Now trending: Chia seeds
Though food fads and diet trends come and go, there is usually some part of each regime that becomes imbedded in our culture, at least for some time. Back in the 70s, the Scarsdale diet, which gained exceptional notoriety due to the murder of the creator, Herman Tarnower, by a jilted lover, promoted more fat over carbohydrate. By the 80s, fat — and in particular cholesterol — were under the spotlight and the humble egg, butter and standard milk became the demons of the decade. Now eggs, sanctioned as okay, are still fighting that battle, yet it’s 40 years on.
We were overtaken by pasta; the nutrient-packed potato was on the outer as we scoffed down low-fat dairy foods, low-fat baked goods and bowl-loads of starchdense pasta with low-fat tomato-based sauces in an effort to be healthy.
The 90s was the beginning of real change. With the internet explosion, information on food, diets and recipes was only a click away, and the line between truth and fallacy became harder to delineate. Food had to be more convenient, prepared faster and even transportable. E numbers had not yet invaded us, though GE tomatoes had begun their inroads, adding fuel to the debate both for and against GE.
It was a decade of juxtapositions — for every step forward, another went sideways. Should we follow the latest guru, diet regime, and relentless gym workouts or competent dietitian with seemingly mundane messages of good food with taste, enjoyed with a walk.
Come the new millennium, a new star in the name of Dr Atkins came to bedazzle us. His offenders — starch and low-fat foods (low-fat options had increased starch levels) — were kicked into touch and replaced on the podium by fat and protein.
For anyone having lived through these decades, if you were not confused at this point, it did not take long before you were. In came the “bullet” and pulverised the “merde” out of everything so you could quite literally have a liquid diet on the run. If you had time to sit, you frothed and foamed it all with molecular cuisine and, if still hungry, you simply put avocado on any bread that contained seeds and all would be fine.
What’s trending today? Well, if you’ve not got into gut health, it’s time you did. Top of the pops are fermented foods — kombucha and sauerkraut or kimchi, along with the new foods, quinoa (grain) and chia seeds (seed) both marketed as superfoods, due to their much-reported nutrient content and low levels of sugars, fats and salts.
While these new options, with their new besties — nuts, grains and berries — add inspiring variety, just as pasta did back in the 80s and couscous in the 90s, they should not take over from a diet that features a balance of many foods. For every swing left or right the diet pendulum takes, the centre is where it will sit best.
Research shows us our biggest concerns regarding food are labelling of GE foods and additives, neither of which really bear much impact on our nutritional requirements. (I can hear the anti-additive brigade frothing as I write this, but additives are another topic for another day.)
We still have some of the worst levels of obesity and rocketing levels of diabetes, so whatever food or diet craze or fad that has been, whatever fad we follow now or may be influenced to try next, they will not be a panacea for overeating or eating nutritionally deficient foods. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) theory is truly the spice of a good life when it comes to eating.
Chia — a South American relative of the mint family — has tiny black or white seeds. Usually consumed after swelling in liquid, chia seeds can also be toasted and scattered on a salad, adding a delightful crunch. Softened in liquid — fruit juice, milk, water — chia seeds, which are high in vegetable protein and fibre (and calcium) are easily digested and, as they release their energy slowly, they help keep blood sugar levels stable.