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Functional foods and diet divergence

Previous post in this series introduced some background data about food prices and food choices. Closing notes had a bunch of questions to ponder:

  • Are we arriving at healthy food choices or are we eating with our eyes?
  • Is home cooking on a steep decline?
  • How important is it to know where our food comes from and what we eat?
  • Do we really care about having organic food?

Broadly speaking, food choice can be influenced by the following factors:

Recent years, food has transformed to functional foods, definition for which goes as follows:

A functional food is a food given an additional function (often one related to health-promotion or disease prevention) by adding new ingredients or more of existing ingredients.The term may also apply to traits purposely bred into existing edible plants, such as purple or gold potatoes having enriched anthocyanin or carotenoid contents, respectively. Functional foods may be “designed to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions, and may be similar in appearance to conventional food and consumed as part of a regular diet”.

There are a few terms that is really queer about this definition: designed, similar in apperance to conventional food, traits purposely bred into existing plants, health-promotion,etc., These terms are preceisly why this series is named food engineering. We are presented with enough articles/information/tailored-information these days that can get us to easily buy the concept of enriched food/engineered food to meet nutritional demands.

Key factors for functional food demand

A recent survey of food processors suggested that around 63% of the companies are involved in producing functional foods.

Most common functional food categories include:

So this now led me to think about, why do we need these functional foods. If not for some health ailment, why would we actually look at food supplements? Fortunate for me, (ThinkWithGoogle)[] published their 2016 Global food trends and these are the key data points from there:

Given they have these issues and google, they now chose to see what functional food helped them get away with these issues:

Something as common(in indian cusine) as turmeric is now considered to be a power food.

Its just not the case with turmeric, but with most common spices like cardamom pods, ginger, etc., :

Given this is global trends, our next stop is to compare how far our diets have diverged for the past few decades. National Geographic channel has an interactive map of diet similarilty and here is the snapshot of the same.

Prime takeaway from all these colorful graphics, diet across the world is starting to look similar and that is the reason for food processor companies minting money like never before.