The role of protein quality in a healthy and sustainable human diet

PhD project by Shiksha Adhikari. Most studies focused on understanding the relationship of food within our current linear food system, while reducing the environmental impacts of single foods. This study aims to understand the relationship of protein quality and adequacy of food produced in a circular food system while respecting the land use and greenhouse gas emission boundaries

One of the major challenges of the food system is to assure the provision of healthy and environmentally sustainable food products for a growing population. We therefore need to transform the way we currently produce food. One concept that is gaining increased popularity is the transition towards circularity in the food system. The question we need to answer is: how can we secure the dietary quality while adapting circularity principles?

To achieve dietary quality in addition to other nutrients, adequacy of quality proteins in a diet plays a major role. The main objective of this study is to assess the role of protein quality of individual food-ingredients, food-products, meals and diets in shaping a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet while adopting circularity principles.

The first phase of this project focusses on identifying measures and metrics of protein quality and their application in integrating protein quality in the determination of sustainable and healthy diets. The second phase focusses on assessing the impact of protein quality of ingredients to determine a sustainable and healthy diet based on circular food system. An existing bio-physical circular food systems model will be used and extended to enable this assessment of protein quality of ingredients. The third phase focusses on healthy diets consisting of food products, rather than ingredients, and in the last phase protein quality will be assessed on a meal basis, rather than on an (agglomerated) diet basis.

Altogether this study allows to secure adequate protein supply while minimizing the effect on land use and greenhouse gas emissions while adapting circularity principles in future food systems.