Looking beyond nutrition

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Conventionally in Canada, nutrition is focused on personal health, and can be quite reductionist. People often think, “What nutrients do I need? What nutrients does the food provide?” and stop there.

Elsewhere in the world there has been some movement to broaden the scope of food. For example, in 2014 the Ministry of Health in Brazil released Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population. The Guide is receiving well-deserved praise for including brilliant advice (or maybe just common sense) that moves beyond mere "nutrition", such as recommending that we eat together with family, friends, or colleagues in pleasant environments.

In Ecuador, we are working with our partner EkoRural to broaden views of food and nutrition. Our collective work is supporting the concept of Consumo Responsable (Responsible consumption). While an operational definition of Consumo Responsable is still being developed, it reflects Sustainable Development Goal 12 and includes dimensions of:

  • Economics: Supporting local farmers and local economies;
  • Environment: Supporting the production and consumption of food purchased in an environmentally healthy manner;
  • Culture: Choosing foods that support Andean culture; and
  • Personal health: Choosing foods that will meet nutritional needs and minimize risk of food-related chronic diseases.

The examples we see in Brazil and Ecuador are not unheard of concepts. In Canada, for example, eating locally produced food, eating organic food, and eating healthily are all recurring themes, although not yet part of the mainstream.

Eating for nutrition is important, but there is much more to nutrition than only food. The four dimensions—economics, environment, culture and personal health—can be mutually supportive and help us to rise above just "nutrition" and adopt diets that are good for us, our communities and our planet.