Globalization, or the process by which goods, services, and ideas develop international influence, has undoubtedly affected the nutritional values of food globally. In the realm of nutrition, globalization influences supply chains and available food products. Migration and the global expansion of companies have influenced the foods available. Technology has further expanded the range of transportation for foods.
Columbus, Nutrition and the Modernized Diet
Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492, kicking off the years of the Columbian Exchange. Some commodities transported back to Europe included potatoes, tomatoes, beans, corn, and many other fruits, vegetables, and staple crops. The Columbian Exchange transported some fruits and vegetables to the Americas, and unfortunately, diseases.
Few reliable publications exist surrounding how Columbus changed nutritional values in the Americas. However, there is more information about how Columbus altered nutritional values in Europe. Overall, Europe reaped more benefits from American exports, while the American population declined from European diseases.
Seasoning and Complimentary Crops in Nutrition
Previously, European food was bland, and the seasoning was only accessible to the rich. The Americas exported crops such as cacao, tomatoes, and chili peppers to Europe. These crops, in particular, were not ‘staple crops’ since they are not rich in calories. But these crops did improve the taste of many foods and the nutrition of Europeans.
Nowadays, cacao is considered a superfood. Cacao is the rawest form of chocolate and is rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids take part in antioxidant activities in the body. Cacao also has polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory effects on vascular endothelium or the inside of blood vessels.
The combination of flavonoids and polyphenols reduces the risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama consume an average of 30 oz of cocoa beverages each day. Health data from the San Blas Islands show that hypertension among the Kuna Indians is relatively low, at around 2.2% of people. In addition, blood pressure does not increase with age, and the population has a few instances of diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, and even cancer. This astounding health data is associated with the consumption of cocoa beverages.
Sugars and other flavors are added to cacao to create chocolate. Consuming extensive amounts of chocolate is linked to insulin resistance, despite its health benefits. Therefore, chocolate increases the risk for diabetes.
Tomatoes became a ubiquitous component of Mediterranean cuisine, once brought to Europe. The average annual tomato consumption is around 18 kilograms per European. Tomatoes include antioxidants, carotenoids, phenols, and Vitamin C and Vitamin E. But, cultivation factors, such as soil nutrients, determine the concentration of either vitamin.
Tomatoes are chock full of antioxidants. Therefore, they can limit the inflammatory response to oxidative stress in the body. Studies show that a high dietary intake of tomatoes and tomato products can reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). LDL cholesterol is “bad” cholesterol, as it can form plaque in the blood vessels. In addition, daily consumption of a tomato drink (Lyc-O-Matic) is associated with a 42% reduction in DNA damage in lymphocytes that respond to oxidative stress in the body, causing inflammation.
Chili peppers add a spicy kick to the food. Though there is insufficient data concerning spice consumption, one study analyzed some data concerning adult chili consumption between 1988 and 1994. The nutrition surrounding chili peppers is rather surprising.
Hippocrates believed that spices could restore balance within the four humors of the body when humoral medicine was still the most prevalent model for health. There is some truth to the theory; chili peppers contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and trace elements. They also contain fiber. Additionally, the study lasting from 1988 to 1994 says otherwise.
The study lacks many controls and regulations. For example, it does not scale the consumption of chili peppers. Instead, researchers divided the results into two groups: those who consume chili peppers and those who do not. The results showed that those who consumed chili peppers were less susceptible to ‘instantaneous’ hazards of death.
New staple crops in Europe included potatoes, corn, and cassava. These provisions provided Europeans with the calories they needed and were convenient. Farmers could cultivate these crops in many European climates. Potatoes became the main crop harvested in Ireland, for example. The Irish became so reliant on the crop. When a plant pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, infected the potatoes, Ireland faced a potato famine. The Columbian Exchange most benefitted Europe and had another effect on areas outside of Europe. After seeing the value of crops elsewhere, Europeans began colonization.
Shifts in Nutrition as a Result of Colonization
Colonization, especially surrounding crop commodities, changed the diets of indigenous peoples. Erasure also occurred in colonized areas, leading to elements of culture, such as food, being changed. Those displaced from their countries faced changes in their diets. Dietary changes inevitably lead to shifts in nutritional values. In Sri Lanka, distinct nutritional shifts are apparent.
Colonial History of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was a colony occupied by Portugal, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. The small island off of the Indian subcontinent remained a colony for a whopping 443 years. The Portuguese presence in Sri Lanka lasted from 1505 to 1658, and the Dutch rule of Sri Lanka occurred right after the Portuguese occupation through the Dutch East India Company. The colony, Dutch Ceylon, existed between 1664 and 1795. The British holding of Sri Lanka overlapped with Dutch Rule, where The British East India Company operated in the Ceylon colony between 1792 and 1801.
The British exerted the most influential rule over Sri Lankans because of their control over the kingdom of Kandy. Because they controlled Kandy, they assumed the whole island, and erasure began. For example, English became the official language and is still widely spoken today. In addition, cash crop plantations appeared throughout the island. These cash crops included cinnamon, coconut, and coffee.
Nutritional Shifts in Sri Lanka
Among other cultural shifts in Sri Lanka, there were plenty of nutritional changes resulting from colonial occupation. For example, after British rule, rice consumption declined, while wheat consumption increased. Though wheat has more health benefits than rice, wheat agriculture encouraged the commercialization of farming on the island. Before colonization, rice farming was a public responsibility, and people did not pay for this staple food. However, after colonization, individuals had to pay for rice, among other crops. As a result, rice consumption declined because rice is more expensive than wheat.
Dietary biodiversity also suffered from colonial agriculture. Cash crop economy systems, such as those used in Sri Lanka, were predominantly monoculture farming. Monocultures have higher yields of crops for a short amount of time but eventually, deplete the soil of essential plant nutrients. Traditional agriculture in Sri Lanka involved shifting cultivation (slash and burn) and intermediate farming. Both methods protect the soil from depletion, and therefore, crop failure. Sri Lankans farmed in a manner that optimized the soil potential while cultivating a wide variety of crops. The British, on the other hand, farmed for profit.
Cash crop economies were also a man-era-era um method sentence land damage occurred in Sri Lanka, the diversity of cultivated crops has decreased. Because of this decrease, dietary diversity dropped, and as time moved on, knowledge of traditional agricultural practices declined. Long-established farming practices prevented plant diseases, and without this knowledge, plants were more susceptible to infection. The British placed an economic system on Sri Lankan agriculture, which extended to the livestock industry too.
Modernized Alternative Nutrition
The livestock industry in Sri Lanka produces milk. The introduction of powdered milk to consumers has replaced the desire for fresh milk. Powdered milk, among other packaged foods, proves more convenient for people. These items tend to have a longer shelf life and often have some health benefits. For example, people began selling milk to afford powdered milk alternatives. Powdered milk products reduce the risk of contracting intestinal infections. Packaged food has its benefits but has become ubiquitous in different societies and has contributed to erasure.
McDonald’s, a Large Chain Company
Along with packaged food items, large chain companies hold global popularity. They sell products sold in almost every country in the world, demonstrating globalization. Globalization, of course, presents many advantages and disadvantages for nutrition.
The Golden Arches is a familiar symbol to most of the Western world. The company was first renowned locally for its burgers. Then, Ray Kroc became interested in the company for its potential in producing fast food. McDonald’s became a global empire operating in a whopping 118 countries. Globally, McDonald’s gives their customers fast food, but their menu varies because of the local cultures.
The McDonald’s restaurants in Italy have a gelato counter, and locations in France sell macarons. In India, they sell a McAloo Tikki Burger, consisting of a small potato patty instead of a beef patty. Though McDonald’s accommodates local cultures, every McDonald’s has one thing in common: the food has artificial preservatives.
Artificial Preservatives Used in Food
One of the most common artificial preservatives found in fast foods is sodium benzoate. It doubles as both a preservative and a microbial agent that protects produce and some meat products. Other preservatives (BHA and BHT) preserve fats by preventing oils from becoming rancid. Before the widespread use of artificial preservatives, people often used natural substances such as salt, vinegar, lemon juice, and temperature control to preserve the quality of their food.
Scientific studies have found that many of the artificial preservatives used in fast food items cause adverse effects on the consumer. Some health hazards include allergies, asthma, neurological damage, hypersensitivity, hyperactivity, and even cancer. The small amounts of artificial preservatives in fast food do not have any effects. However, long-term consumption of these preservatives or consumption in large quantities can have adverse health effects.
Additional studies have shown children are more susceptible to disability and disease from contact with these preservatives and even the chemicals in packaging. Children are more prone because children’s metabolic systems are still developing. Therefore, their metabolic systems are more vulnerable.
Nutritional Disadvantagesƒf of Fast Food
Aside from introducing artificial preservatives to the global population, McDonald’s, among other large chain companies, has also introduced food that does not have the best nutrient content. Not all fast foods are bad for the consumer. However, most foods are high in salt, sugar, fats, and calories.
Consumption of too much sodium can cause an individual to become susceptible to health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Like sodium, sugars and fats (LDL Cholesterol) have a similar effect on the body. They cause high blood pressure and heart disease, in addition to obesity and inflammation. A high caloric intake does not adversely affect health if the individual uses enough of it for energy. Therefore, excess calories stored as fat can cause individual obesity.
Technology Advancements and Nutrition
Technology is responsible for the commercialization and globalization of foods. Without faster shipping methods and better preservation methods, food would not make it to populations that would not otherwise have it.
Milkshed refers to the region producing milk for a specific community. Before many technological advancements, farmers could not transfer milk a far distance without it spoiling. Therefore, the milmilk sheds are very confined, and only the immediate populations surrounding mild milk should buy milk. Technological advancements expanded the milmilk shed
During the 1840s, refrigerated railroad cars transported dairy products, but only for a short distance. Commercialization of refrigeration systems became common during the 1900s and became common in trucks that transported dairy. These refrigerated trucks transport other perishable items besides milk. Therefore, commercial refrigeration expanded the range of products, bringing milk to areas that would not otherwise have it. Aside from refrigeration systems, applications of biology also increase milk nutritional values surrounding milk.
Bioremediation for Food Preservation
Bioremediation is a process that uses microorganisms to clean up an environment. In fact, during early studies of the process, scientists used microorganisms to protect the good bacteria in yogurt from viruses. The experiment’s results showed success, and as a result, the process is still used for yogurt today. Aside from bioremediation and refrigerated shipping methods, there are plenty of other technological advances that affect food transportation, and therefore nutrition. For example, packaging can appeal to consumers depending on its appearance. Then, a motivated consumer may purchase the item for consumption, directly affecting their nutrition. Globalization affects nutrition in many other ways.
Image Source: Nytimes
Food is an element of many cultures. It unites people at the dinner table, and it brings together others who share food preferences. Nutritional values are directly affected by many elements of globalization, an inevitable and homogenizing process.
When The Columbian Exchange took place, new items took root in both the Americas and in Europe. Other colonization processes also changed the diets and nutritional values of the colonized. Along with colonial powers introducing new food items to colonized people, they often planted cash crops, responsible for damaging the land. Damaged land prevented colonized peoples from cultivating their usual crops at large. In addition, erasure eliminated traditional methods of agriculture. As part of globalization, many large chain companies, such as McDonald’s, have gained global popularity. Restaurants, in particular, introduce new nutritional values to different parts of the world. Unfortunately, these foods are high in salts, sugars, fats, calories, and preservatives. Each of these has effects on an individual’s health. Finally, technological advancements are part of globalization and have allowed the delivery of foods to different populations.
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