We must all learn to cook from scratch or die

“We must all learn how to cook from scratch or die.”

This statement didn’t come from me, but from a highly respected scientist with a worldwide reputation. Is it really that simple?

So much accepted wisdom, on how to eat and what to eat to Keep healthy, has been turned on its head in the last 5-10 years. This is how science works; advice is constantly changing as we discover more about how our bodies deal with the food we consume. That’s great if you’re on the lookout for what’s new and find that whole world endlessly fascinating. But as an individual who is simply trying to understand what to do for the best, it can be overwhelming…

The advice is constantly changing. For example, the fats we should and shouldn’t eat have virtually reversed from where they stood 30 years ago.

It was, “don’t eat animal fat, it will bring on a heart attack.” The hidden killers were demonised. Butter, duck fat, dare I say dripping all had to be cut back on if not thrown out of the kitchen altogether.

Margarine and processed oil, corn, soybean, sunflower and generic vegetable oil were what you should use for all cooking and spreading needs. When looking through the latest studies into fat, other than virgin olive oil which remains resolutely good for you, all else has turned about-face.

Inflammation is associated with the consumption of chemically refined oil. Basically, everything on our supermarket shelves, other than Virgin olive oil. All the rest is hydrogenated, which is bad and contains trans fats, again very bad.

Sunflower oil spreads were sold to us as a healthy alternative to butter, no more, like the oil there derived from. The chronic inflammation that the consumption of these soft-spread margarine causes is associated with all the diseases of the West, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The leading oat milk on the market must be pure and clean right? Not quite, it has a slightly sweet flavour which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. If you read the ingredients, it contains no added sugar. Interesting?

A young Italian cocktail barman I know, who has a first-class degree in chemistry also found it intriguing, how were they sweetening it? So, he decided to investigate. One of the ingredients turned out to be a patented genetically modified enzyme. Its only function when added was to consume complicated carbohydrates like oats, turning them into simple carbohydrates i.e. Sugar. But this wasn’t added sugar, so it didn’t need to be named as an ingredient. Sure, this is not going to kill anyone. But from my perspective, it’s somewhat underhand. It also makes me wonder if the food industry is doing this with oat milk. What are they putting into the supermarket budget range?

The problem then is what needs to change on the macro level to affect as many as possible. Why bother, is it not up to the individual to take responsibility for themselves? That is the line the food industry takes. Even Coke used to say within a balanced diet there is nothing wrong with drinking a can of something containing 14 teaspoons of sugar.

Where is this taking us? Figures from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US state that 73% of US adults are overweight or obese. What does that mean? they probably have diabetes and probably also suffer from heart disease, plus a strong chance of having a stroke, and developing cardiovascular disease, the list of possible bad outcomes is very long, and yes that’s right almost 50% of the US population is in this condition. We normally follow the states in food trends, so we’re probably about 5 years from a similar problem.

Why could this be happening? Because of an over-reliance on highly processed food?

The simple answer is yes. It contains large quantities of hidden sugar and a variety of nasty chemicals, including thickeners, flavour enhancers, and colouring.

Hold on, anything with that bright fresh colour that most sunflower margarine etc., must be, OK? Not when you realise that its “natural “colour is more like gun metal grey. Hence the requirement for the cannery yellow food colouring.

‘Big Food’ is made up of about seven companies you’ve never heard of, as they like to keep a low profile, and are run to make a profit. There is nothing wrong with companies wanting to increase profits per se. But when your profit is directly related to the bad health outcomes of a large proportion of the population, do we not need to take a longer harder look?

What we save eating this cheap, easy food will cost us in ever-increasing medical bills to deal with a very sick population. Life spans are getting longer, because of medical research. But what’s the point if we’re living with worsening health conditions?

We need to find a way to encourage people to cook. Sounds so simple. With the rise of delivery food apps and access to quick food in the form of ready meals, cooking from scratch has become a sacred activity of the weekend. Yet these quick foods contain the same junk we should be avoiding. We need to change this across the entire population if we are not to fall down a rabbit hole leading to more and more poor health outcomes.

Michel Pollen (acclaimed American Food Writer) interviewed the US Chief Government Medical adviser regarding the health of the nation and how that related to diet. The last question he asked him was if there was just one thing he could advise all to do to improve their health on a national level what would it be? His simple answer was to cook. Didn’t matter whether a vegan Organic salad or fried chicken, just cook anything. Get started so that scratch cooking becomes the normal day-to-day behaviour.

How do we make these changes? I’d love to hear your ideas. What does everyone think might get us back in the kitchen, cooking as our grandparents did?

My kid’s local school, where the Maths and Geography specialist had to also teach home Ec., was forced to rely on YouTube to find out how to deal with a pomegranate. We must put more investment into teaching kids how to cook. Or it will just get worse.

Written by John Harris, Lets-Confab