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The Evolution of Health Food
Nov 4, 2021

While rummaging through my collection of old magazines and torn out newspaper articles (a genetic trait, I’m sure, passed down from my grandmother who kept every tram ticket she ever used for reasons I’ll never know), I came across an article from 1999.

It was both nostalgic and hilarious to see the adverts back then and what was trendy. I shudder at the thought of what I used to wear.

I had kept the article specifically because it was about health, wellness and nutrition – a topic I have always had a keen interest in and still do.

It described a meal plan for maintaining good health and vitality. It suggested what foods to avoid and what foods to introduce or ramp up. Some of it is still relevant today. Some of it – well, is not.

Sugar, as everyone knows, was described as ‘bad’ and in the red box of foods to avoid at all costs. Processed foods like deli meats and crisps were also a no-no.

Here is where it got interesting.

Avocados and eggs were portrayed in a ‘bad light’ due to their high fat and high cholesterol content and should be consumed on rare occasions. There was no mention of raw vegetables other than the inclusion of a salad as a lunch meal. Breakfast consisted of cereal with milk or yoghurt with fruit; dinner suggestions were as simple as a protein with cooked vegetables and a starch. That was healthy eating in the nineties and naughties, how things have changed!

Today we have things called SuperFoods, protein shakes, meal replacements and smoothies.

It used to be a joke, back in the day, when people looked into the future and saw flying cars and meals in the form of pills. They were not too far wrong. I remember meeting a woman from Los Angeles who barely ate anything. Instead of food, she swallowed over 50 different types of supplements a day.

I have always had a bit of a complicated relationship with food. Not that I have an eating disorder, but rather a desperate desire to eat right for my body and give it what it needs when it needs it. Recognising what this is is hard! The pressure I put on myself and the time spent researching and experimenting is exhausting, to be honest.

Nowadays, it seems much more complicated with various foods that arrived out of nowhere.

(I am still of the opinion that Kale comes from another planet and is not suitable for human consumption). Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), chia seeds, coconut water, gluten-free pasta and wheatgrass shots came onto the scene around the introduction of social media. Anyone with an internet connection could position themselves as “experts” and create compelling, but often misleading, messages about what is healthy and what diets to follow.

We are faced now with the dilemma of deciphering what is ‘opinion’ versus medical fact and what is ‘right’ for our body versus the latest fad. And more often than not, we have to use our common sense.

Food, at its most basic, is fuel for the body to function optimally.

Instead, we indulge in it, we abuse it, we used it as a tool for discipline and control (“finish your food because there are starving kids out there”. “If you clean your room, I’ll give you a sweetie”), and it is often the very reason and focus of all our social gatherings.

Going back to the article I found – there, right on the opposite page, was a full-page advertisement that would draw anyone’s attention. A gorgeous woman, wearing a rather small bikini, standing suggestively next to a hunky man on a yacht surrounded by crystal clear water and blue sky, both looking so healthy, fit and tanned. An almost perfect image portrayal of the adjacent article about health. It was then where I had to giggle. The advert was for none other than Peter Styvatsen cigarettes.

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