7 Win-Win Plant-Powered Solutions To Global Hunger That Benefit Human Health and The Planet

Hello friends! Popping in after a hectic week to share a more formal piece about fighting global hunger with sustainable solutions. This is a mash up of my two academic passions: environmental health science and nutrition.  have an extended version I may share later with much greater detail. For now, hope you enjoy the following!

7 Win-Win Plant-Powered Solutions To Global Hunger That Benefit Human Health and The Planet

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Despite producing more than enough calories per capita needed to feed each person on earth, a stunning 830 million people have insufficient access to food, and many suffer from malnutrition-related conditions, including stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile, obesity and chronic diet-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease present an additional concern, creating the ‘dual burden of malnutrition.’

While finding hunger solutions, we must also consider the urgent threat of global climate change. The problem is complex, as the food system is both a leading cause of anthropometric climate change, and an industry deeply impacted by its effects.

Ameliorating these problems simultaneously is an onerous task. Luckily, there are many ways to build a healthy and sustainable diet, and many innovations at our fingertips that can help get us there. The following “win-win” plant-powered solutions benefit both human health and the environment, and have use across a variety of contexts. If applied on a global scale, these innovations could help lead a path towards a healthful, sustainable,  food systems future.

1.Win-Win: Swapping protein

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It is well-known that meat, particularly livestock meats have some of the largest carbon and water footprints of all foods, representing 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Red and processed meats have also been associated with increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. But there are other ways to consume protein. Plant-based proteins including legumes, nuts and whole grains are far less carbon and water-intensive than animal proteins, and offer numerous health benefits, including lower rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. A paradigm shift from meat to lesser-processed plant proteins will remain important moving forward.

2. Win-Win: Focusing on whole plant foods

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Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all micronutrient-dense foods, filled with powerful plant compounds, including cancer-quenching flavonoids and heart-friendly plant sterols. Their high levels of dietary fiber provide satiety while lowering risks of developing various chronic diseases, such as stroke, hypertension, and diabetes. Fruits and vegetables vary in their water and carbon use, but are generally far less detrimental to the environment than animal-based foods, especially when carefully planned according to optimal growing seasons, and delivered to consumers at a local level, whenever possible.

3.Win-Win: Algae as food

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Although algae has been consumed as part of the human diet for thousands of years, large scale adoption of algae as food has not yet fully taken off. However, it should. Algae offers a potential sustainable source protein and vitamin B-12, an essential micronutrient primarily found in animal-based foods, offering a valuable source of nutrition for those shifting towards a sustainable plant-based diet. Algae could also be considered as an alternative to seafood as a source of DHA and EPA, while helping decrease the current harm caused to the oceans by overfishing. The humble plant also boasts a substantial amount of iodine, a mineral that ranks among the leading micronutrient deficiencies in the world. Scaling up nori (dried green and purple laver) and red algae production is worth considering for planetary and human health.

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Stories From Alaska: Sustainable Fishing, Health Impacts of Climate Change, and How To Talk to Skeptics About Climate Change

Holy busy season! The last couple of weeks have been a total whirlwind of business. Full-time grad school + TA-ing + my research assistant job + applications for next year :  I feel like I’m using the weekends just to catch my breath from the week before and get my stuff together for the week ahead.

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I’m happy and grateful for all of the opportunities on my plate right now, but am also excited for any upcoming break in my schedule to devote more time to creative pursuits, including this blog.

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While I’m working on a couple of other pieces for this site, I thought I’d share some other content from across the interwebs. This week 3 of my stories from my trip to Alaska were published, and I thought I’d share them here for two reasons: first, because I feel like I don’t really mention writing I do outside my blog very much on my blog and maybe that’s kinda weird? And second, it’s #NYCClimateWeeek, so I thought timing was ideal for some climate-related content on the blog.

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See below for my photo-essay, op-ed on talking to skeptics about climate change, and video about sustainable fishing in Alaska, and then enjoy a photo dump from my travel:

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How Climate Change is Impacting The Nutritional Value of Your Food: Part 1, Carbon Dioxide

I still remember sitting in my Public Health Impacts of Climate Change course at Columbia Mailman School of Health (my elective choice while a Columbia nutrition MS student) learning about how climate change is impacting the nutritional value of food.

To sum it up, I was “shook,” as the cool kids say. It was actually one of the lectures in one of the classes that set my on my current path, and I gotta say, no regrets.

One of the most amazing and wonderful things about studying what I study (which is the intersection of nutrition and environmental health) is that I am honestly so interested in what I am learning about that I eagerly listen and complete my reading and assignments. Especially about things like climate change and how it is disrupting the quality, quantity, and nutritional value of our foods.

I thought this could make for an interesting and enlightening blog post that will perhaps leave you feeling “woke” on the topic, eliciting similar feelings to those I felt in my chair of Mailman room 1101 (shout out to my EHS crew). If this isn’t your thing or your find this super boring, don’t worry, I’m sure more dog and dessert pictures will be coming your way soon.

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Weekend Update/Life Update (My Next Step)

Hey there! I haven’t written a post like this in a while so I figured it was time. I thought I’d share my weekend and what I’m up to next!

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This weekend I was actually supposed to be in Denver, but life was too hectic with a move coming up this week (eeeeep) and with zero packing done and no apartment yet I decided I’ll go to Denver in January instead. My anxiety hasn’t been serving me well these days. Sometimes it does, other times it’s a messy butthole that gets in the way. Right now it’s the later. #anyways #movingon

Friday:

Friday I took my brand new MacBook Pro to the Apple Store because after shelling out a boat load of money for it, it came with a broken “D” key. How irritating. The guy was also totally not nice about it and didn’t believe it came that way (he kept saying Apple Care would cover the damage this time…and I’m like this isn’t damage….it came messed up). Anyways, now I don’t have a computer I can use Adobe on until Friday which is SUPER annoying because I was in the middle of editing several videos. Ugh!

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Also on Friday, it was announced that Millie’s photo in the TJ’s contest won us a $500 giftcard. I AM SO GRATEFUL AND HAPPY. Thanks to all who supported us! Here’s the photo from Millie’s Insta:

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I actually found out about this on Thursday and took Millie out to dinner and froyo at Panera to thank her for her cuteness lol.

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She got the chicken that would have come on my salad.

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Can we be real for a moment? I frickin’ love Panera. Like I know it’s nothing phenomenal but it’s consistently good. I just love their salads and soups and bagels! Tho their bread is kinda meh IMO. Bring back the actually yummy sourdough roll days!

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Saturday:

Saturday I made peanut butter cookies (because I love to bake when I’m stressed; recipe coming soon), sort of packed, took Millie to the park, and was in a meh mood for most of the day.

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At the park, Millie made friends with a bee! Curious nugget.

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I met an old co-worker for dinner at Odd Duck. If you ever find yourself in MKE, go to Odd Duck. It’s small plates, different menu almost every time you go, and more often than not, very yum yum.

I got a quinoa salad (yes this photo is AWFUL, the lighting was dim) with greens, quinoa, apples, onions, golden raisins and a cumin vinaigrette. The golden raisins in it were MONEY. The cumin dressing could have used a hint more acid/salt to be a slam dunk IMO, but I tend to like very acidic/salty things so perhaps I’m biased.

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I also got this grilled cauliflower dish. It came with hunks of grilled Cauliflower (obvi) Guajillo Purée, Plantain Chips, Fingerling Potatoes, Poblano Jelly, Chili Oil “Powder”, Nopal Aioli. This was MONEY.

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After that I stopped by a friend’s in Bayview since I was nearby, did an errand, and headed home for sleeps.

Sunday:

Sunday I hit up Trader Joe’s bright and early to get in on some of their deals for their 50th anniversary. I got avocados and organic French baguettes for $0.50, and $93 of other stuff. I utilized the avos + baguette for an epic $1 lunch (with some everything bagel salt, of course).

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I also went to a barre class that morning, and ran another errand or 8. I also got stressed about my computer issues preventing me from getting work done so I made more cookies.

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While I was baking I looked up and saw two wild turkeys and two deer in the backyard. Gotta love Wisco (political policies here aside)!

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Sunday evening I met my aunt for dinner at Beans & Barley, which is a Milwaukee health food institution that’s old school and charming in the best way.

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This was one of the first healthy diner type places around here, and it was nice to visit it since I haven’t been in a while. I love how old school certain things about it are. Like they put whole cherry tomatoes and alfalfa spreads in salad and serve everything with these cute tiny rolls and a pad of butter.

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Dinner was chips and guac with 3 kinds of salsa, a large greens salad (with all of the veggies, sunflower seeds, cashews, etc) with balsamic marinated tofu (yum), and of course, a wee little roll. Their balsamic dressing, BTW, is money.

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We also got dessert. German chocolate cake for her and vegan peanut butter chocolate cake for me. Yummo. Their cakes are good because they are not too sweet! #bless

It was a nice evening. I really enjoyed spending time with my aunt. She’s pretty awesome. After that I headed up, chilled with the weiner, and headed to bed.

What’s Next:

In an attempt to be more open about my life on my blog and not just post recipes, I’m going to share that I’m moving back to NYC for more school (yup). I’m starting at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in the Environmental Health Sciences department, with a focus on Climate & Health. My goal is to focus on how climate change is impacted nutrition/food systems.

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Yes, I’m a mega-nerd. If you know me IRL closely, you’ll know this year was kinda tough for me. I moved cross-country and started something that I knew in my gut just wasn’t right. Lesson learned: ALWAYS trust you your gut, not your logical brain or what anyone else tells you should do.

Anyways, after realizing what I definitely DON’T want to do, I revisited an urge to enter this program. I took classes in this department while at IHN of Columbia, and was blown away by them. I felt so moved, and motivated. Also throughout that entire program, I realized my strength is not in basic lab science. I can do it, but I truly excel at social sciences and public health.

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I actually didn’t want to do this program since I’m wary about moving back to NYC after being there for so long and really enjoying a break from it, but accepted students day sold me. Hard. The department I’m in seems so awesome. The professors are amazeballs and very caring. And it seems like the students do such neat things!

I want to help communicate public health messages to the public and be an advocate. Eventually, I think, I want to be a professor. I have taught at U of MN and at Marquette, and really enjoy it! I’m excited to share my journey of life in NYC, public health, nutrition, and climate health. I hope you’ll join me; I’m legit VERY excited about this curriculum! And plan to NOT do what I did last time I was in school and stop blogging. No no. This is happening. HOLD ME TO IT.

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Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, especially in this last weird/icky/bumpin’ my head around the world year. I feel truly humbled and blessed for this upcoming opportunity.

Thanks for reading!!! Comment about your weekend; I love hearing from readers!