The Western Diet
Eating is an everyday job, as it keeps our bodies running. Yet there’s still a lot to learn about food and diet related issues. In particular regarding the Western diet. There are some pretty serious problems associated to this diet. The underlying causes are not completely clear. However, we do know that people who live by this diet, face several diseases, such as obesity. Therefore it is important to gain some more insight in the background story of the Western diet.
A brief History
After the Second World War, several socio-cultural shifts took place. In the past, food used to be incredibly scarce. But after the WWII, technological advances led to a new era regarding food production. Suddenly there was no scarcity, but abundance. There was more than enough food for everyone. Food became inexpensive and required little physical activity. Another socio-cultural shift that contributed to our current lifestyles, was that women began entering the workforce. Until then, women often used to be in control of the food preparation. However, since this wasn’t the case anymore, there was more room for processed food. Convenient food contained more calories, which caused an increase in calorie intake.
What’s wrong with the Western diet?
The Western diet has an incredibly unhealthy feature. A lot of the food is highly processed. In this process, important nutrients, are removed. So fibres, iron, and certain vitamins are missing. The food produces have their own reasons for removing these important nutrients. First of all, this way the food gets a softer texture. But more importantly, the shelf life of the final product is prolonged. Pests are attracted to nutrients and since processed food contain very little nutrients, pests will stay away. Therefore, highly processed food spoils at a slower rate. Since most of the nutrients are removed, the food becomes less tasty. In order to make it tasty again, food producers add a lot of sugar, salt and fat. These three ingredients are cheap but effective. So this is why it’s unhealthy to eat processed food on a regular basis.
What to do?
The answer to a healthy diet is quite simple and straightforward. The best predictor of a healthy diet is homemade food. Instead of buying a microwave meal, buy some fresh ingredients, throw them together and prepare a nice meal for yourself. Homemade food is very healthy, as the nutritional value is high. Preparing a healthy meal doesn’t necessarily have to be time consuming, it just means that fresh ingredients are being used instead of processed ones. And keep in mind, while buying groceries, that food containing high nutritional value, like spinach, doesn’t need a label to ‘show’ how healthy it is.
By Giselle Greenberg
- Stanford University To Food and Health