The Greek physician Hippocrates famously stated to “let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” Even before the use of scientific studies there was a known correlation between your diet and how you feel, both mentally and physically.
In 1747 the first controlled nutritional experiment was carried out by James Lind, which showed that the Navy’s high death toll from scurvy was due to a lack of dietary nutrients. Since then people have been saturated with nutritional information.
However, a number of organisations have released nutritional guidelines that contradict with one another, making it increasingly difficult to determine exactly what is a “healthy” diet and how to follow one. For example, we have been told for many decades that fat is bad for us, but new evidence is coming to light which suggests that fat may be good, while carbs are not. It is hard to know that foods to choose.
As processed food and a sedentary lifestyle are on the increase in the UK, there is more of a demand to understand and follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Supermarkets use the allure of quick and easy food, filled with flavour-enhancing chemicals, to attract consumers. Pesticides are now found in around 46 per cent of fruit and vegetables and contribute to the lack of nutrients in the average UK diet.
It is thought that these chemicals seep into the soil and affect the soil’s mineral content. A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average iron levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 37 per cent, while vitamin C levels dropped by 30 per cent.
The majority of people have fallen into the trap of eating cheap foods that are easy to buy, and take minimal time and skill to prepare, but fail to fuel the various metabolic processes that are necessary for life. With two thirds of our calories coming from corn, wheat, soy and rice, it is easy to understand why 60 per cent of deaths worldwide are due to chronic diseases.
Because many people are on a budget, they neglect their nutritional needs in order to save money. Buying a variety of foods from all food groups can be quite costly, so consequently many people may opt out of buying the high-fibre fruit and vegetables, lean meats and whole grain carbohydrates that they require.
In addition to the amount of nutrients a diet contains, the overall number of calories has a direct impact on weight and body composition. The primary function of food is to be broken down and used as energy to fuel essential metabolic processes, but when the intake of food is too high, excess energy is stored in the body as fat. Obesity can lead to a myriad of conditions including cancer, coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.