Where it all began
In the early years of mankind, we had evolved such remarkable characteristics, especially our large thoughtful brains, that we were able to outcompete much physically stronger species such as Neanderthals due our abstract thinking skills of making tools and finding edible food sources through cooking techniques. We used our environment to our advantage in a world flourishing with potential fuel sources that only we understood how to use.
40,000 years on, human beings are being left behind in the technological age that they created, but how did we all become so out of sync with our environments – and with one of the major consequences of this being that we are becoming increasingly malnourished as a population?
From king of the jungle to lost in space
The human brain is a phenomenal machine which has created scientific developments in industrial methods and technological advancements. These have propelled society forwards even more so than imagined in 1960s sci-fi films.
One primary focus in these developments has been the way in which we produce food, with food producers preferring quantity over quality in the crops that are grown and the animals that are reared, as well as using genetic modification to enable the cultivation of inorganic food without the complexities of growing food naturally. Technology has allowed food production on a mass scale, increasing population sizes who require more food – it becomes a viscous cycle, difficult to maintain.
Here I will consider what these evolutions mean for humanity, and how we can make meaningful changes to our diet and wellbeing to survive in this modernistic world.
When did food lose its meaning?
If you look up the definition of the word ‘food’, it refers to a nutritious substance that we can eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth. But how much of the food that we eat today can we truly say should be classified as “food” based on this definition? The food that the majority of us eat nowadays has a high glycaemic load, is low in omega 3 fats and doesn’t contain adequate amounts of minerals and nutrients to justly nourish us anymore, so everyone is getting sick. Depression, heart disease, cancers and autoimmune diseases have all be linked to mineral and nutrient deficiencies, so we need to take action now, so our caveman-like bodies can survive in this futuristic reality.
The nutritional transition
An interesting illustration of the effects of the western lifestyle on human health is in “nutritional transition” whereby healthy populations in Africa become modernised, eat a more western style diet and then start to develop nutrition-related diseases. Although further research needs to be conducted, it provides some noteworthy evidence that our diets and environments have a fundamental impact on our wellbeing, and our current approach to diet is not fit for purpose in the western lifestyle and needs to be revaluated.
The “Paleo” movement has provided some awareness of the mismatch between the diet that humans thrived on as part of the Palaeolithic heritage vs. the low-nutrient dense foods that people consume today. However, the practicalities of eating like a hunter gatherer, as well as the ethical and environmental considerations, are not always suitable in the busy urban lives in which most of us exist – there needs to be an alternative that complements our means, rather than trying to eat like our ancestors who lived in a very different world.
Functional foods of the future
Fortified foods enriched with vitamins and nutrients which are also low in sugar and saturated fats, are potential solutions to bridge the gap between our humanly requirements and the nutritional limitations of this new age. A new functional food revolution is emerging, whereby innovative convenient nutrient dense foods are being created to ensure your survival in these new metropolises that we set to conquer.
Japan is ahead of the curve in this game, with its “FOSHU” (food for specified health use) categorised foods which propose a new purposeful way of consuming food. Eating with purpose might not only be the trend of the future, but also an evolutionary advantage in the survival of mankind. Do you want to be left behind?
Many foods in themselves are already “functional” in nature including dark chocolate, blueberries, and green tea. Various new products are appearing on the market including drinks, snacks and even wine, which are aligning to this functional concept, so you can now make considered choices in the shopping aisle to optimise your wellbeing in this ever-evolving world.
A new human strategy
Strategic living and life enhancing approaches to the way we eat and live seems the most intelligent response to the disparity between the human body and these new-fangled surroundings that we find ourselves in. Our food needs to rightly support us to achieve a unity.
By bringing food back to its initial purpose in our lives: for nourishment and nutrition rather than eating “empty calorie” foods that have no sustenance, we can change our health and wellbeing, the way we feel and the impact we have on other people.
Here is one for you to ponder as you move through your daily lives: food with nutritional benefit is really just food; anything else you eat is essentially a fraud – at least in terms of health and wellbeing.