| Eva Sturt | Décembre 2019 |
On route to an appointment the other morning I stopped at a local café, serving everything the trendy-health-conscious-21st-century-hipster-city-dweller will confidently spend hard earned money on: Fair trade, organic, small batch produced and barista crafted coffee, soaked oats with chia seeds and mango, and of course energy bars and balls filled with coconut and palm oil, quinoa, ethical cinnamon and fair-trade cocoa to name a few!
For some, nutrition has turned into a health fetish, synonymous with organic labels, expensive supplements and Instagram food # – I wondered, how global farming ethics and carbon-footprint for year-round demand of exotic food trends sparked by elusive health claims fits into the burning question of sustainability… Is it rectifiable to be a food-snob?
Health linked to nutrition is a relatively new form of science which may also explain why it turned into a perfect marketing product – our supermarket aisles full of so called “Functional Foods” are the evidence – yet “clean eating” by a privileged few plays an increasing role in endangering sustainable global agriculture and farming as many organisations and reports have brought to light. It is a well-established idiosyncrasy that those most concerned about optimising their nutrition, are those generally well off and eating most healthily.
Harvard University has released a very informative summary of the present interconnectivity between farming, sustainability and diet in respect of an exploding world population and food scarcity (10). As the long-hailed “Mediterranean eating model” based on simple plant foods and sensible omnivore choices scores highest in the health chart, the highly reputable Lancet Magazine initiated a much discussed action group called “The Eat Lancet Commission”. Situated in Stockholm it addresses global issues of water shortage, pesticide abuse and soil erosion due to monocultures, carbon dioxide and methane pollution from food transport and cattle respectively, by educating about sustainable and health-beneficial solutions.
Though the project has not been without criticism over panel-funding by major pesticide conglomerates profiting from plant based diet promotion which underpins some biased farming and limiting dietary recommendations in the original report by Willet et al (2019), the unifying conclusion is still that a future 10 billion people CAN be sufficiently nourished if we change eating habits, food production and waste – soon!
Hence the next big question: is marketing of health through food products – isolating nutrition from established cultural habits and the environment – contributing to the problem? If food and health are a collaborative experience, should the family meal table merely be a multi-billion industry target, or keep evolving as one of the main cultural shapers of civilisation?
In his book The consolations of philosophy, Alain de Botton presents Epicurus – the godfather of happiness and life’s true pleasures (300 ad) – as a wisdom holder: simplicity, moderation and good communication – rather than blind consumerism – naturally connecting a healthy mind with a healthy body.
Gut flora thoughts
Medical research has discovered for some years the fascinating collaboration and communication between good “commensal” microbes – bacteria – that live in our bodies and make up more of our physical mass than cells themselves (8). Still to be explored, the “microbiome” can alter our functional and genetic makeup, which determines our immune resilience and internal homeostasis – the balanced state of health. Most significantly the microbes inside of us live in exchange with the environment – and food. This is where the discussion goes into anthropology. In short, we evolved inside and out together. Exotic vegetables, fruits, grains, coconuts and chia seeds were not on the daily menus of central Europeans – they are an introduction of globalisation and of course, an effect of our inherent curiosity…
Our parents and grandparents and parents ate in moderation and reasonably seasonal. They didn’t snack from plastic bags or had to choose from hundreds of claims offering happiness, beauty, satisfaction or optimum health on fancy packaging. Food is a need and it nurtures health. It was, is and will be also culture, which intrinsically evolves with our environment. Food shapes and moulds our “inner world” – in proper and figurative sense.
We, as individuals have to force an industry to re-think, rather than submitting ourselves like puppets to unsustainable and artificially created “Needs”. For the whole planet’s sake, let’s be vigilant on our surroundings as well as on our inner ecosystem.
4th year student of Nutritional Therapeutics BSc and faithful believer in European (Food) Culture