Cereal foods already play a major role in the diet in most countries worldwide, as the main dietary source of energy, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, and plant-based protein.
However, currently, less than half of the grains are used for human consumption.
In a new study from Chalmers University of Technology, researchers suggest changes in grain consumption and novel cereal protein-enriched food innovations could play a major role in transitioning towards a more sustainable food system for healthy diets.
Even small changes in dietary patterns could make a large difference both to environment and health and grains could represent one of these possibilities.
Food production is responsible for 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Increased use of plant-based foods to replace animal-based foods such as meat and dairy is one of the strategies to meet sustainability targets. This includes improving human health, particularly in the Western world.
In the study, the team developed a potential scenario to reduce meat intake in Europe and replace it with more sustainable and healthier whole grain-based foods.
They found if 20% of the current daily European animal protein intake was to be replaced by plant-based protein, 50% could come from cereals.
Whole grains are beneficial to health and a high intake has consistently been associated with reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and colorectal cancer in observational studies.
Whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds, but grain protein contains low amounts of the essential amino acid lysine.
Therefore, the nutritional composition of the overall diet should be highlighted to ensure an optimal amino acid intake. This can easily be done by increased intake of legumes to complement cereal protein.
Furthermore, a strong future focus from the industry on processing and product design will benefit both society and industry.
The team says increased availability and use of new protein-rich cereal food concepts could help in the transition towards a healthier and more sustainable diet.
If you care about diets, please read studies about eating dried fruit linked to better diet quality and health and findings of high-fiber diet could mean low level gut inflammation.
For more information about diet and health, please see recent studies about green Mediterranean (‘green Med’) diet may be even better for your health and results showing that meat and dairy diets are directly linked to cancer.
The study is published in Nutrition Reviews. One author of the study is Professor Rikard Landberg.
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