From the 20th to the 21st century, people from Europe and North America have changed their diet based on vegetables and cereal into one of excessive milk, meat and pre-cooked food. The industrialization of the food sector, the food and gastronomic globalization, fast-food, the increasing consumption of food additives as well as standardization at the expense of native cuisine, are just some of the main changes.
In opposition to these sources of disease and obesity habits, there were also nutritional discoveries, the reassessment of the family, an increase in cooking blogs, high performance cooking utensils and innovative gastronomic trends, which are creating social awareness around food as an investment in health.
A change of habits
The turn of the century has produced new habits due to the incorporation of women to work, an increase in living standards and the growth of food industry “The new ways of processing food that humanity discovered created healthier food”, says Michael Pollan, an American journalist that specializes in food. “Food industry -says Pollan- is the main responsible for us giving up on cooking. (…) Food has been wisely manipulated to be addictive and very hard to stop eating”.
According to the report “Consumption and consumer trends in the 21st century” of the National Consumption Institute of Spain (Instituto Nacional del Consumo de España) the 21st century reveals a marked tendency of buying spicier food with an increment in frozen goods, that we dedicate less time buying and cooking with a tendency to a single-course meal, that we eat more pre-cooked and delivered food watching TV, and finally, that there’s a tendency to be on periodic diets.
The counter-revolution towards health through feeding
“Over the last 30 years we have allowed food industry to cook for us and I think that it’s time to realize that it has been a failed experience”, proclaims Pollan. Different phenomenons prove that part of the population understood it in the same way:
- The expansion of organic farming that gives quality and added values to natural products
- Preventive campaigns for food-related diseases
- Sharing of family recipes on culinary blogs
- Massive sales of quality utensils for a healthier cooking
- Emergence of food for specific groups
- A new concept of functional food
Nutrition, a science fashion
Since 1950, when the first classic book about Nutrition was published after years of wars, famine and malnutrition, there has been a huge circulation of Nutrition, diet and health information on mass media and the Internet. Healthy nutrition searches have increased by 30% on average since 2004 in the United States.
These are the top trending topics in searches of the last 12 months:
The huge amount of information and interests also cause a “misinformation” effect or fake myths that confuse people, such as eggs being the source of high cholesterol. To face this problem Institutions have emerged in different countries to become an authorized voice in nutritional information. Nowadays, for example, is common for chronic diseases concerning diet such as diabetes or heart trouble, that hospitals and medical groups -such as the American Diabetes Association-, create self-help communities supported by patients, which guarantee true information.
Blogs encourage home-made cooking
The legacy of gastronomic wisdom passed from mother to daughter has vanished with the change of habits. Nowadays, few dishes are prepared which are learned through practice.
Men and women that did received that cooking legacy were worried about its downfall and decided to make use of new technologies to share their legacy through a blog. Their educational vocation has produced an increase in people’s interest for easy and delicious home-made cooking. “In addition, there was a comeback of high-quality iron pans, like those used by our grandparents, that retain and enhance the original taste of food without using chemical non-sticks”, explains Lecuine, one of the main european kitchenware e-commerces.
According to the Mapfre Foundation report “Food and society in the Spain of the 21st century (“Alimentación y sociedad en la España del siglo XXI”) those who cook at home today, decide -what to cook- depending on (in this order): home members’ tastes, health, their own taste, price, balance and ingredients of the dish, which reveals a concern on what is being eaten.
“Cooking isn’t hard -says Karlos Arguiñano, one of the most famous chefs in Spain. You can prepare lentils in 40 or 50 minutes. And you don’t have to look after them”. Bloggers are responsible for this change of mind on cooking as an activity for specific moments that can be quickly done, in tune with our times, rather than an obligation.
There’s also a new generation of mothers and fathers that share their experience as parents, gathering to generate a collective awareness on education and their sons’ diet: What kind of men and women of the future are we creating?
Specific diet needs are introduced into supermarkets
The 21st century is about low-calories diet, light food and enriched milk… but also about the gluten-free and lactose-free diet, reduced in salt and sugar, cholesterol-free, and that of the responsibility to inform about the origin of fresh food and its traceability. Also, those groups with special needs on their diets are targets for industrial products and bloggers recipes within a society that is starting to be aware about nutritional differences.
Today there are also emerging diet sectors such as energetic food for athletes, multigrain and seeds for kids, or those for pregnancy or the elderly… Cities are witnesses of the appearance of brand-new organic and vegetarian shops in their neighbourhoods that promote and educate on a healthy diet, while ecological vegetable gardens distribute to them or home deliver their products. The world is getting aware of the fact that there’s not unique diet but nutritional needs according to age, habits, health and personal preferences.
Food is physical and mental well-being
“There are some specific natural ingredients that are able to play an important role in prevention and treatment of certain diseases”, says Ascensión Marcos, Director of the Nutrition and Bromatology Institute of the CSIC, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Recent scientific Research has created the concept of functional food, which is able to give us more than pure nutritional benefits, in a natural way or just with an artificial added ingredient.
“Countries such as the United States of America have experienced a spectacular rise of the functional food market with an investment of 17.000 million dollars, followed by Europe with 14.000 million dollars. According to estimates, In 2010 functional food will move around 80.000 million dollars, which represents a 5% of the food market worldwide”, claims “El Cultural” Magazine.
“The evidence that a healthy diet is one of the bases of health has been consolidating in our lifestyle over the last years”, affirms on the presentation of the report “New food for new needs” (“Nuevos alimentos para nuevas necesidades”) the Institute of Public Health of Spain. In the report, it provides the information that “32% of european consumers consider health when consuming food. In the United States, 52% of consumers think that food could replace medicine and 70% know about certain food components that could prevent cancer”.
Today, food is expected to help with aging while maintaining a good quality of life. Anti-age diets are also a big growing sector.
“Without almost realizing, the members of a developed society are changing food habits for those of diet food, from buying and consuming food to the nutrients, from concerns on healthy food to nutritionism, and from the ideal of a healthy diet to that of an optimal diet”, concludes Luis Amaia Álvarez on his report “Life and food Studies”. This is another effect of the social awareness of the world we live in.
- That’s how the spanish ate and eat: How our diet has changed in 50 years – El Confidencial
- “The evolution of diet in the 21st century” – María Tagle, Anales de la Universidad de Chile
- The evolution of food and food habits in the 21st century – José Ramón Tormo Capsir
- “Food and society in the 21st century Spain”
- Consuming and consumer trends in the 21st century – Instituto Nacional del Consumo de España
- Five recipes of Karlos Arguiñano to eat and hook up well – El confidencial
- The diet of the 21st century – El cultural
- “New food por emerging needs” – Instituto de Salud Pública de España
- Life and food studies – Luis Álvarez Munárriz, catedrático de Antropología social de la Universidad de Murcia, Amaia Álvarez De Luis, profesora de Biología en el IES “Sierra de Leyre” de Sangüesa, Navarra, Gazeta de Antropología