Nutrition and processed food, taking the joy out of eating!

A new year usually begins with the resolution to lose that elusive 5kg because it is “weight in 08”! I’m beginning to wonder if instead we should be resolving to really approach eating in a new way and think about the effort we put into this important element of life.

It is only in the 20th century that industrialisation has ushered in mass-produced processed foods. This has changed not only the seasonal character of foods but the variety and freshness that used to characterise a well balanced diet. Consumers were closer to the source of production and more involved in making foods. Today, choosing food and eating properly has become a complex thing. Michael Pollan of The Guardian this week has an interesting series of articles from his new book that explores the idea that ” over the past 40 years the food industry and nutritionists have interfered with our diet. The result is confusion – and an epidemic of food-related diseases.”

Pollan posits that:

“a great conspiracy of scientific complexity has gathered around the simplest questions of nutrition – much to the advantage of everyone involved, except the supposed beneficiaries of all this nutritional advice: the eaters. For the most important thing to know about the campaign to professionalise dietary advice is that it has not made us any healthier. On the contrary: most of the nutritional advice we’ve received over the past half-century (and in particular the advice to replace the fats in our diets with carbohydrates) has actually made us less healthy and considerably fatter. It is time to reclaim our health and happiness as eaters.”

Yes, you read it, the radical idea that it is time to reclaim some joy in eating rather than making it the source of ongoing guilt complexes that so many of us have developed. Perhaps it is time to simplify and take control of all aspects of eating. Sourcing fresh local ingredients that have been grown organically and are in season is the beginning. This is even the more ecologically responsible way to go, being aware of the choices we make and taking more time to prepare and consume our food.

In fact the outcome of mass production has been to remove flavour and variety as well as infiltrating artificial additives and sweeteners into more and more foods. Sugar consumption in particular has increased alarmingly bringing with it a litany of diseases. The irony is that sugar in all its forms is increasingly being used in most products and so we have trouble avoiding it. Artificial foods promote artificiality in content and flavour, replacing healthy ingredients with those that are chemically created. No wonder many of these foods are unsatisfying. What troubles me is that, in addition, as a society we are losing our true sense of taste through the constant consumption of processed foods. We have forgotten what a real tomato or apple tastes like and so are becoming complacent accepting even inferior products, placing ourselves at the whim of any new product a manufacturer or grower produces.

Indeed it is time to reclaim or joy in eating. So let us begin by choosing to eat foods by the season and really look forward to the first peaches of summer and strawberries in their real season. Will we be enticed to eat hot cross buns the day after Christmas or will we wait and so enhance our enjoyment? The old adage was that we should have “moderation in all things” and this still holds true. Perhaps we should add that slowing down and learning to wait for nature and so rediscovering the true flavour of foods through the seasons will bring the joy back to eating!

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Wednesday, 9 January, 2008.

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