Here we are again, January and its cohorts of New Year's resolutions; the aspirations to change your habits for the better. We’re here to help you make long lasting positive changes by learning more about the food you consume!
We are living today in a world of paradox: we benefit from a multitude of choices, a food system that produces more than we need; yet much of our overfed Western population is also somehow malnourished.
Quantity and Quality
The intricacies of what we need from food were understood only recently: it’s not all about quantity, but also quality - think back to scurvy on British ships until the 19th century. Cooked and processed food were widely available as they store for long periods but sailors were lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables and sailors suffered this terrible disease primarily due to Vitamin C deficiencies.
Here is a zoomed out explanation to give you some context to this issue:
These are broken down into 3 groups:
The average person in the West gets ample amounts of these Macronutrients, taking us leaps and bounds from the past where the many suffered from food scarcity. There is a lot of nuance to this: e.g. evidence shows that some demographics, namely elderly individuals, aren't getting a healthy amount of protein in their diet. Another thing to consider is the source of our Macronutrients, e.g. the types of fats and carbohydrates we consume and how these affect our body.
These are broken down into 4 categories:
Water-soluble Vitamins (B Vitamins and, Vitamin C),
Fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin, A, D, E, K),
Macro Minerals (Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Chloride, Potassium and Sulphur) and
Trace Minerals (Iron, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Iodine, Fluoride, Selenium).
This is a long list that no one is expected to remember, but helps us understand the variety of micronutrients we need and the fact that they will come from different types of food and will react differently to how you consume them: raw or cooked or blended or baked etc.
These elements are absolutely necessary to the proper functioning of our bodies; they are needed in small quantities but the body cannot manufacture them itself. In the past, micronutrients deficiencies occurred because food available was not varied enough - sea biscuits for months on end or cabbage soup all winter anyone? However today the food system does not offer us the promises that our full and colourful supermarket shelves lead us to believe.
In a nutshell...
...our food doesn’t deliver on two accounts:
Intensive agriculture takes its toll on the quality of food: vegetables and fruits are less nutritious than they used to be - some studies show that an apple can be 100 times less nutritious than it was 50 years ago.
Overprocessing food takes away the nutrients that were still present in the raw ingredients. You would struggle to find the same micronutrients in an industrial lasagna sauce as in a tomato grown in a nonna’s backyard in Sicily!
Simple tips to improve your micronutrients intake and absorption:
Eat fresh, local and seasonal - the more local your food, the fresher it should be which means it will have retained most nutrients. A lettuce freshly harvested from your Square Mile Farms tower or wall just a few hours ago is just about as fresh as it gets!
Eat more whole foods and aim for a variety - We should be eating around 30 different types of food every week to cover all our needs, from various groups: leafy greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, legumes and wholegrains. Did you know coffee counts as one? Most of us tick off this one every day!
Cook it yourself - boil or steam your vegetables and keep the cooking water (which contains nutrients) for a soup, or use as stock.
Aim for a varied and multicoloured diet - use multi-vitamins only as an “insurance” if you think your diet doesn’t cover all your needs.
Grow it yourself? What’s more local than growing yourself! - Growing your own herbs is a great way to start and add some extra flavour to your dishes. Check out our blog on how to keep supermarket herbs alive here.
Square Mile Farms bring vertical, urban farming to city dwellers. We aim to bring people closer to food production and help to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living. Find out more about our offering and get in touch here with any queries. You can also follow us on social media to stay up to date with our journey, find us on Instagram and LinkedIn.