10 years of nutrition: How we're all growing smarter
Since we launched 10 years ago, science has made major breakthroughs about food and its role in our bodies. Here are some of our favourites.
Our nutrition knowledge is constantly evolving. Scientific research from all over the world continues to make exciting new discoveries every day about how the food we eat impacts our physical health, our mental outlook, and even how long we live.
We've learnt a lot of surprising facts over the past decade like processed meat is carcinogenic and good gut bacteria can't thrive in sterile environments. So come take a walk down memory lane with us and see what insights you’ve picked up along the way!
Glycaemic Index judges carbs
One of our cover stories for the first issue of Healthy Food Guide was about the Glycaemic Index (GI). At the time, very little was known about this simple ranking of carbohydrates.
The GI measures how quickly or slowly carbohydrate-rich foods digest. This shows us which foods give us long-lasting energy (these have a low GI) and which provide a rapid burst of energy, followed quickly by a slump (hello cakes, biscuits and sugary treats).
In 2009, the world's biggest diet study found the combination of eating more protein and focusing on low-GI carbs is the most successful way to keep off weight and feel full.
Nowadays we’re pleased to see that many foods display their low-GI symbol on their packaging — making it easier for us to eat a healthy diet.
Allergies break out
There’s been a staggering rise in food allergies, especially nuts, over the past decade. In fact, it’s estimated one in 10 babies will now develop a food allergy.
We still don’t know why this is, but scientists believe diet plays a role, as we’re eating less fresh food and more processed foods than our ancestors did.
Another popular public theory is the hygiene hypothesis — that raising children in environments that are too clean means they're not exposed to the infections and germs which help develop their immune systems.
As science works to find the answer, the great news is there's now a huge range of both healthy and tasty allergy-friendly foods available in stores to cater for people with nut-free, egg-free and dairy-free diets.
Gut health blooms
When HFG began in 2005, the Human Genome Project had just finished mapping the DNA in the human body. At that time, scientists thought this portrait of our genes gave them a complete picture of who we are. But since then, further research has found we’re constantly being moulded by the 100 trillion bacteria that live on and in our bodies.
These small, yet powerful microorganisms have the ability to ‘switch on’ particular genes, with both good and bad effects. They also aid digestion and neutralise invading ‘bad’ bacteria and viruses.
We now know the broader the variety of bacteria living in our gut, the healthier we are. Evidence also shows that if we eat a well-balanced diet, our gut bacteria will be more diverse and healthy too.
Currently the US is analysing every bug to find out the effect of each individual bacterium on our health. What we already know is this: Good gut bacteria thrive on high-fibre foods; fermented products; fewer antibiotics; and an environment that isn’t too sterile.
To help you increase your fibre intake, every meal in HFG gives you at least two of your five daily serves of veg.
Sugar goes toxic
It’s hard to believe only three years have passed since two books, Sweet Poison by David Gillespie and I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, kick-started Australia's current obsession with the sweet stuff.
Our features on sugar have struck a chord with many Healthy Food Guide readers, as have lots of our low-sugar recipes. In fact, a story we ran exposing that a Boost Juice smoothie has more sugar than a can of Coke was viewed by over three million people on Facebook.
It’s heartening to see that the amount of added sugar we’re now eating is actually declining. According to the Sugar Research Advisory Service, the sugar added by manufacturers has dropped by the equivalent of 8.3 kilos per person, per year since the 1970s.
We first touched on coeliac disease and gluten intolerance in 2008. Since then we've put together hundreds of gluten-free recipes, and even an information booklet about how to follow a gluten-free diet and stay healthy.
Interest in this way of eating has exploded in the past couple of years. So you'll find a gluten-free tick on many of our recipes in each issue.
Meanwhile, there has also been an increase in the number of gluten-free foods in supermarkets. It’s fair to say not everything with a gluten-free claim on it is healthy — it’s very possible to gorge on a diet of gluten-free junk food. And whether everyone following a gluten-free diet really needs to is also debatable. But for those who struggle to find quality gluten-free food, more options can only be a good thing!
Plant-based eating blossoms
The phrase “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” was coined in 2008 by writer Michael Pollan. In just seven words he summed up the essence of a healthy diet. There’s often a lot of anxiety around how to eat well and we agree with his relaxed approach.
Pollan's ‘mostly plants’ mantra has piqued the interest of lots of meat-eaters. There’s increasing evidence that cutting back on red meat can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. In fact, the World Health Organisation recently announced that processed meats are carcinogenic. Researchers have found that eating just 50g of cured meat daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
The Meat-Free Monday campaign that began in the US for environmental reasons, has also caught on as a catchphrase among many Australians. So we like to offer you vegetarian meals within all our recipe features. And while our other meals do still include animal products, this growing mindfulness is great for both our health and for the environment.
Eat and be merry
On the cutting edge of nutrition science are studies charting how food plays a key role in stress, anxiety and depression.
In 2010, Melbourne research found women with a wholesome diet experienced far less anxiety and depression. In contrast, those who ate a lot of sugary, fatty and processed foods were more likely to suffer mood disorders. And results can be immediate — just last year another study discovered participants felt more alert and content after 10 days of eating a healthy, unprocessed diet.
As time goes on, we look forward to learning more about nutrition and the body, and sharing the latest news on scientific updates with you. So watch this space!