As the problem of obesity continues to spread throughout the world, the eating habits of people are placed under scrutiny. Fast-food chains and fatty foods sold at stores and supermarkets are blamed for being the cause of the weight and health problems seen in most countries. As technological advances caused the world to change, food and eating habits are also affected. In this essay, I will discuss the so-called age of nutritionism and the state of the food and eating habits in the Western world, particularly in the U. S.
I will also look at the cultural aspect of food habits and examine the cultural shift in the eating habits of people around the world, particularly in the Western world. The Age of Nutritionism The term nutritionism was coined by Australian sociologist Gyorgy Scrinis in 2002 whereby in his essay, he suggested that with regard to the connection between the bodies of people and food intake, it is important to understand how nutritional and chemical constitutents and requirements interact among food and bodies (Pollan 27). However, the term should not be confused with nutrition.
Nutritionism is an ideology, not a scientific subject (28). The concept of the said ideology is to emphasize on nutrients that comprise the food rather than the food itself. This is one of the untested assumptions of nutritionism. The other is that, the maintenance and promotion of bodily health is the main idea behind the act of eating (29). There are some food experts and nutritionists who are expressing concern regarding the nutritionism concept, worried that the said idea may cause unfavorable results in how we view food and its effect on the human body.
The two abovementioned assumptions are indicative of the fallacies and dangers that are regarded in this age of nutritionism. Focusing on nutrients is one fallacy that needs to be addressed. Under the notion of nutritionism, food is simply a delivery system for nutrients. The isolation of nutrients does not make a person healthy due to the fact that the body does not absorb the isolated nutrients. The human digestion is a complex process that remains a mystery to this day and research claims that most of the anti-oxidants taken in supplement form causes the body to be more at risk to cancer (Herculodge, 2010).
Another misconception that arose out of the nutritionism ideology is the low-fat diet. Since WWII, Americans have been caught in the low-fat craze. The results so far have not been pretty as more and more Americans have become fatter. What we didn’t know is that, while we concentrated on eating low-fat foods, we neglected to consider other factors in the said foods such as it contained high-sugar and high-carbohydrates, that is converted into fat and triglycerides, which are the cause of obesity and heart disease (Herculodge, 2010).
Another danger that nutritionism poses to an individual’s health is its emphasis on chemical-based nutrition. Examples include beta-carotene, antioxidants, probiotics, etc. As more and more people were swayed to the idea of nutrients, food companies have capitalized on this by producing processed food and claiming that it is fortified with the chemical-based nutrients that our body needs. This is another misconception due to the fact that fortified processed foods and isolated chemicals do not interact well with human’s bodies, thus, making it a less healthy option (Herculodge, 2010).
Western Diet In his book, Pollan laments on the industrialization of food, referring to it as the “Western Diet,” and how it has caused chronic diseases (10). It is a known fact that the Western world is highly industrialized. As the Western region continues to grow in terms of technological advancements and scientific discoveries, it is not surprising that the food industry has also been changed. As industrialization sets in, signs began to appear indicating that the food industry is moving away from the natural and traditional way and leaning towards an industrialized one.
Pollan (10) describes the changes: the rise of highly processed foods and refined grains; the application of chemicals in plant growing and animal raising; the emergence of modern agriculture resulting in the copiousness of cheap calories of sugar and fat; and the restriction on the human diet, allowing just a few of the staple crops, such as wheat, corn and soy. This is the nature of the Western diet: the disregard for vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while processed foods and meat take the center stage, along with fat and sugar.
Research finds that, by adopting the Western diet, people are more prone to diseases which include cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Pollan (11) finds that nutritionism and the Western diet cause more harm to human bodies rather than help them. Under the notion of nutritionism, the Western diet is modified all the time as various nutrients are adjusted, such as lowering the fat and boosting the protein. Furthermore, nutritionism allows processed foods, which are unhealthy, to be fortified into foods, rather than challenging their supposedly nutritional value.
However, Pollan (12) noted that there is still a way for us to shake off the harmful effects of the so-called Western diet. By keeping in mind the two basic facts about it, we can shift our perspective with regard to the Western diet and thus place ourselves back on the right track of eating. These two facts consist of viewing human historically, as prior to the Western diet, humans have been more healthy by adopting various diets; and that the industrialization of food causes harm to the body rather than the advertised effect. Food Literacy
Pollan (3) also describes the cultural shift that took place in eating habits, same time as the rise of the age of nutritionism. Prior to nutritionism, human history has always followed a long-standing tradition when it comes to food and eating habits. Mothers are considered the authority when it comes to food as they tell us what to eat, how much of it to eat, what order in which to eat it, with what and when and with whom. These are practices that has been passed down from generation to generation and everyone is content and no one questions it.
But with the advent of the age of nutritionism, mothers began to lose their authority in terms of eating habits and food among the family. Scientists and food marketers have wrested control away from the mothers by introducing ideas that are more nutrients-focused, thus, disrupting the traditional ways and lessening the enjoyment that can be gained from eating (Herculodge, 2010). The government has also joined in this unhealthy alliance between scientists and food marketers by implementing confusing dietary guidelines and food-labeling rules (Pollan 3).
Herculodge’s (2010) site also describes a second shift in the culture of food and eating which can be traced back to nutritionism. It refers to the misleading information concerning low-fat diet as it was promoted to be essential to people in order to have a healthy heart and overall good health, when in fact, it actually caused more harm resulting in more Americans experiencing weight problems and health issues. With all the changes that is happening in the global food industry, it is necessary for people to be food literate.
Food literacy is defined as the ability to make health decisions by attaining a capacity to obtain, process and understand basic information about food. The concept of food literacy also encompasses understanding labelling on food and knowledge of nutrition (Wiser Earth, 2007). Looking at the arguments presented above, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own eating habits and I am ashamed to say that I, and most of my acquaintances, have succumbed to the notion of nutritionism and the Western diet, never taking into consideration what harmful effects the food that most of us eat may cause to our bodies.
Like most people in America, I have overindulged in burgers, pizza, fries, chips and lots of food that are unhealthy. The Western diet has indeed been successful in its goal to integrate itself in the eating habits of a majority of people, not just in the Western world, but in other parts as well. The natural and traditional perspectives on food and eating habits are slowly dwindling and it’s only a matter of time until health problems caused by harmful food bog down every nation in the world. A Healthy and Enjoyable Meal In this portion, I will present a meal that has a nutritional value and enjoyable to eat at the same time.
This is what everybody’s food and eating habits need to be, particularly in the U. S. The American culture views eating in relation to health, unlike other cultures that derive pleasure or a sense of community or culture when it comes to eating. This kind of thinking causes more and more Americans to become unhealthy as we develop a single-minded obsession with health that factors associated with eating are disregarded such as family, socialization, even cultural identity. Americans are the first to try anything that they feel is new hoping that it would result in improvement (Herculodge, 2010).
Here is a meal that I have always enjoyed and have partaken many times. It is easy to prepare and it tastes good and I believe has nutritional value. Most of the ingredients are considered to be ideal to be included in a meal and does not allow for processed foods. I got this recipe online when I was looking for something to add to the turkey salad that I usually prepare. Back then, I just used turkey meat, some greens and tomatoes and cheese dressing. Turkey Salad Ingredients: • 4 cups mixed greens • 1/2 medium tomato, sliced • 3 oz turkey breast, sliced • 1/4 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
• 3-1/2 TBS sunflower seeds • 2/3 cup kidney beans Directions: Combine all ingredients and, if you prefer, you can top it with a blue cheese dressing. (Source: WHFoods. com) Works Cited “Healthy Turkey Salad. ” WHFoods. com. The George Mateljean Foundation. n. d. Web. 06 June 2010. “In Defense of Food. ” Breakthrough Writer. Herculodge. Web. 05 June 2010. Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print. Wiser Earth. Food Literacy. 09 Aug 2007. Retrieved from http://www. wiserearth. org/aof/191 in 06 June 2010.