Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – From Difficult to Super Easy (Part 1)

Over the past few weeks we looked at some of the subtle, and not so subtle, changes that occurred in human nutrition over the past few decades. The purpose of this series is not to suggest that previous generations consisted of ‘food saints’ who always ate perfectly balanced meals. It is rather to show how we fundamentally changed our relationship with food, often with disastrous results. It is my belief that these shifts had a disproportionate impact on those struggling with the effects of ADD/ADHD. The reason for this belief is the extraordinary sensitivity of the ‘ADD/ADHD Brain’ to factors that hinder, even in minor ways, optimum brain function.
The shifts that we looked at over the past few weeks were: 1) Natural to Artificial 2) Scarce to Superabundant
With this week’s article we will begin to discuss a shift that is perhaps a bit more difficult to pin down than the two mentioned above but that are no less significant. I am referring to the historical perception that food almost always equalled hard work.
Most people, especially those responsible for getting meals to the table, would perhaps unreservedly welcome the fact that this is not always the case anymore. The fact that we do not have to spend days and months cultivating our own food, followed with hours behind the stove to prepare it, has undeniable benefits. Time previously spent in food preparation can now be used for leisure or work in other areas. I am, of course, not advocating a return to the time when the main meal of the day took, on average, four hours to prepare. I am merely asking you to consider what we as a society lost due to the fact that it is now possible to put the words ‘easy’ and ‘fast’ before so much of what we eat. Consider the following:
The cost of ease of access: Modern methods of cultivation and distribution means that we have left the link between cultivation (or hunting!) and consumption far behind. While there was nothing romantic about tilling the fields, previous generations were in no doubt about where their food came from. These days our food can just as easily come from the other side of the world as from a farm in your county (with the former perhaps more likely). Most of us do not spend any time thinking about this fact, aside perhaps from the occasional amused glance at a food label spelling out the name of some obscure third world country. Our forebears couldn’t help thinking about the origins of their food – especially since they had to gather, hunt or cultivate it themselves. Our foods often have much more ‘interesting’ stories but we can afford not to worry too much about where it came from. Or can we? Foods shipped from the other side of the world are a) often grown with the help of pesticides that are banned in North America and b) Preserved with chemicals that could have a marked negative effect on optimum brain function.
The cost of ease of preparation: We spend less and less time preparing for mealtimes. On one level this is perhaps not a bad thing as it frees up time for other activities. We need to realise however that the trend towards ‘food on the fly’ is not without consequences. We need to remember that: a) Faster methods are often much less healthy (think slow cooker vs. deep fryer!) b) ‘Ready meals’ can contain ridiculous amounts of salt and saturated fats c) In some cases ease of preparation is down to the addition of chemicals to aid the cooking process or to act as preservatives.
I think you will agree, after weighing up the cost, that easy does not necessarily translate into good! It is for this reason that I strongly believe that we have to recapture something of the old ways of thinking about food. It is, of course, a bit of a challenge to think about food as ‘difficult’ when you know full well that access and preparation is relatively uncomplicated. Next week’s article will focus on ways in which we can rebuild our lost ‘connection’ with food that will allow us to value it as a precious and life giving gift. I believe it is possible, as I will show, to do so without having to engage in the back breaking work and long hours in front of the stove that used to characterise food cultivation and preparation. See you next week!