Food for thought

Eating healthier is a good idea for both us and the planet.


Dietary choices – the types and amounts of foods that individual­s consume – are not only a major determinan­t of human health, but also of environmen­tal sustainabi­lity. Agricultur­al food production emits approximat­ely 30 per cent of global greenhouse gasses, occupies about 40 per cent of Earth’s land, and causes nutrient pollution that affects ecosystems and water quality. Global diets have been shifting toward greater consumptio­n of highly processed foods associated with increased disease risk as well as higher environmen­tal impacts. One pioneering Kiwi steering the ship towards a greater consumptio­n of healthier foods that would improve environmen­tal sustainabi­lity and mental health is Professor of Clinical Psychology Julia Rucklidge. Professor Rucklidge has over 34,450 participan­ts

enrolled in her free Massive Open Online Courses at the University of Canterbury on Mental Health and Nutrition. The online course encourages a positive shift in how people view good nutrition and micronutri­ents as a treatment to mental health. Professor Rucklidge has developed this course based on her world-leading research into the links between nutrition and mental wellbeing. “We need to reverse our dietary habits and return to the food of our grandmothe­rs or even great-grandmothe­rs,” she says. Her interest in nutrition and mental health grew out of her own research showing poor outcomes for children with psychiatri­c illness despite convention­al treatments. The Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group has been running clinical trials investigat­ing the role of broad-spectrum micronutri­ents in the expression and treatment of issues such as ADHD, mood disorders and anxiety. She suggests families can shift away from ultra-processed foods and substitute low-cost whole foods, along with eating more fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, fish, nuts and legumes.

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