The Unilever report recommends this diet for the health of the planet

Whether it’s because of the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, or other concerns, people are looking at health, wellness, the environment and diet differently than ever before. For years, vegan consumers have called on food giants to consider the benefits of plant-based eating, but now the tides are changing and food giants are building platforms on vegan consumption, encouraging consumers to experiment with a plant-based diet. Multinational food giant Unilever has conducted a comprehensive review that recommends eating plant-based foods to improve health while benefiting the environment.

Scientists Nicole Neufengrel and Anas Elander have compiled the new scientific review titled “Nutrient Intake and Status in Adults Consuming Plant-Based Diets Compared to Eating Meat: A Systematic Review” to examine how plant-based foods can improve consumer health. The review analyzed 141 external studies to determine that plant foods would rank as the most effective diet for health possible.

The review concluded that by switching to a plant-based diet, consumers would significantly increase their intake of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Leading scientists have suggested that increased consumption of plants compared to consumption of meat and dairy would show long-term health benefits, explaining why Unilever aims to push vegan choice into the future.

“The nutrition industry also plays an important role in helping consumers switch to a diet consisting of more plant foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts,” Islander told NutritionInsight.

Islander explains that while there are deficiencies in every food form, a plant-based diet offers the healthiest and most sustainable option. The review also discusses plant-based meat alternatives as a great choice for traditional sources of protein and nutrients. For vegetarian consumers, the review found that levels of fiber, folate, magnesium, vitamins E, B1, B6, and C were significantly higher than those of non-vegetarians.

The alternative meat market has focused on improving the nutrient intake of consumers, stating that consumers can find an excellent source of vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium and iodine from plant-based meats. Islander highlights that it is difficult to find these nutrients through a vegan diet, but the alternative protein makes it more affordable for vegan consumers.

“Both the food and beverage industry and public health agencies play an important role in helping consumers transition to a more nutritionally appropriate diet,” Elander continued. “It is not up to us to decide for people what they want to eat, but it is up to us to make healthy and vegan options affordable for everyone.”

Unilever scientists have also suggested that moving to plant-based food production would provide significant environmental benefits. By replacing current animal nutrient sources with plant-based alternatives, global food giants like Unilever can reduce the damage to the environment and even curb the worsening climate crisis. The review cited one report from eat lancet which proposed “the importance of food as the single most powerful lever for improving human health and environmental sustainability on Earth and proposed a planetary health food system as a sustainable solution.”

Unilever compiled the review to highlight how the global food world is changing, and how new interests in sustainability and health will drive the plant-based industry forward. Scientist Unilever intended to consider all nutrient deficiencies and provide consumers with insight into the healthiest option, while highlighting nutritional education as the primary goal of their review.

“The main idea is that there are nutrient deficiencies in all diets,” Elander said. “Across all diet groups, people do not consume a sufficient variety of foods from different food groups to get all the nutrients they need. This highlights the importance of educating consumers about the vital role that different food groups play in their diet.”

By informing consumers of the healthy and environmental benefits of plant-based eating, Unilever is also promoting its plant-based platform. The Vegetable Butcher — one of Unilver’s leading botanical brands — reported a 70 percent increase in sales last year, revealing the multinational food giant’s true potential.

The global concern based on plants is motivating companies like Unilever to start prioritizing the production of plant foods. Unilever recently set an annual global sales target of 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for plant-based products by 2027. A comprehensive review of Unilever is the company’s latest move to stimulate the plant-based market as it begins to lay foundations in the industry.

“You know, there’s a secular trend towards all of us eating more of the vegan diet and we’re seeing all of our vegan and vegetarian offerings grow very quickly,” Unilever CEO Alan Jope said of the new plan last year. “The first thing we care about doing is making sure that our big brands like Knorr and Hellmann’s offer attractive vegan offerings. So this is really the main course.”

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