National Food Day, the 24th of October each year, is based on making a conscious effort to eat more whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and natural protein sources.1
As these foods can be so good for the gut, we thought we’d delve into this idea and tell you why you should join in with National Food Day!
What is the origin of National Food Day?
During the war, women spent less time at home due to needing to form the workforce around the towns they lived in whilst the men were away. This meant that packaged and convenience foods spiked in popularity to make family life easier to maintain.1
The only issue with this pre-packaged food was that non-natural preservatives, artificial trans-fats and unclear labelling came along with it. Scientists and nutritionists were concerned that people didn’t truly understand what they were consuming.1
The Centre for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) is a consumer advocacy group founded by a group of scientists in 1971 that wanted to make the public aware of what was in these packaged convenience foods.1
In 1975, CSPI founded National Food Day to encourage families to be more conscious of the food they consume and make better choices for their health. They have campaigned for more informed labelling of the foods, removing dangerous trans-fats and healthier school lunches, amongst other missions.1
Why is eating pre-made food bad for you?
Often in pre-packaged foods such as ready meals and processed foods you can keep in the freezer for convenience, the health benefit is nowhere near what you would gain from cooking the same meal from scratch.
Still, 2 out of 5 adults in the UK eat ready meals weekly.2 There is no doubt that convenience is sometimes a lifesaver, but it’s vital to know the facts and read the nutritional information on the boxes of what you eat so you are fully informed.
The salt and fat content in ready meals and processed foods are often sky-high, and nutrition far lower than it could be, although this has improved drastically over the years. High levels of sodium are used to prolong the shelf life of food products to increase sales.3
Organisations like the CSPI campaigned hard to make easy and convenient food healthier, and the early 2000s saw some real change. The average salt content in ready meals reduced by 45% between 2003 and 2007 - from 3.3g per serving to 1.8g.4
If you are reading the nutritional information and choosing an option that is not too high in salt and fats, pre-made foods aren’t necessarily bad for you. Being informed, as the CSPI pointed out, is beneficial to keep an eye on your health!
A diet high in sodium and fat has been linked to many life-threatening diseases caused by high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, such as heart disease and stroke.5,6 Keeping an eye on your salt and fat intake is crucial to ensure you are not at risk of these diseases.
What are the benefits of whole foods?
Whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains are often high in fibre - an essential nutrient for the gut. Fibre is a non-digestible substance, meaning it can reach the good bacteria in the intestines and act as a food source for them.7
Good bacteria must be fed to survive and multiply, maintaining balance and diversity in the gut microbiome. An unbalanced microbiome known as dysbiosis has been linked to IBS, coeliac disease, obesity, diabetes and depression, amongst other illnesses and diseases.8
Fibre can also help reduce blood sugar levels, limiting the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes currently impacts 450 million people worldwide, which in 2045 is expected to rise to 700 million.9
Whole foods are also usually low in sugar, salt and fats and contain many essential nutrients, including protein, water, carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins and minerals. The antioxidants in whole foods can improve heart health and reduce the risk of disease.10
So, which whole foods will you be adding to your diet? Simply adding a side of veg to your evening meal can go a long way to ensuring you are getting enough fibre and essential nutrients to limit your risk of disease.
To celebrate National Food Day, why not set yourself a challenge to cook from scratch once a week if you don’t already? Using whole foods can make a real difference to your health, and we’d love to see your gut and overall health thriving.