“Green September” is an action coordinated by several institutions (producers, experts, fruits and vegetables purchasers and restaurant chains) in a partnership with the society to encourage consumption of healthier foods. The action inspires Brazilians to consume more fruits and vegetables in their routines and promote friends and family to keep healthier food habits.
Nevertheless, discussions about contents that define healthy food are important. The food industry mistakenly uses the term “healthy” for ultra-processed products with small contents of fresh ingredients and many additives. Industrialized juices, cereal bars, fruit-based milk drinks and small dinner roll bread are not examples of healthy snacks.
Consumers value health and welfare. According to Euromonitor consultancy, sales in this segment generated a revenue of 93.6 billion BRL, in Brazil and 67% of these gains came from “healthy foods” – data from 2016. In the same year, Brazil was the seventh largest global market of this segment that moved 700 billion USD, according to Euromonitor. In general terms, however, the revenue comes from the processed food industry – not from the distribution of in natura fruits and vegetables.
Food enterprises lead consumers to believe their products are a good nutritional option, labeling their products with words such as “healthy”, “homemade” or “straight from the farm”. However, these concepts are incompatible with industrialized products and should be forbidden. To separate the wheat from the chaff, it is important to have a stricter control and, mainly, effective release of information on foods that can indeed contribute to healthier habits. Trend diets are also a source of misinformation, because they reduce or eliminate the consumption of carbohydrates, gluten, lactose, animal products and others. Diets that limit important nutrients do not result in healthy foods for population.
A turning point regarding information on healthy habits came from “Food Guide for Brazilian Population”, released on November 2014 to replace the guide published in 2006, elaborated by the Health Ministry in a partnership with Nupens/USP (Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health) of the University of São Paulo, with the support of Opas/Brazil (Pan American Health Organization) and coordinated by Professor Carlos Augusto Monteiro at Faculty of Public Health of the University of São Paulo (FSP-USP).
The guide was highly praised by several specialists in nutrition in the international scenario, despite the small impact in Brazil. The World Nutrition magazine, one of the most respected publications in the field, published the study conducted by professor Carlos Monteiro and highlighted: “the United States needs to follow Brazil’s example: stop talking about nutrients and start talking about food”. The guide was a huge success and was considered by Vox.com as “the best nutritional guide in the world”.
Major changes, compared to other food guides, were observed in food classification and the elimination of the usual food pyramid. According to the guide, “it is always preferable to consume in natura or minimally processed foods rather than ultra-processed ones”. The guide recommends that Brazilians should prepare their own meals, which should be based mostly on fresh and minimally processed products, disapproving consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods.
Therefore, the “Food Guide for Brazilian Population” breaks a paradigm from the food industry: focus on nutrients. The guide recommends consuming “real” food, tipping the scale towards fresh products and mitigating consumption of industrialized products.
In this “Green September”, it is important to widen discussions on healthy and “real” foods. This discussion is good for health and excellent for household expenses, for consumers and producers of fruits and vegetables. Besides, the current economic crisis has brought Brazilians back to the kitchen. Therefore, “Green September” is an opportunity to rescue the concept spread by the guide and increase the share of fruits and vegetables in the Brazilian meals with “real” food.
For further information, check March 2017 Hortifruti Brazil magazine (in Portuguese).