Research Topic

Food and Nutrition Security: Underutilized Plant and Animal-Based Foods

About this Research Topic

There is an urgent need to address issues of climate change and a transdisciplinary approach integrating the sciences and humanities is needed to address these global issues. The development of sustainable food systems is also a vital part of this.

The current global food system is not viable in terms of health, affordability and the environment - in other words, it is not sustainable. The triple burden of malnutrition is also leaving billions of people with over consumption or under consumption, and nutrient deficiency due to repeated consumption of energy dense poor nutrient foods. There is a clear relationship between malnutrition and reliance on a few staple crops or low dietary diversity. Lack of dietary diversity has also been associated with inadequate intake and risks of deficiencies of essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, folate, iron and zinc. Typically, this can be seen in low income households who subsist on staple-based diets which are often produced from current unsustainable food systems. To bring about positive changes in the current landscape of the global food system and its repercussions on food security, would require a radical transformation of the food system as we know it.

This Research Topic would therefore like to focus on looking at alternate foods and sustainable food systems - in particular underutilized plants and animal-based foods - that could also lead to increased equity in food availability, affordability, and nutrition especially for more vulnerable populations. Underutilized plants and animal-based foods used by Indigenous populations globally could play a key role in the development of such alternate food systems. These underutilized foods can be rich sources of macro and micronutrients; some examples include legumes such as lentils and wattles which are high in protein, dietary fiber and trace elements. They can also be well adapted to grow in arid and semi-arid conditions, able to fix atmospheric nitrogen which enriches soil fertility resulting in more sustainable agricultural and food systems. Similarly, there are many examples of underutilized roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables and oils seeds that have been consumed by Indigenous communities for thousands of years that have huge potential to contribute to dietary diversity and could be included in the diet of future generations. The sustainability of these systems is also strengthened by the inherent cultural practices of these communities with respect to land and water management, leading to sustainable food production.

We welcome the submission of Original Research, Reviews, Mini-Reviews, Hypothesis and Theory and Perspectives, that will help to narrow existing knowledge gaps in this field. Sub-topics of interest include:

• The characterization of underutilized edible plant foods, with a high nutrient density and health benefits.
• The use of underutilized animal-based foods as high-quality protein sources and their nutritional and chemical composition.
• New sources of proteins including legumes, fungi, and algae and their characterization, sensory properties, and health benefits.
• Bioaccessibility and bioavailability of nutrients and bioactive compounds from alternative plant and animal- based food sources and their potential impact on the gut microbiome and “gut health”.
• Sustainable food production systems of underutilized plants and novel protein sources, considering both traditional knowledge in combination with new technologies.
• Effect of processing technologies on the retention of nutritional and functional properties of underutilized plant and animal foods.



Prof. Dharini Sivakumar was previously an Associate Partner at Simfresh International an agribusiness development company. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regard to the Research Topic subject.


Keywords: Underutilized Foods, Biodiversity, Food, Sustainability, Nutrition


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

There is an urgent need to address issues of climate change and a transdisciplinary approach integrating the sciences and humanities is needed to address these global issues. The development of sustainable food systems is also a vital part of this.

The current global food system is not viable in terms of health, affordability and the environment - in other words, it is not sustainable. The triple burden of malnutrition is also leaving billions of people with over consumption or under consumption, and nutrient deficiency due to repeated consumption of energy dense poor nutrient foods. There is a clear relationship between malnutrition and reliance on a few staple crops or low dietary diversity. Lack of dietary diversity has also been associated with inadequate intake and risks of deficiencies of essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, folate, iron and zinc. Typically, this can be seen in low income households who subsist on staple-based diets which are often produced from current unsustainable food systems. To bring about positive changes in the current landscape of the global food system and its repercussions on food security, would require a radical transformation of the food system as we know it.

This Research Topic would therefore like to focus on looking at alternate foods and sustainable food systems - in particular underutilized plants and animal-based foods - that could also lead to increased equity in food availability, affordability, and nutrition especially for more vulnerable populations. Underutilized plants and animal-based foods used by Indigenous populations globally could play a key role in the development of such alternate food systems. These underutilized foods can be rich sources of macro and micronutrients; some examples include legumes such as lentils and wattles which are high in protein, dietary fiber and trace elements. They can also be well adapted to grow in arid and semi-arid conditions, able to fix atmospheric nitrogen which enriches soil fertility resulting in more sustainable agricultural and food systems. Similarly, there are many examples of underutilized roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables and oils seeds that have been consumed by Indigenous communities for thousands of years that have huge potential to contribute to dietary diversity and could be included in the diet of future generations. The sustainability of these systems is also strengthened by the inherent cultural practices of these communities with respect to land and water management, leading to sustainable food production.

We welcome the submission of Original Research, Reviews, Mini-Reviews, Hypothesis and Theory and Perspectives, that will help to narrow existing knowledge gaps in this field. Sub-topics of interest include:

• The characterization of underutilized edible plant foods, with a high nutrient density and health benefits.
• The use of underutilized animal-based foods as high-quality protein sources and their nutritional and chemical composition.
• New sources of proteins including legumes, fungi, and algae and their characterization, sensory properties, and health benefits.
• Bioaccessibility and bioavailability of nutrients and bioactive compounds from alternative plant and animal- based food sources and their potential impact on the gut microbiome and “gut health”.
• Sustainable food production systems of underutilized plants and novel protein sources, considering both traditional knowledge in combination with new technologies.
• Effect of processing technologies on the retention of nutritional and functional properties of underutilized plant and animal foods.



Prof. Dharini Sivakumar was previously an Associate Partner at Simfresh International an agribusiness development company. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regard to the Research Topic subject.


Keywords: Underutilized Foods, Biodiversity, Food, Sustainability, Nutrition


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Abstract
31 August 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Abstract
31 August 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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