Despite the wide existing literature on the socio-economic value of GIs and their role in terms of conservation of biodiversity, research has focused less on their nutritional relevance and their contribution to healthy diets. FAO intends to start filling this gap with the publication of “The nutrition and health potential of geographical indication foods”.
In a moment when EU GIs are engaged in the debate on the means that could facilitate the shift towards healthier and more sustainable diets, the FAO study explores the nutritional potential of several GI foods as well as their possible contribution to healthy diets and to curb non-communicable diseases.
Through five case studies, Carnalentejana (Portuguese beef), Furu (Chinese fermented tofu), Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano (Italian fermented cheese), Rooibos (South African herbal tea), and indigenous rice varieties from the Borneo highlands (Malaysia/Indonesia), the paper analyses the link between the production processes and the nutritional composition of the final products, considering both ordinary nutrients and bioactive compounds that do not usually appear in nutrition facts tables.
It results that the nutritional characteristics of GIs can be largely attributed to their unique ingredients and production procedures, linked to their geographical origins. As a consequence, the development of the GI product specification is crucial to maintain and improve GIs nutritional values and the study recommends to raise producers’ awareness of the relationship between production methods and a product’s nutritional quality, so to define GI specifications in a way that enhances or maintains the GI nutritional quality and its contribution to healthy diets.
The study moves forward discussing the role of GI foods in healthy diets, especially how they can be promoted in the daily diet becoming an integral part of them or as more nutritious alternatives than similar conventional products.
Finally, suggestions on how to leverage GIs for healthy diets are provided as well as some considerations on ways forward for research and development on the nutritional value of GIs.
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