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Interoception and some food education
For Sanskriti: food is love
Becoming an adult means looking after your wellness and nutrition, and I realize that it’s very correlated to my mental and physical performance (obviously). My body is acting a beeper, and the more I listen to it, the more I become aware of how certain foods affect my body’s sensitivities.
Of course, if I could make something today that would calculate every biometric possible, I would. Ultimately, that would be worth its weight in gold — real-time quantified updates about all of your biological processes. The core reason I’ve been cultivating interoception is to take all the steps I can to create room for excellent mental and physical performance. The food we eat is definitely a big part of what affects our body’s performance, and I want to write some thoughts down I’m learning as a part of my adulthood.
Food in Europe vs. United States
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how the food we eat in the United States has been reportedly different from the food my friends tell me about in Europe. I’ve been anecdotally told that the food in Europe seems healthier. Some of my friends told me that their diet there caused them to lose weight, and some of my European friends have told me that coming to the United States and eating here has caused them to gain weight. It’s definitely important to assign the right causality, but I suspect food has something to do with it. So, I went down the rabbit hole.
There are a few reasons why food in Europe feels healthier and tastes better:
Fresh ingredients: Many European countries are known for having a strong food culture, focusing on using fresh, high-quality ingredients in cooking. This could contribute to the perceived difference in taste.
Different cooking methods: European cuisine often uses different cooking methods, such as slow roasting or braising, which can enhance the flavors of the food.
Regional specialties: Europe has a diverse range of regional cuisines, each with its own unique ingredients and flavor profiles, which can contribute to the perception that food tastes better in Europe.
Portions: It seems like some countries like France have smaller food portion sizes than American food portions and it contributes to their better diet in comparison.
The EU bans several pesticides, hormones, and GMOs widely used in foods grown or in the U.S. These include: Growth hormones in meat animals. Beef hormones. rBGH (a hormone in dairy cattle).
European diets tend to be higher in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, and lower in processed foods and added sugars, which can contribute to better health outcomes.
In the United States, many artificial or engineered substances are frequently added to foods to enhance flavor, preserve freshness, or improve texture. Some of these substances can have negative health effects and are considered unhealthy when consumed in excess:
High fructose corn syrup: A sweetener that is often used to sweeten processed foods and drinks. Excessive consumption of high fructose corn syrup has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, are often used in low-calorie or diet foods. Some studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners may have negative health effects, such as increasing the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and other health problems.
Trans fats: Trans fats are artificially created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid. They are often used in processed foods and fast food items and have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG): MSG is a flavor enhancer that is often used in processed foods and Asian cuisine. Some people experience negative symptoms, such as headaches and flushing, after consuming foods containing MSG.
Food coloring: Food coloring is often used to enhance the appearance of processed foods, but some artificial food colorings have been linked to negative health effects, such as an increased risk of hyperactivity in children.
Sodium: Many processed foods are high in sodium, contributing to high blood pressure and other health problems.
BHA and BHT: These preservatives are often added to processed foods to extend their shelf life, but they have been linked to negative health effects, including endocrine disruption, cancer and liver damage.
Partially hydrogenated oils: Like trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils are artificially created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid. They are often used in processed foods, and like trans fats, they have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Artificial flavors: Artificial flavors are often used in processed foods to enhance their flavor, but they can be made from various potentially harmful chemicals.
Carrageenan: Carrageenan is a thickening agent that is often added to processed foods, including dairy products, to improve their texture. Some studies have suggested that carrageenan may contribute to inflammation and other health problems.
Of course, it’s good to note that individual factors such as genetics and lifestyle play a role as well. But, it seems to me that as a whole, we can learn a lot from European food culture as we increasingly care about healthy eating in the U.S.
How will our food change in the coming decades?
As we grow more technologically advanced and grow in economic capacity, our food will change too. What’s important is to think carefully about what might happen because this very well might be the normal that the next few generations grow up with:
Increased focus on plant-based diets: With growing concerns about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, it's possible that more people will adopt plant-based diets, leading to a rise in the demand for and production of vegetarian and vegan foods.
Emergence of lab-grown meat: With advancements in cellular agriculture, it's possible that lab-grown meat will become a more common food source, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional animal-based meat.
Rise of vertical farming: As population growth puts pressure on traditional agriculture, it's possible that vertical farming will become more widespread, allowing for food production in urban areas and reducing the need for transportation.
Use of technology in agriculture: The use of technology, such as precision agriculture, drones, and AI, is likely to become more widespread, leading to more efficient and sustainable food production (hopefully we won’t be swallowing computerized chips for breakfast).
I had to include this: Indian sci-fi film including a robot having computerized chips for breakfast 😂
New food products: With the increasing emphasis on healthy eating, it's likely that new food products will emerge, such as functional foods and nutraceuticals, which offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
Greater use of alternative protein sources: With the increasing demand for sustainable and animal-free protein sources, there may be a rise in the use of alternative protein sources such as insects, algae, and fermented foods.
Personalized nutrition: With the advancement of technology and the increasing availability of genetic and health data, it's possible that there will be a shift towards personalized nutrition, where people's diets are tailored to their individual needs.
Increased interest in local and organic food: There may be a growing trend towards eating locally-sourced and organic food, as people become more aware of the environmental and health benefits of such foods.
I leave you with some food for thought and also some extra resources I came across in my rabbit hole:
Interoceptive Awareness Skills for Emotion Regulation: Theory and Approach of Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy (MABT): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5985305/
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