Food for Thought July
ON FOOD SYSTEMS
How super are "Superfoods"?
Although it is a term we are all familiar with, the exact meaning of “superfoods” is actually as fuzzy as a peach. According to the Oxford dictionary, a superfood is: “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing”. But for most people the term superfood brings to mind exotic foods like acai, moringa, baobab, spirulina, goji berries or chia seeds. And these products are generally marketed in the space somewhere between food and medicine, which can make them particularly attractive to people who are health conscious. I think the main questions around superfoods can be broken down into two parts: 1) Are superfoods really that good for you? Should I fork out so many (insert your currency here) for them? I think this article from Emma Becket and Zoe Yates from the University of Newcastle nicely sums up the answer to this question. The quote at the end in particular: “No single food item, or even the top ten superfoods combined, have enough superpowers to replace a balanced, varied and healthy diet. Couple this with avoiding excessive consumption of processed and refined foods and alcohol, and you will have done everything you can, nutritionally speaking, to help you stay healthy and well into old age.” I agree with this. The most important think you can do is introduce more diversity in your diet, by basing most of what you eat on a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole foods. Most of these foods are fully in line with the broad definition of the term superfood anyway. However, I also think that the “trend” factor of superfoods and smoothies can potentially be a gateway for people to start to explore a plant based diet. If you are replacing a nutrient poor processed or fast food with a superfood based smoothie for example, then that is definitely a step in the right direction. So my thinking is by all means, introduce them into your diet, but first and foremost focus on the bigger picture of your diet and lifestyle, as that will have a greater impact. This second article by Jessica Loyer from the University of Adelaide takes a different angle to analyze superfoods, and also raises a very important second question….. 2) What are the impacts of superfoods on the people who grow them, and their local environment? This is a question that is relevant for all food, not only superfoods, and is arguably much harder to answer. Each different “superfood” comes from a different context and analyzing the variety of social, economic, environmental and nutritional impacts of producing it is a very complex task. But I don’t think that is an excuse to not think about it. This article sums up some of the challenges nicely, and give an insight into two of the superfoods currently gaining attention and the risks and potential they hold for the producers.
The Global Nutrition Report
The 2016 Global Nutrition Report that came out last month. This report highlights some really important facts that don’t get as much attention as they should. For example, that today 1 in 3 people around the world suffer from some form of malnutrition. This may be due to not enough food, not enough vitamins and minerals or too much of the wrong type of food, or a combination of these issues. This is the case all around the world, and the impacts are enormous, not only for individuals and their families but for the global community. The findings of the nutrition report show some of the reasons I am so passionate about taking control of what I eat and how it is prepared. Although it may not feel like it, each of us are intimately connected to the problems outlined in the report every day. The choices we make about what we eat impact ourselves, our families, as well as distant people across the other side of the globe. I am going to do a longer post soon, explaining why I care so much about food systems and nutrition. But for now, why not check out the report or scroll through the infographic below.
ON COOKING AND EATING
The Cherry on Top
Cherry season is in full swing in Switzerland at the moment, which is the most delicious thing you can experience. I have been putting them on my breakfast and cooking up all kinds of treats. My enthusiasm was only dulled by the rather unglamorous task of trying to pit them without destroying the kitchen. Then I discovered this kitchen hack, and life has not been the same since! Hope you find it helpful too :)
In the course of my day job, I am talking about insects and algae a lot at the moment. That may seem weird seeing as my job is about food systems. However….these are things you are going to be eating in the near future! Before you are tempted to screw up your nose and say “not me” check out this nice film that highlights some of the reasons why we need to look for different sources of protein, and why already 2 billion people on the planet happily eat insects already! In the end it will depend on our ever evolving food culture. Take lobster for example. It is just a giant sea bug that people used to find repulsive but now consider a delicacy! So when you see some cricket flour protein bars or chocolate dipped worms, why not give them a try, you might just be at the front of the next culinary trend!
Cultivating Tiny Habits
After a lot of traveling last month, I was finding it tough to settle back into my usual routine. I really wanted to kickstart my morning yoga practice but getting out of bed each morning felt like climbing mount Everest! Then I discovered something called “tiny habits”, a system developed developed by Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford university. He believes that behavior change is a skill that we can all develop, and it is something we need to practice. I signed up for the 5 day program and learnt a method I can apply to all parts of my life. I experienced immediate results and really recommend you check it out for yourself: http://tinyhabits.com/ Best of all, it is no frills, simple and FREE. Not much left like that in the world today! Here were my three tiny habits for this week: (1) After my alarm goes off, I will get up (2) After I get up, I will walk to my yoga mat (3) After I leave my yoga mat, I will make my bed. These are all super simple, but practicing them shifted my whole day.
Pema Chödrön on Practicing Peace
When in Berkeley last month I thankfully stumbled across the teachings of Pema Chödrön. Pema is a buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother who has dedicated her life to helping people to practice peace in turbulent times.I have just read two of her books, which I can highly recommend:
Practicing Peace– This book manages to be simultaneously tiny yet incredibly important. It will take you a no time to read it, yet I find myself going back to it time and again for the important message of in times like those right now. “There are many stories, but the basic message I am trying to convey is that if we want there to be peace in the world, the we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That is true spiritual warriorship. That’s the true practice of peace." Pema Chödron
Living Beautifully in Times of Uncertainty and Change - This book unpacks three commitments that we can all make to help ourselves embrace the inherent “groundlessness of being human”. "..It is not impermanence per se, or even knowing that we are going to die that is the cause of our suffering....Rather, it's our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it is called suffering. But when we completely let go and don't struggle against it...that is called....awakening to our true nature. Another word for that is freedom - freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiquity of being human." Pema Chödrön