availability imminent.  

The pandemic has shown how when we all take responsibility for our future, great progress can be made. Now is the opportune time for collective action to build momentum for healthier and sustainable diets - we can use our combined purchasing power to support and accelerate this much-needed system-wide change. The result would be a win-win-win: with healthier, nutrition-rich food for people; a healthier society in which risk of future pandemics is reduced and access to food is more secure and equitable; and a healthier natural world in which people and nature thrive.