Is there more to nutrition than just sustenance, satiation and longevity?

Professor David Russell, Chairman of The Russell Partnership Collection explains the importance of health and nutrition.

What do nutritional developments mean for the food and beverage sector?

Nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth”. Google trends show us that internet searches related to nutrition drop significantly around Christmas, and reach peak popularity in January – as you might expect, however what is unprecedented, is the surge in health and nutrition interest throughout the year from a range of demographics within the general public. In order of interest, the top 5 cities ‘googling’ their way through nutrition related questions are Cardiff, Plymouth, Guildford, Oxford and Thames Ditton.

The rise in health and nutrition is largely driven by the transfer of knowledge enabled by platforms such as social media, food blogs and video sites such as YouTube. Millennials are the key driving force behind this surge in nutritional interest in a bid to live better, for longer and optimise their minds and bodies to look lean, feel energised and excel in their professional lives. But, is there more to nutrition that just sustenance, satiation and longevity? Research is continually showing that food is much more than just fuel – food is information, food is instruction and sometimes food is medicine. These fascinating developments were well known to our ancestors, and modem-day-man is “playing catch-up” on this ancient wisdom, because as Hippocrates once said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

So, what do these nutritional developments mean for the food and beverage sector? How can we utilise this information to catalyse positive change in the industry? The first step is to understand the power of balanced food and beverage provisions that are centered around vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fermented food, fatty fish and lean meat. In the following paragraph we will explore one instance of seemingly disassociated phenomena in the human body that demonstrates the power of food provisions. The second step is to apply the relevant nutrition research to the applicable sectors and catalyse change based on the desired positive outcome. This requires continuous trend analysis, market research and scientific literature reviews to ensure cutting edge research is acquired and utilised efficiently and effectively..

Research shows that a well-balanced diet that is rich in wholefoods such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fermented food, fatty fish and lean meat can mitigate or positively support challenging mental health outcomes.

Research shows that a well-balanced diet that is rich in wholefoods such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fermented food, fatty fish and lean meat can mitigate or positively support challenging mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and autism. This is because a well-balanced diet delivers numerous benefits such as micronutrient optimisation, macronutrient balance, prebiotic (fibre) provision and microbiome support. The human microbiome is defined as the collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on the human body –  we have about 10 times as many microbial cells as human cells, and as such must do all we can to live in harmony with the microbiota we retain. Interestingly, a well-balanced microbiome is perhaps the single most fundamental physiological element that delivers positive mental health outcomes in children and adults alike.

This is a phenomena called the ‘brain-gut connection’ or GAPS which stands for ‘gut and psychology syndrome’ – this has been explained in detail by nutritionist and neurology expert Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The phenomena theorises that the state of our microbiome has a profound effect on our mental health, which in the case of an overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut this will induces a state called “dysbiosis”. The gastrointestinal imbalance effects individuals uniquely, however the guidelines for revival remain the same for all – probiotic rich fermented foods, fresh vegetables, ripe fruit and lean proteins.

In sectors such as Higher Education, the provision of a balanced offer is essential given the importance of nutrition for mental health optimisation. As many as 1 in 4 students in the UK have challenging mental health outcomes – most notably anxiety and depression. Whilst social and environmental factors are crucially important factors that influence mental health such as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and anxiety – there is profound value in delivering a balanced, wholefoods diet that will deliver energy and perhaps light relief, to those who are seeking integrative treatment.

In practical terms, this means delivering simple support solutions by the incorporation of foods such as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, blueberries, wild fish, organic meats, wholegrains, sauerkraut, kefir and chia seeds. Providing optimal nutritional potential to customers has never been more important.