Decades of scientific evidence has informed dietary guidelines, programs, and policies on the recommended consumption of nutrients and foods required for human growth, development, and health.

In addition to essential macro- and micro-nutrients, foods contain thousands of other biomolecules – including a vast array of specialized metabolites, many of which we don’t even have names for.  

Lutein and lycopene, for example, are two specialized metabolites found in tomatoes that are widely researched for their health benefits. Although there are as yet no accepted recommended intake guidelines for these bioactive compounds, there is increasing support for the development of such guidelines because of their links with key health outcomes including in cardiovascular health.  

A tomato may also contain other components, such as residue from pesticides and insecticides, that have been picked up during cultivation. The composition of a tomato is dynamic as it journeys through the food system, and is impacted by genetics, its environment, and the growing, storage, processing, and preparation conditions.

If there’s this much to learn from a single tomato, imagine the wealth of knowledge to be uncovered as we map foods from across the globe – and share our findings with stakeholders and solution-seekers everywhere. 


Foodomics with Dr. Tracy Shafizadeh

What are challenges and opportunities for foodomics for advancing our understanding of food and health for people and the planet? This podcast addresses these questions, featured on the Foodie Pharmacology podcast with guest speaker Dr. Tracy Shafizadeh.


Foodomics: A Data-Driven Approach to Revolutionize Nutrition and Sustainable Diets 

Read an article on foodomics to understand challenges and opportunities for better knowing our food to design data-driven solutions for society’s pressing challenges. 

Frontiers in Nutrition | PERSPECTIVE article
Front. Nutr., 03 May 2022Sec. Nutrition and Sustainable Diets Volume 9 – 2022 | View the Article

What we do know is that food is much more than just a source of calories: all the components play critical roles in helping – or hindering – our bodies to thrive. 

Most of us know our bodies need a balance of macronutrients like carbs, protein, and fat, and sufficient amounts of micronutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium, and iron.

Now, we’re learning more and more about other components called specialized metabolites – such as how one group called flavan-3-ol polyphenols, found in many fruits and vegetables, can help prevent things like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.  

We’re also finding out more about the impact of components that can be picked up, lost, and/or changed along food’s journey from farm to table, such as pesticides.

PTFI is catalyzing this future by creating standardized tools and strengthening global capacity to characterize the components of the world’s food supply.

This will complement existing standardized measurements of essential nutrients. And, it will help us understand the connections between food and human and planetary health. Through capacity strengthening efforts, such as those led by Food EDU, this knowledge can be applied to inform evidence-based programs, practices, and policies.   

Human and Planetary Health

Human and planetary health are inextricably linked, and our food systems have major impacts on both.
of deaths globally are caused by diet-related chronic diseases
60 YRS
is the expected time until all the world’s topsoil is gone under current agricultural practices 
of total crop production on the planet comes from only 9 of the ~6,000 plant species cultivated for food 
of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food systems 
Climate Change
of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food systems 

If we can enhance food quality while conserving and restoring ecosystems, we will address several key challenges facing humanity and the planet: 

Mozambique Gurue eat freshly prepared OFSP

Diet-related chronic disease

Poor diets are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality around the world. Malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, and overweight and obesity) persists in every country. 

Improving food access and integrating higher food quality into our diets can help more people thrive.

Ecosystem Benefit Sharing

Sustainable + regenerative agriculture 

Agriculture feeds the world’s growing population while providing livelihoods for approximately one billion people and supporting local economies.

However, dominant farming practices are degrading the natural resource base that supports nutrition and food security.

Choosing regenerative agricultural systems that mimic nature can protect ecosystems and help us heal our relationships with the environment.

Bean diversity helps farmers tackle climate change


Biodiversity supports people, plants, and other species to thrive in a changing world. There are over 30,000 edible species, which are composed of thousands of biomolecules that play diverse roles in ecosystems and in our bodies.

However, the diversity of our food systems is threatened by globalization, land-use shifts, and climate change. Promoting agrobiodiversity enhances ecosystem services and resilience while allowing us to enjoy diverse flavors. 

Mother and baby pick leafy vegetables in the rural Etafe Island in Vanuatu


Food system challenges disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable populations including minority, Indigenous, and low-income communities. 

For example, malnutrition disproportionately affects low-income populations with systemic inequities that limit food access and dietary intake.

At the farm level, inequalities in access to capital and social resources can disable the most vulnerable producers. Equity and inclusivity should be at the core of all food system solutions.

Two fisherman put out a net to catch reef fish Fumatoo Malaita Province Solomon Islands

Climate Change

At the farm level, inequalities in access to capital and social resources can disable the most vulnerable producers. Equity and inclusivity should be at the core of all food system solutions.

Climate mitigation practices are urgently needed to reverse this crisis and heal the planet.