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  • Courtney Cheah

THE OLD MADE NEW - observations on recent health trends

They say that fashion runs in cycles, that everything old comes around and is made new again. I believe it’s the same with health.


Over the last century, great advances have been made in technology, and I feel this has been a double edged sword. Technology in how food is grown, processed and packaged has given us greater convenience, but over the last few decades we have also seen an explosion of highly processed, nutritionally bankrupt foods in our supermarkets and subsequently our diets.


Trends in food nowadays are seeing a return to ‘whole, real food’. The thing is, what we call ‘whole, real food’ today is what our grandparents and their antecedents simply called ‘food’. It’s human intervention that has created a need to go back to food as it is found in nature, and to mess with it less. We know that a piece of fruit is much more nutritionally dense than a bag of potato chips.


I have also noticed an increase in trending towards intermittent fasting, which essentially advocates leaving longer stretches of time between dinner and breakfast. I attending a gut health seminar recently that was hosted by a naturopath/nutritionist, who noted her own positive experience with eating dinner early with her children, around 5pm. In the days before electricity, people would often eat dinner early to take advantage of the light, before turning in with the sun. This would have been the pattern for hundreds of years; only since electricity made it easy for us to stay up later has the trend of eating dinner later come into vogue (apart from the upper classes, who could afford candles).


In a broader sense, it is also interesting to note how healthcare has taken a turn towards the natural in recent years. Over the last century, medicine has made amazing advances; but the public is starting to recognise a need for holistic healthcare in addition to the mainstream model. A study published by NCBI in 2018 states that “prevalence of complementary medicine use in Australia has remained consistently high, demonstrating that complementary medicine is an established part of contemporary health management practices within the general population”. Another study, published by RACGP in 2017 states that “complementary and alternative medicine is estimated to be used by up to two out of three Australians, and accounts for $3.5 billion in expenditure every year”.


I also feel that a focus on the natural approach to food and wellness encompasses the push towards looking after our environment as well. Much-needed movements to reduce plastic usage and waste that we are seeing gaining traction now go hand in hand with the practice of eating more whole, real food. For example, fruit comes in its own biodegradable packaging (its skin). Processed food almost always comes in some kind of synthetic packaging, usually plastic, often unrecyclable, and certainly not biodegradable.


So, as much as I harbour a general antithesis towards any kind of fad, I hope that the trend towards embracing eating whole, real food (or ‘food’ as it was formerly known) is here to stay. It appears to me to be a win-win situation in terms of looking after both ourselves and the planet.




This article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to give personal health advice. For more information see your health care practitioner.



References

Weaver, Dr Libby. (2016). Women’s Wellness Wisdom. Auckland: Little Green Frog.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6251890/

https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2017/may/patterns-of-complementary-and-alternative-medicine-use-and-health-literacy-in-general-practice-patients-in-urban-and-regional-australia/


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