Global and European food market: recipe for a better living

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It is already over half a century that most national governance in the world are dealing with such food issues as sufficiency in agro-products, food sovereignty and dietary “complexes”. Presently, the situation has turned into healthy food consumption and optimal for people diet recipes: just to note, people in the world, on average, need between 1,500 and 2,000 calories a day…

In 2019-20, the European agro-production reached about €418 billion, with France as the largest contributor (18% of the EU-total), followed by Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania. Together, these seven countries account for more than three quarters of the EU’s agricultural production. Europe produces for itself, but it is also the world’s leading exporter: it accounts for about 10-11 percent of world food flows, a relatively stable share during last decade. Besides, there are a couple of the “global SDGs” that are aimed at achieving food security, improving nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture (SDG-2); as well as ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages (SGD-3).

Dietary culture in Europe
There are, basically, two competing European ways to approach dietary cultures: i.e. Nordic vs. Mediterranean. The development of Nordic and Danish eating patterns and food strategies is showing increasingly positive account an environmental quality, sustainable living and food production.
The Nordic diet is based on traditional foods in Nordic countries, such as whole grains, fruits, root vegetables, fatty fish, legumes and low-fat dairy. Basically, the diet can lower some risk factors for disease, including body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. The Nordic one is still relatively new compared to the Mediterranean diet: hence it is too early to conclude on the long-term health benefits and effects. However, the general outcome is crystal clear: eating a variety of food and adopting a primarily plant-based diet is more important for health than following a particular diet habit.
Still, the “Nordic Diet” shares a number of similarities with the “Mediterranean Diet”, in that it consists of more whole foods and less or no highly processed foods. It also encourages eating more plant foods and less meat. Perhaps the key feature of the Nordic diet is that it encourages people to include a diverse range of locally available foods like mosses, seeds, vegetables, and herbs (including those growing wild). This is why berries such as lingo berries are a core element of the Nordic diet, while citrus and tropical fruits aren’t.

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Example of French baguette
For example, French baguette has become a national treasure and this “warm nostril-tingling waft of freshly baked bread” is actually more than just baked piece of bread, it is a way of life and a symbol of the French art of living. At the end of 2022, the baguette has been included into the UNESCO World Heritage List. To be precise, the “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” has officially inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Every year, there are roughly 100 new additions to the list from around the world, a list which aims to protect and raise awareness of cultural heritage that cannot be defined by a single place or item. The UNESCO statement reads that the baguette is not only “the most popular kind of bread enjoyed and consumed; baguettes require specific knowledge and techniques: they are baked throughout the day in small batches and the outcomes vary according to the temperature and humidity. They also generate modes of consumption and social practices that differentiate them from other types of bread, such as daily visits to bakeries to purchase the loaves and specific display racks to match their long shape.”
Since 1993, baguettes are protected under a national law (Décret Pain), which stipulates that traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises where they are sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They also cannot be frozen at any stage or contain additives or preservatives. Every day, 12 million French people buy a baguette, which makes it 320 baguettes per second.
The country had previously chosen to submit the baguette as a candidate for a place on UNESCO’s 2022 List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – preferred over Paris’ zinc-plated rooftops and the annual Arbois wine festival in the Jura region. The country’s successful bid with UNESCO will help to make people aware that a food practice that is a part of everyday life, shared by a majority of people and taken for granted, constitutes a part of the French heritage, acknowledged a statement by the Ministry of Culture in March 2021. Other French heritages already on the list are the “gastronomic meal of the French”, added in 2010, and the “skills related to perfume in Pays de Grasse”, added in 2018.


The Nordic diet
The Nordic diet is still relatively new: it has been made world famous about a decade ago: the approach is called “New Nordic Diet” or “new Nordic Kitchen” with some sub-regional variations like Danish or Swedish cousin. The “specifics” lies in more fruit and vegetables, more herbs and seasonal wild food, more local products, fish and seaweed. These and other ingredients have turned the Nordic diet into something natural in everyday food and a natural substance for families and children. Besides, a new Nordic food culture is both good for peoples’ health; it is favourable for the environment and nature.
How do we rediscover the joy of seasonal vegetables and fruit: the first asparagus and blueberries, red cabbage and rhubarb in a time when we have expanded our pantry to include the whole world? How do we recreate a food tradition, which in a globalized world manages to give us and our surroundings, identity and health?
These ideas have been guiding research at the Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE), Copenhagen University, which during 2009-13 was financed by Nordea-Fund with 100 million DKK.


New Nordic Diet is based on Nordic food culture; in recent years, Danish and Nordic cuisine has experienced a strong movement focusing on a “new Nordic kitchen”, which cultivates the potentials of the special Nordic cuisine and the Nordic ingredients. The Nordic kitchen has resonated throughout the world: in OPUS, a wide range of knowledge areas are linked together: i.e. from health and nutrition, to social sciences and climate modeling, to the best in Danish cuisine. The aim is to ultimately create a healthier environment for children’s upbringing by building bridges between gastronomy, health and the environment. Therefore OPUS should not only result in scientific papers, but reach out to school kitchens and cafeterias with the vision of a healthy New Nordic Diet. With this aim, OPUS placed a group of gourmets and food people, nutrition and sustainability scientists, ecologists and educators. Their task was to identify the Nordic ingredients and ultimately define the principles of the New Nordic Diet. Their work culminated in the report Basis for New Nordic Diet – and 300 recipes.
Note: recipes and information are on the website

The Nordic diet has strong effect on climate and environment, apart from the diet’s health aspects; e.g. the “new diet” has significantly influenced dietary CO2 pollution; the diet food contains 30-40% less meat than the so-called “average Danish food”. It is also vital that the diet is increasingly based on seasonal supply of locally produced vegetables and fruits. The Food Economics Institute at the University of Copenhagen has calculated the climate impacts of the Nordic diet: it shows that although the two diet-concepts (new Nordic and average Danish) contain the same amount of protein, the former reduces the impact on the climate by 6%.
At the same time, if New Nordic Diet consists of smaller quantities of beef – with a larger quantity of other types of meat with the same total protein – the climate benefits increase. If, for example, the intake of chicken is tripled while consuming only 20% of other types of meat, the climate impact is reduced by 19% compared to ‘average Danish food’.
These dietary changes –in part- demonstrate how displacements in diet composition influence climate impacts. In a time when the world would feed 9 billion people by 2050, the global governance would need more resources than are available; hence, it is important that food intake is also assessed in a climate and sustainability perspective. With New Nordic Diet the OPUS project has paved the way

In the European south…
The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has been studied by researchers since the 1950s and 60s – meaning we have a much better understanding of its links to lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers.
But some studies which have looked retrospectively at peoples’ eating habits have found that people who ate diets similar to what is now known as the Nordic diet tended to be healthier. These studies found that Nordic eating patterns were associated with a lower risk of heart disease and some type of diabetes in the Nordic countries’ population. However, the relationship between lower risk of disease and Nordic diets is less strong in people from other countries; though the reason for this currently is unclear.
The difficulty with these population studies is that they looked at a dietary pattern that technically did not exist – as it had not been defined until after they took part in these studies. This means that the participants may not have followed the Nordic diet deliberately – making it hard to truly know if the health benefits they say were due to the Nordic diet.
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The Mediterranean diet involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food. Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is a moment of social exchange and communication, an affirmation and renewal of family, group or community identity. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes values of hospitality, neighbour relations, intercultural dialogue and creativity, with a due respect for diversity. Food plays a vital role in all cultural events (festivals, celebrations and bringing together people of all ages). Besides, it includes the craftsmanship and production of traditional ways to transport, preserve and consume food, including servicing plates and glasses. Women play an important role in transmitting knowledge of the Mediterranean diet: they safeguard its techniques, respect seasonal rhythms and festive events, as well as transmit the diet-values to new generations. Markets also play a key role in preserving diet spaces for cultivating and transmitting the Mediterranean way of cooking and daily practice of exchange and mutual respect.

Although the main share of both the Nordic and Mediterranean diets consists of plants, the type of plants is different: e.g. people following the Nordic diet are encouraged to eat foods like seaweeds and kelp (which are rich in nutrients such as iodine, omega-3 fatty acids and even vitamin D), as well as other locally available vegetables and fruits.
For the Mediterranean diet, people would include leafy vegetables such as spinach, as well as onions, curettes, tomatoes, and peppers, which are all locally produced. Presently, concluded World Economic Forum in August 2022, it was probably too early to say whether following the Nordic diet was more beneficial for health than the Mediterranean diet; but based on some research outcomes, it does appear that the Nordic diet is “promising for health”.



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