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Local solutions to solve the UK’s nutrition crisis     




In the United Kingdom, research shows we need to boost our fruit and vegetable consumption by an estimated 86% per person - writes Sak Narwal , Co-founder of VANA Health

However, our globalised food system prioritises immediate availability at the expense of nutritional quality. We have become overly reliant on out-of-season produce that is all too often chemically treated, transported over absurdly long distances, and left to languish for weeks on supermarket shelves.

There is a pressing need to reconsider our approach to consuming our daily quota of essential nutrients. To meet these challenges, we must identify, build and develop innovative home-grown solutions that ensure our nutritional needs are adequately met. As it stands, the way the UK imports its "fresh" produce often results in serious nutritional deficits that put our long-term health and well-being at risk.

In order to meet demand in the UK, produce is harvested too early and endures overly long journeys that result in fruits and vegetables that are under-ripe and nutritionally void. Additionally, exposure to heat, light, and extended storage during transit further diminishes dietary essentials and any subsequent processing upon arrival exacerbates this issue.

For instance, some of the most important nutrients in supporting long-term health are a powerful group of antioxidants known as polyphenols. They’re found in nutrient-dense superfoods like reishi mushrooms, beetroots and rosehips and help mitigate the risk of chronic cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases like hypertension and Alzheimer’s while delivering potent anticancer properties.

Yet the combination of how our food is harvested, transported and stored undermines the bioavailability of these critical health building blocks. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to prioritise fresh produce that’s grown to maturity and harvested at the right time to ensure optimal nutrient retention and support overall health.


One home-grown solution is to simply grow here at home. Local, in-season produce is harvested at its peak ripeness and retains higher levels of polyphenols; enhancing flavour and offering greater health benefits compared to items that endure prolonged transportation. Additionally, when seasonal eating combines with sustainable farming practices it can contribute to local environmental and economic resilience through reduced emissions and greater food security. A win-win for all.

While the idea of growing all our own fruits and vegetables is appealing, practical challenges remain. For one, Britain lacks a growing environment for the variety of polyphenol superfoods - like aronia berries and tart cherries - that would support them to reach their highest possible levels of nutrient density. These polyphenol superfoods need the perfect combination of sunlight, humidity and soil composition to effectively and efficiently deliver benefits that will neutralise free radicals, improve cholesterol and even slow down ageing.

Yet, as discussed, importing them is unviable as they’re either picked too early or processed in detrimental ways. To maximise their potency and ensure Britons have exposure to the broadest variety of polyphenol-rich superfoods, we must innovate in ways that move beyond the shortcomings of imports and local farming.

Health supplements, when expertly crafted, offer a viable solution by providing concentrated forms of polyphenols and other essential nutrients found in high-quality produce. Innovative technological approaches to production and delivery, like those used by nutrition start-up VANA Health, allow us to capture the benefits of superfoods harvested at their peak ripeness and delivered to the body with maximum nutritional benefit. These research-backed advancements ensure consistent access to vital nourishment regardless of distance or seasonal availability. By embracing such cutting-edge strategies, we can bridge nutritional gaps and promote better health outcomes across the population.

It's time to rethink our approach to food consumption, not only for personal health benefits but also to strengthen our resilience against external disruptions and promote a healthier future for all.

Sak Narwal is the co-founder of VANA Health- a premium liquid food supplement company produced in the East Midlands.

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