MARCH 2021
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NUTRITION

Food Biodiversity

HAVI NIRAV

By BHAVI NIRAV

Variety is the spice of life. Nutritionists have always advocated for multiple foods in our diet to ensure optimal health and well-being. Since diet/food quality has a substantial impact on people and the planet, variety can be easily substituted for diversity. Food biodiversity is related to nutrients we get from high-quality diets from diverse sources. Various plants, animals and microorganisms cultivated and from the wild, is the key to human and environmental health.

There is a troubling shift of human diets from various species to processed foods and limited species. Humans can choose from 390,000 edible plant species, but more than 50 percent of global energy needs are met by four crops: wheat, rice, corn and potatoes. Twelve plants and five animals account for 75 percent of our global food supply. Uniform diets and limited food access translates to one in three people in the world with micronutrient deficiencies. In comparison, nearly 2 billion people are overweight or obese.

We are what we eat. According to a study published in Lancet, a low-quality diet is a leading risk factor for illness worldwide.

According to University of California-San Diego's researchers, the American gut project – the world's most extensive microbiome study consuming 30 different plants per week – yields optimal gut diversity leading to healthy diverse gut microbiomes.

The gut microbiome can significantly influence immunity, mood, inflammation and metabolic diseases. The more diverse gut microbiomes you have, the healthier you are. There is a subtle but potent connection between biodiversity and nutrition. 

Growing various crops leads to a better agriculture ecosystem, resulting in high soil health quality, ultimately benefiting the consumer by providing more nutrition per bite.

Eating biodiverse foods (at least ¼ cup each):

  1. Be a risk-taker and try new fruit and vegetables each week that you have never bought or eaten before or rotate your choices. The more variety you eat the more agricultural diversity you support.

  2. Cook 3-4 varieties of beans for soup, Mexican dishes, chili, etc.

  3. Try different culture recipes for inspiration, including tofu, nori, beans/ lentils 3-4 days a week.

  4. Experiment with different herbs to add new flavors to your meal.

  5. Add color to your meal palette by eating something green, orange, red, purple and yellow throughout the day to get enough variety of micronutrients.

  6. Eat from different food groups: nuts, seeds, whole grains, dairy, lean meat/meat substitutes.

  7. Support local farmers by buying locally grown, heirloom produce.

  8. Grow your vegetable garden to produce a variety of ethnic vegetables, herbs, fruits.

The key is to combine the food groups to achieve biodiversity.

Recipe of the month: Baked Sprouted Mixed Bean Falafel

Ingredients

Soak all beans overnight, drain and let them sprout. After the beans are grown, wash them and grind coarse. Preheat the oven to 375°F, drizzle ¼ cup oil on the rimmed baking sheet. Mix in all the above ingredients except for baking soda and lime juice. Add baking soda to the top of the mixture and lime juice and mix well. Take 2 tbsp of mixture and make flat patty 2 inches round, ½ inch thick. Put it on a baking sheet (at least half an inch apart). Turn once halfway through baking until golden brown.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of falafel patties. Check with a fork to see if the inside is cooked well.

Serve with Tahini, za’atar and olive oil, red chili sauce and/or tzatziki. Possibilities are endless!

To Our Health!

Bhavi Nirav is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, Registered Dietitian/M.S., R.D., L.D., and can be reached at swarayog@gmail.com

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