From cleanses and raw veganism to the clean eating and paleo diets, it seems that every day there is news about some new super-nutrient, super diet, or super food that promises to help us to be healthier, smarter, happier, fight disease, lose weight, or live longer. Some of this information propels temporary food or diet fads, some of it is subsequently discredited, and some becomes staid wisdom of healthy eating. It structures the way we eat and consume, the research agendas of food scientists, and the ways in which food companies market their products, and therefore the ways in which the global food system is built. It also affects the environment, food and animal ethics, political and social movements, public policy, and, of course, our health.
Food and Nutrition: What Everyone Needs to Know looks at food systems globally and historically to explain how food production, diets, and nutrition science have changed across time. It will begin with chapters on contemporary diets and nutritional problems, food revolutions (from the birth of agriculture to genetic food technologies), basic concepts in nutrition science, food choices and the evolution of human taste preferences, the politics of food environments, modern food production and its effects on human health, and the environmental costs of food production. Food and Nutrition will then dive into the nutrition and ethics of animal-based diets, beverages, plant-based diets, nutrition guidelines and food labels, and food technologies. Ultimately this book provides an overview of the contemporary relationship between humans, land, and food, and explores the sustainability of consumption patterns on our health.
1. Introduction: What We Eat and Why It Matters
- What exactly is food, and what does it represent?
- What do today's diets look like around the world?
- Are there problems with today's food system?
- What are today's major nutritional problems in the world?
- Are there solutions to today's food problems?
- Is there currently a food revolution?
2. Hunter-Gatherers to Twenty-First Century Humans: How Revolutions,
- Discoveries, and Inventions Shape our Diet
- Hunter-gatherers: How did early humans eat during the Paleolithic era?
- The discovery of fire: How does cooking impact food and health?
- The birth of agriculture: How did humans eat and produce food during the Neolithic Revolution?
- What other food practices arose globally during the course of early human history?
- What is the nutrition transition?
- How and why did the Industrial Revolution impact food production?
- What is the Green Revolution, and how did it impact human health and the environment?
- What is the genetic revolution, and how does it impact food production?
- How have the digital and information revolutions impacted what and how we eat?
- Food technology: What major food inventions have shaped how we eat throughout human history?
3. Essential Nutrition: Science, History, and Health
- What is nutrition, and what makes nutrition a "science"?
- Nutrition basics: What are macronutrients, micronutrients, and phytonutrients?
- Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates: How are they different, and why is it important?
- Nutrition history: Undernutrition, vitamin discoveries, and synthesis
- Nutrification: How has nutrition knowledge been applied to create healthier foods?
- Twentieth century nutrition: Overnutrition, modern diets, and chronic diseases
- Beyond single nutrients and foods: The whole (diet) is greater than the sum of its parts
- New directions in nutrition: Personalized nutrition, genetics, and lifestyle
- New directions in nutrition: Nutritional ecology and food systems
- Nutrition confusion: Why are there so many different opinions on what to eat for health?
- How can eaters distinguish between evidence-based nutrition science and junk science?
4. Food Choice: Why We Eat What We Do
- What are the major factors influencing peoples' food choices?
- What are the five dominant tastes humans can detect?
- Do humans innately prefer sweet, salty, and fatty foods, or is it learned behavior?
- Do food preferences differ among people around the world?
- Are our taste buds genetically determined?
- How does the food environment impact our taste preferences?
- Does food advertising impact what people buy?
- Taste elasticity: Given our genetic proclivities, can our food preferences change?
5. Today's Food Environments: How and Where We Eat
- Who grows their own food?
- Food dollars: Where do people today spend money on food, and how much does it cost?
- The rise of supermarkets, restaurants, and fast food
- Do people today cook at home, and is it important?
- Eating elsewhere: Cafeterias, school, workplaces, and institutions
- What are farmers markets, and what role do they play in health and sustainability?
- What is CSA (community supported agriculture), and who participates in CSAs?
- Food on the road: Street food to food trucks
6. Modern Food Production Methods and Implications for Health
- What is the difference between "conventional" and "sustainable" agriculture?
- What does organic really mean?
- What does "eating local" really mean?
- What is the difference between "wild caught" and "farmed" fish?
- What is a GMO (i.e., genetically modified organism), and are they hazardous to health and the environment?
- What does "natural" mean and are "natural" foods safer?
- What is food processing, and what are "processed foods"?
- What is a "whole" food?
- Are canned and frozen foods less healthy than fresh?
- What is gluten, is it dangerous, and why are so many foods "gluten-free"?
- What about all of those other labels on food packages: fair trade, rainforest certified, and beyond?
7. Environmental Costs of Food Production
- Farm to fork: What is the "Life Cycle Analysis" of food, and why does it matter?
- How much water is used to produce food?
- How much land does growing food require?
- What fuels are commonly used in food production?
- What chemicals used to produce food, and are they necessary?
- Why do we feed corn to animals rather than just eat it ourselves?
- Fish and seafood: What is "aquaculture" and how does it impact the environment?
- What are "food miles" and are they important?
- Where does wasted food go?
- How is food production related to climate change?
8. Animal Foods in Human Diets, Farm to Fork
- Why do humans consume animals, and is it ethical?
- What is "red meat" and how is it related to health and the environment?
- Are eggs and butter related to heart disease?
- Do we need dairy in our diet to meet our nutritional needs?
- Are "white meats" like poultry and pork healthier and more sustainable than beef?
- What exactly are "processed meats"?
- Is seafood an essential contributor to human diets?
- Can animal foods be part of a healthy and sustainable diet?
9. Beverages, Human Health, and the Environment
- How do beverages contribute to our diets?
- How is breast milk different from infant formula?
- Do I need to drink eight cups of water a day for proper hydration?
- Is bottled water safer and tastier than tap water?
- Is coffee good for you, or bad?
- Are there health benefits to drinking teas?
- Does juicing fruits and vegetables have special health benefits?
- Does drinking red wine, or other alcoholic beverages, lead to lower risk of heart disease?
10. Plant-Based Diets for Health and Sustainability
- What exactly is a plant-based diet, and why is it important?
- Are all vegetables equally healthy?
- Is the sugar in fruit good for you?
- What are "whole grains" and are they related to health?
- How do beans, nuts, and legumes contribution to health?
- How are vegetable-based oils different from solid fats like butter and margarine?
- Are omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts and flax seeds the same as those from fish?
- Are soy foods like tofu healthful or harmful?
- Can humans obtain enough protein from plants for optimal health?
- Are plant-based diets affordable for everyone?
- Do all plant-based diets look the same?
11. Shaping Healthy and Sustainable Diets: Nutrition Guidelines and Food Labels
- What are the dietary recommendations of the World Health Organization?
- How are foods labeled around the world?
- Does reading food labels help consumers make healthier food choices?
- How are country-specific dietary guidelines developed?
- US Example: What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and are they based on science?
- What information is legally required to appear on a packaged food?
- Why don't fresh foods like vegetables, fruit, meat, and seafood have food labels?
- What is the "Nutrition Facts" panel, and what does it mean for consumers?
- Why do some foods have health claims on them?
- Evidence-based advice: Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate
- What other science-based tools are available to help people eat healthfully and sustainably?
12. Conclusion: Diets of Tomorrow and the Future of Food
- Will modern technology continue to shape our food choices and our health?
- What will the human diets of tomorrow look like?
- Will humans have a diet created specifically for their individual needs based on genetics (i.e., personalized nutrition)?
- Will we have enough food to feed everyone?
- How will we produce food on Earth?
- How will we feed humans in space?
- Will chronic diseases still exist?
- Will hunger still exist?
- Will people live longer?
PK Newby is Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition at Harvard University. She is the author of Superfoods: Eat Your Way to Health and Longevity and Foods for Health: Choose and Use the Very Best Foods for Your Family and Our Planet.