Solving global nutrition and dietary challenges requires more than the protein transition

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“Eat more plant-based, fewer animal-sourced foods” is the dominant message from recent debates on global diets and protein, but does it work for everyone? Or would people in low-income countries benefit from adding more animal-sourced foods to their diets?

Writing for Our Future Proteins: A Diversity of Perspectives, a new open-access book on the transition to sustainable proteins, Inge D. Brouwer and Elise Talsma take an evidence-based approach to answer this and other questions as they debunk false narratives on diets and nutrition.

Brouwer, an Associate Professor at Wageningen University and Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and coauthor Talsma argue that the global focus on the protein transition should not draw attention away from other important nutrition and diet challenges, especially the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies in low-and middle-income countries.

Brouwer and Talsma’s chapter offers a divergent perspective from the rest of the book. Too much emphasis on novel alternative proteins or replacing animal-based proteins with plant-based gloss over the complexity of changes required to address poor quality diets and nutritional deficiencies in low- and middle-income countries. The authors encourage readers to consider the context and think about other food system solutions that increase access to nutritious and healthy foods.

Our Future Proteins: A Diversity of Perspectives examines how the transition to sustainable protein systems can help reach global sustainability targets. The wide-ranging views featured in the book highlight the complexity of this ongoing transition and the multiple pathways of technical and societal change needed to accomplish it.

Brouwer is the Lead of the CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT). SHiFT combines high-quality nutritional and social science research capacity with development partnerships to generate innovative, robust solutions that contribute to healthier, more sustainable dietary choices and consumption of sustainable healthy diets. It builds on CGIAR’s unparalleled track record of agricultural research for development, including ten years of work on food systems and nutrition under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). IFPRI and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT lead SHiFT in close collaboration with Wageningen University & Research and with contributions from the International Potato Center (CIP).

Header image. Street food in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Georgina Smith/CIAT from Flickr.

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