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Our health linked to our food linked to our biodiversity

Dorothy Shaver, Global Sustainability Lead for Knorr and Registered Dietitian, Unilever

Dorothy Shaver, Global Sustainability Lead for Knorr, Unilever, marks the International Day for Biological Diversity with a guest blog on why eating diverse foods matters for our biodiversity, our food and our health.

The food we eat every day comes from agricultural biodiversity, which contributes directly to food security, nutrition and well-being. The types of foods grown and the ways they are produced impact agricultural biodiversity, which in turn, impacts our health.

Human health and the health of the environment are interlinked.

Food production has rapidly increased as a response to the recent spike in population growth. This demand has led to an increase in homogenous varieties as a result of farmers abandoning local types. This, amongst many other factors, has led to severe lessening of agricultural diversity, resulting in the extinction of valuable species and loss of biodiversity, which contributes to poor nutrition. Globally we are reliant on twelve crops and five animals to provide more than 75 percent of our food supply. We’re planting and eating the same foods repeatedly – leaving our bodies and our land deprived of precious nutrients. With an alarming rise in overweight and obesity, in tandem with a steady incline in micronutrient deficiencies and diseases with food-related causes, it’s no secret that we’re not eating the right foods in the right amounts.

The journey to improve human and planetary health can be one and the same.

The good news is that the best foods for our health – green vegetables, mushrooms, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and cereals – are also better for the environment. There are plenty of these foods, we just aren’t eating them. In fact, there are between 20,000 and 50,000 edible plant species and we’re only eating between 150 and 200.

Eat the Future 50 Foods for healthier people and a healthier planet.

That’s why Knorr and WWF-UK joined forces to identify 50 of the foods that are nutritious, have a lower environmental impact, can be added to everyday meals, taste good, and can be accessible and affordable. The Future 50 Foods report starts by outlining the food system issues, then goes on to identify 50 foods from all over the globe to which we need to pay more attention.

It drives attention to the need to eat a wide variety of nutritious plant-based foods to provide the multiple nutrients required for human health. The first criterion was the nutrient density score based on the Nutrient Rich Foods Index 15.3 and that each food contains a significant amount of critical nutrients. Spinach has the highest amount of nutrients per calorie and soy has the most protein, almost three times more than an egg. From nitrogen fixing Bambara groundnuts to cover crop cowpeas, many of them can grow in harsh conditions, some take up little to no precious land, a few are draught resistant, many produce a higher yield compared to similar crops, and several act as natural fertilizers and soil nourishers.

All of them can be part of delicious, everyday meals and each has a story to tell.

Knorr will grow demand for and accessibility of the Future 50 Foods.

This is a global list of foods, therefore, not all of them are easily accessible everywhere. Some are unknown to many and others are common in multiple countries. To grow the demand of these foods, Knorr will use its reach across more than 90 countries with products chosen 3.4 billion times a year to increase the acceptability and affordability of these foods. This will be done through Knorr products, recipes and programmes. Partnerships are vital to success and will be utilized every step of the way, from building a sustainable supply to growing a healthy demand.

The aim of the Future 50 Foods is to increase the variety of nutritious foods grown and eaten to benefit everyone, everywhere – from the farmers cultivating them to the people eating them and the whole value chain in between.

The Future 50 Foods report compliments and aligns with the valuable work that Bioversity International does to safeguard agricultural biodiversity with the larger ambition to attain global food and nutrition security. Many of the Future 50 Foods are focus crops for Bioversity International such as Bambara groundnut, moringa, millet and teff. Bioversity International provided valuable inputs to the Future 50 Foods report.

Use your purchases to vote and your plates to judge.

When we eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, we contribute to our own health while increasing the demand for the cultivation of different crops, which will lead to increased agricultural biodiversity.

Use your purchasing power to grow demand and your culinary creativity to expand your palate. Buy and try a few new foods each week. Mix in different types of cereals and grains by swapping out your white rice for wild rice, amaranth and quinoa. Add more colours to your plate with red cabbage, orange tomatoes and black salsify. Include some adzuki beans, black turtle beans or soy beans or products. Be part of the solution. Small changes can make a big difference.

Celebrate this International Biodiversity Day by eating diverse Future 50 Foods. Our planet, your health and your taste buds will thank you!

Dorothy Shaver

Read the 50 Future Foods Report


Dorothy is a Registered Dietitian working in food sustainability with unique experience in and passion for driving mass behaviour change for positive health and environmental outcomes. Over the past fifteen years she has worked across media, retail, health care, the fitness industry championing food choices to enable personal and planetary health. Her most recent piece of work is the Future 50 Foods report, which is a collaborative thought leadership report in which food system issues are outlined and nutrient dense foods that promote agrobiodiversity and reduce the negative environmental impact of food are identified. Her expertise has brought her all over the world, joining forces with renowned experts and partners to achieve measurable change. Dorothy received her undergraduate degree from Framingham State University and her master’s degree in public health education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Knorr’s passion for better cooking and eating goes right back to the brand’s beginnings in 1838. Knorr is proud to be the 8th most chosen FMCG brand in the world (according to Kantar World Panel) and Unilever’s largest food brand, with a yearly sales value of over 4 billion Euros. Knorr products are sold in nearly 90 countries around the world and its flavours are enjoyed by more than 2.8 billion people each year. The brand is committed to providing easy-to-prepare, flavourful recipes for all diets and occasions, which it publishes on its website and on the back of its products. Its purpose is to champion better ways to cook and eat for a more sustainable food future, believing that by sourcing its ingredients sustainably, its foods taste better. That’s why Knorr grows its ingredients naturally, out there under the sun, in rich, fertile soils and with care for the environment. Find out more at www.Knorr.com

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