How nutritious is the food we eat? Over the last 20 years, calorie counting has been a consistent theme in our consumption habits. Most food bought in a UK supermarket will offer clear labelling highlighting the number of calories. By April 2022 all restaurant menus, takeaways, cafes, entertainment venues will be required, by law, to show clear calorie counts (this already happens in the US), but are these calories empty calories or are they packed with nutritional value?
Back of pack labelling focuses on carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugars and salts. Nutritional value is lost, overlooked and misunderstood by citizens. It has not been given the same attention as calories, however it is the key factor in ensuring a healthy, balanced diet.
More of the food we eat today is processed. Some foods need to be processed to make them safe for consumption e.g. milk needs to be pasteurised, but it’s the increase in the level of processing that is a concern. Many foods today are ultra-processed. Ultra-processed food strips out much of the nutritional value to accommodate a sweeter or saltier taste and a longer shelf life. Getting all the vitamins and minerals we need from the food we eat is getting harder.
For years Governments have been shouting about the importance of a ‘balanced diet’, but what does that actually mean in today’s world? Is my version of a balanced diet really giving me the nutrients I need to thrive at my optimal level? It is an area of study that is growing in momentum. Demystifying nutritional content will be an important factor in building up a healthy, resilient and immune population. This is particularly important in a COVID world where population immunity will determine the freedoms we all enjoy.
To achieve a greater levels of population immunity eating highly nutritious foods, packed with vitamins and minerals feels like the simplest, most cost effective way of improving population vulnerability against disease and infection… But it’s not that simple, even fruit and vegetables will vary significantly in nutritional density. The fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, production and distribution will all effect the nutritional quality of the apple that ends up on your kitchen table. Two apples that look the same may be very different in the nutritional value that they contain. The startling fact remains that over the last 50 years there has been a huge decline in the vitamin and mineral content of all the fruit and vegetables we consume, that can only be down to the intensification of farming practices over that time.
We need much more education on nutritional density, we need brands, Governments, charities and NGOs to champion the vitamins and minerals in our foods not just empty calorie counting.
This is why we are celebrating International Whole Grain Day today. Whole grains (unlike white grains) are unprocessed, they keep all the nutritional quality in the grain and make foods with whole grains in them more nutritionally dense. Foods including, brown bread, brown pasta, whole grain cereal, brown rice and popcorn all benefit from whole grains and higher nutritional density.
Join us on International Whole Grain Day 2021 and take on the challenge of only eating whole grain, nutritionally dense food, today. We will be.