A vicious circle – Addictive food.

c0109_junkfood_011A couple of days ago we posted a very interesting video called ¨The Science of Addictive Food¨ made by CBCT The National on our Facebook page. It discussed the way fast food is being produced or actually engineered to be more addictive. We keep on discussing many reasons for the growth of obesity among many western cultures. Different media are alerting that obesity ratios are higher than ever, that there is a growing number of obese people in France, which before was known for its healthy diet. Despite all these alerts and many campaigns about healthy food, fast food and processed food consumption is growing, which is the main driver for obesity related problems.

The video I mentioned above inspired me to write about this problem. It explains how the big food companies such as Unilever, Kelloggs, PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola or Kraft, are producing their food. Their food production starts not with farmers working on fields but with highly experienced engineers working in laboratories. Some neurosurgeons work on finding the relation between texture of a given food and the pleasure it gives to us in the brain. There’s more. There are studies being conducted to find a way to confuse our brain. Everybody knows Cheetos and their tendency to melt in our mouth. Actually this phenomenon has a scientific name: Vanishing Calories Density. It is a hypothesis created by Dr. Robert Hyde. Its principle is to send a message to our brain saying that the caloric intake is less than actually consumed. This phenomenon provokes us to eat more of a given produce.

A formula to create an addictive produce

Another example of what kind of research the big food companies are spending a major part of their profits is the texture of the food we eat. Did you know that a traditional yogurt density and percentage of fruits put in it is scientifically calculated? Food engineers are preparing a special formula so that our taste receptors situated on our tongue can immediately send a message to our brain about the pleasure we are experiencing.  Processed food gives us pleasure, because of the presence of one or more of these three ingredients: salt, sugar and fat. Salt enhances flavors, sugar gives us pleasure (some sugars are even addictive) and fat helps to us to have a great feeling of smoothness while eating.  If you try to eat Ritz crackers, which have not been processed with salt, you would probably not eat them because they’d taste like sand cookies.

In my opinion the conclusion is quite easy. Even though some of us are aware of these issues, processed food is too tempting so everybody wants to grab an occasional Cheeto or a Ritz cracker with some cheese. In my next post I will discuss the way processed food is being commercialized and what are the main messages of companies such as Coca-Cola.

However, we cannot blame everything on the food system, which is actually mainly based on us – consumers. There is a huge precipice between what we know, what we are aware of and what are we doing in order to improve ours or our kids diets. In Poland, the Gdansk Medical School has carried out a research stating, that 10% of 6 year-old kids (pre-school age) are overweight. If we analyze the same data for 9-10 year-old kids (after 2 to 3 years of school) the percentage of overweight children rises to 18%. An easy answer to this problem would be: It is because in school stores you have so many processed foods. Yes, correct. However, kids do not possess the possibility of earning money (at least in developed countries), so who is responsible for the fact that some 9 years old come to school with $5 bills, which mostly get spent on sweets and chips. Kids at this age start to make their own decisions that make them feel independent.

A lot of parents say that kids do not like to eat fruits or vegetables and that there is nothing they can do about it. This is the moment when parents should look at their food preferences. Children usually adopt food preferences that they’re exposed to at home. Recently I heard a story about a 5 year-old girl brought up in a vegetarian house. She came to a party where there were many delicious kinds of hams, pastry and other elaborated dishes. She would sneak into the kitchen and pick up raw vegetables and fruits to snack on. Who would think that it is possible?  If you really are fed up with how our food system looks like, please start looking at your own food preferences now, because it is not too late to make a change.  Unfortunately, if you don´t do something you just become another victim of the big vicious cycle of the food system.

You can watch the mentioned video here:


1. ¨The Science of Addictive Food¨- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cpdb78pWl4&feature=youtu.be

2. An interview with Michal Brzezinski form the Gdansk Medical School – http://trojmiasto.gazeta.pl/trojmiasto/1,35636,14050697,Dzieci_tyja_w_szkole___A_kto_daje_im_pieniadze_na.html#TRrelSST

3. Vanishing Caloric Density – http://thefoodtheories.weebly.com/1/post/2012/1/vanishing-caloric-density.html

posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Countries and their interesting food exports

kiwiItaly and pasta. Greece and feta. Australia and kangaroos. Those are the usual connections that jump on the mind when thinking of these three countries, but what is in the mind and what is in real life can be very different.

A 2011 article by Investopedia published some interesting findings about the exporting that happens on our global market. For instance, you would never guess that Italy surpasses New Zealand in exporting kiwis by 50 million tons!

And that salty cube of deliciousness sitting on top of your salad. It might have a Greek name, Feta, but it most likely came from Canada. The vast farmlands and a less expensive option has helped Canada surpass Greece as a global exporter of feta.

Or how about the camel meat that comes from Australia? Despite kangaroo being a big symbol for the country “down under“, sometimes even making it on a few plates in the form of a stake, it is the camel that gets the spotlight. Without any natural predators the camel population has been growing and growing and soon could reach the peak of the meat exportation chart.

But let’s take a look at America. Around the world it gets a bad name for its culture of fast food and soda. The famous staples like Coca Cola and McDonalds can be found in the hardest to reach places of the world. For example, a 3 liter Coca Cola bottles are already being flown into the Amazonian communities of Ecuador because the locals like to drink it. Yet, don’t be too quick to judge. Turns out America is also an exporter of something very healthy, ginseng. Yes, the widely used plant in Chinese culture is shipped from the USA anually by 60 tonnes. If you’re wondering why you haven’t noticed this it might be a problem of location. Most of it is grown in Wisconsin.

Another interesting mention is of whiskey from Japan, which has won numerous blind tastings and scored hire than Scottish whiskey. With so many shocking facts it might be time for us to stop assuming things about our food system and start taking a closer look at it. Who knows what else we might find?

Food Myths 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are back with more information of different food myths. Below, you will find more interesting facts on food, thanks to PhD. Malgorzata Drywien from SGGW (Warsaw University of Life Sciences).

  1. WATER is vital for our life. However, it doesn’t mean that if we drink a lot of it will be good for us. Our body process around 2.8 liters of water a day. So we should provide our body with the same amount of water in order to balance our liquids. On average we “eat” 1 liter of water a day, we drink some other beverages, such as juices or tea, so we need to consume a little more than 1 liter of water a day. If we have spent an active day another liter would be needed. On the other hand, if we spend the whole day in the office drinking 5 liters of water, we will enhance the filtration of our kidneys and lose a lot of vitamins and minerals from our body. So everything needs a balance
  2. GRAPEFRUIT JUICE It is true that we should be taking our medicines with grapefruit juice, especially the antiallergic and heart disease related ones. After mixing them with juice their concentration can get much higher and it can cause poisoning of our organism. It doesn’t happen with orange or lemon juice but any kind of medicines should be taken with water.
  3. WHOLEMEAL BREAD VS WHITE BREAD Many people say that whole meal bread is so much better than usual bread. And it is true that it has much more minerals that are very important for the functioning of our organism. However, contrary to a lot of people beliefs it doesn’t have much more calories. For instance, 100 gr of whole meal bread contains 220 kcal and 100 gr of wheat bread contains 248 kcal. If a person eats 10 slices of bread a day than some calories may get saved, but in normal conditions the difference is scarce.
  4. VEGETARIAN DIET IS THE BEST Recent studies carried out in Oxford claims that vegetarians are generally healthier and have fewer heart attacks. It is all true but they were compared with people that are following the traditional western diet filled with fats. As Malgorzata Drywien said, there are some studies that claims that vegetarians compared to people with a reasonable diet were lacking in vitamin B12, iron and calcium.
  5. MILK The topic on milk is divided. Nowadays many specialists talks about our genetical predisposition to digest milk. 70% of the population – Asians, Latinos or Jews do not tolerate milk. In the US or Brazil there are many people with different backgrounds and this is why many people stop to tolerate milk. The Caucasian race is safe to drink milk during their whole life, except 3% that are allergic.  

There is definitely many of specialists that would totally disagree with some of the information I have put in this post. However, it always nice to hear a second opinion. I have just learned a couple of interesting facts and I will try to change my diet so it becomes more rational. I hope that you have learned something too.


  1. http://natemat.pl/51163,czerwone-mieso-zabija-chleb-pelnoziarnisty-ma-mniej-kalorii-a-ryby-mozna-jesc-bez-ograniczen-obalamy-mity-o-jedzeniu


Posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Food Myths Part 1

Milk_-_olly_claxtonThere are probably as many myths as there are dialecticians. In my opinion specific beliefs on food depend on the beliefs of our mothers who told us from childhood what we should eat and what we shouldn’t. Some say that we are the only species that drink milk as adults; others say that red meat is really bad for us or that we shouldn’t be eating eggs every day. I would like to give you some examples of food myths that in fact are not true according to PhD. Malgorzata Drywien from the SGGW (Warsaw University of Life Sciences).

EGGS People that naturally produce more cholesterol should not be eating eggs. As far as healthy people are concerned there are no limits. There are studies that revealed that by eating one egg a day we become healthier. Eggs have luteine, which is good for the protection of our eyes. Moreover eggs are a good addition to diets, because they release hormones that make us feel full.

RED MEAT There is no actual problem with red meat itself. However, many people eat it in form of steaks or in hamburgers, which is not the healthiest way of preparing red meat. Many people forget that red meat also includes pork, goose or wild meat, which is much healthier than beef. Moreover, people who eat 500 gr of meat every day definitely have to reduce it, because the suggested amount doesn’t pass 200 gr a day. Another fact is that people who actually avoid meat are often those who have already a very balanced diet filled with eggs, fish, cheese and beans.

Another thing is that red meat has a lot of iron, which is an important element for the functioning of our blood system and the meat proteins help iron to get into our blood. This is a big problem for vegetarians that don’t get enough of iron and they are much more likely to get anemia. However, Asians are used to a plant based diet for hundreds of years so their intestines have adapted to their diet.

CHICKEN The nutritious value of chicken is high, because it is low in fat, especially when it is correctly bred. It doesn’t mean that we should eat chicken every day. We should look for animal proteins in other products such as pork, fish, eggs or cheese. Chicken meat doesn’t have vitamin B12, which pork has or omega acids, which fish has.

FISH In fact eating fish every day wouldn’t be such a great idea. Long living fish, such as Tuna, should be avoided because they gather in their body dioxins and heavy metals, e.g. Mercury. Much safer are sweet water fish, which we should eat once or maybe twice a week.

CAFFEINE Drinks that consist of caffeine are of course coffee and among others tea or chocolate (in powder). It is also a rich source of bioflavonoids and antioxidants that protect against cancer. However, they contain oxalic acid, which is a substance known as antinutritious. It is present more in chocolate than tea and in coffee.  After drinking these beverages our level of magnesium will go down, but we can always eat something that will help us to get back to the suggested level of magnesium.

If you are interested in reading more about food myths, please come back to our site in the next few days, as we will keep updating them on a weekly basis.


  1. http://natemat.pl/51163,czerwone-mieso-zabija-chleb-pelnoziarnisty-ma-mniej-kalorii-a-ryby-mozna-jesc-bez-ograniczen-obalamy-mity-o-jedzeniu

Don’t be a square?

Square_watermelonMany of us have heard the expression, ‘don’t be a square’. Usually this term has a negative connotation but as another saying goes ‘it’s all relative’, and indeed it is so. To make the point we introduce you to the ‘Square Watermelon‘.

Now, before you go and think it’s some joke or a freak GMO project, we’d like to inform you that it is all done naturally, and quite easily too! The square-shaped watermelon is an experiment project of the Japanese who were actually trying to make a heart-shaped watermelon. To do that they placed a transparent square box around a small watermelon still growing on the vine. It is important to put something transparent so that the sun light can still reach the fruit and allow it to grow.

This technique is very useful, both for saving needed space in the fridge, as well as perfect for shipping the fruit to other countries, especially since all the square watermelons will be snuggly packed without rolling back and forth to cause damage to their neighbour. Now imagine if it was possible to do this with all the other fruits and veggies that grow. To naturally control their shape without changing their genetic code. To try growing a square watermelon of your own, check out this website. I guess in the end it does pay off to be a square…but only sometimes.

You are HOW you eat

IMG_4930Continuing the idea of “you are what you eat” mentioned in the previous blog post, I wanted to give a thought to another idea – “you are how you eat”. People that want to be healthy (food wise) tend to focus on what they eat, but they often forget that the way you eat, when you eat and where you eat is also important.

The diet is not the only factor affecting the health of our body. So that you understand better what I have in mind I will make a comparison between French and American habits. This is a generalization so I ask you not to take it too personally. Americans have a habit of eating just to eat. A lot of them don’t really care where they will eat. Food is taken as a necessity for survival. They want it to be filling and fast, so that they can get back to work as quickly as possible. I once heard a story of an Italian friend. His American girlfriend visited him in Rome. As she was so amazed by the city’s architecture she wanted to dedicate as much time as possible to sightseeing. McDonald’s seemed like the right choice for her, despite having many little Tratoria’s (café’s) around.

On the other hand, the French (or the above mentioned Italians) really commemorate every meal they have. For them, the plate has to be a right balance of meat, vegetables, bread and wine (the wine is in a glass). Drinking something other than wine or water is taken as a really bad habit. In addition to that you need time for food. During working hours the French take one hour to have their lunch, while the Americans often take 20 minutes or less. In western European countries looking for the right place to eat becomes sometimes a true hunting game. One person prefers something else than others; some don’t like a given restaurant’s chef etc. It can get really tricky.

What is also very important is our habit to eat regularly. Many experts say that we should eat 5 small portions a day. Obviously, for many of us it isn’t possible, because we are short on time. But, I believe everybody should find time and especially pleasure to eat at least 3 times a day starting with a delicious breakfast, then breaking at 1 PM for some fresh lunch and at least, but not least, having a relaxing dinner with your family. I come from Poland where this is becoming a habit. Many families used to eat an enormous breakfast, snack during the day and when they came home after work or school, between 4 and 6 PM, they ate dinner. Often they would end the day having their midnight snack.

To conclude, I wanted to show you an example that to me shows you precisely where the root of cultural difference may be. In English, at the end of the meal you say: I’m full or I’m satisfied. However, in France you say: J’ai plus faim, which means I’m not hungry any more. Maybe this rule is key to staying healthy? We shouldn’t eat until we are full. Whenever the hunger goes away, let’s just put the plate away!

Posted by Piotr Wielezynski

More goat meat?

Baby_goats_jan_2007_cropDo you know what is the most consumed red meat in the world? Answer: Goat meat makes up 70% of global red meat consumption! Want another interesting fact? According to Mother Nature Network, this number will most likely increase. The helpful combination of global warming, with the goat’s natural instinct to survive even in harsh places…oh say, like a rocky mountain with little vegetation…means more goats on our plates and in our world.

To give you a better idea of how this might feel and sound, we share with you this video.


Lunch time woes

pandoraThere’s another new book out on the shelves that is definitely worth a read. It is called “Pandora’s Lunchbox: Pulling Back the Curtain on How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal” by Melanie Warner. The findings of the book won’t be something mothers would want to hear. Especially those that have started relying on prepared school lunches being sold in supermarkets to keep their children fed throughout the school day, without having to wake up early to prepare the lunch themselves.

However, the findings don’t stop there. They address all the processed foods millions of Americans eat on a daily basis. From cheese, to cereal, to soups, canned goods and about every other thing you can find on the supermarket aisles. One of the  biggest worries, is that every food somehow comes packed with added vitamins. Have you ever wondered why suddenly all the companies want us to get our dosage of vitamins? The answer is less appealing than you may think.

Most cereal, and other foods, that go through processing, lose their natural nutrients and fiber. Hence, manufacturers add  back vitamins, not because they want you to be healthy, but because they took them out in the first place. The added bad news? All the vitamins that are there don’t come from actual fruits and vegetables, such as Vitamin C from oranges, etc. Nope, not at all. In fact, they come from places you would least expect. For example, Vitamin D comes from sheep grease found in sheep wool). And did you know that 50% of vitamins come from China, and are made of chemicals? Want to hear more horror stories? Get your copy of the book here, or check our part 1 of this coverage by Democracy Now in our video section.

Gastronomy Industry #4 – Solutions part 2.

In the last “Gastronomy series” entry I will cover some possible solutions to the food waste problem in the gastronomy industry. I would like to focus on three issues that in my opinion are key to making a significant change in the high percentage of food that is thrown away.

First I will focus on a more practical approach. In one of my previous entries I have mentioned how food donation works and also briefly described how Food Banks operate. I believe the problem of these organizations is that they only work locally. Food Banks should be working on a larger scale and it would be perfect if they were managed and organized by city authorities (I said city, because it would be a very hard job to get to all the rural communities together). Of course it could also be managed by a private company (that for example would be paid from public money) or by an NGO. How would it work? To describe this system I will make some assumptions.

First of all, a new law will have to be implemented. All gastronomy establishments would be obliged to donate food that wasn’t served. Then a special network of delivery trucks would pick the food and take it to food banks or special eateries. The problem we would face now is that people that go to such kind of places might feel that they are eating leftovers, so there is an important need to create a special menu. Maybe it will change the way of thinking about that food. You may say that it is a great idea, but it can work mainly in developed countries where there is better infrastructure, more money and simply more food waste. Well, it is still a good start. In the future people might create plane networks (plane would have special freezers) that will transfer food into poorer regions of the world.

Another significant change would be delivered by NGO’s or individuals actions that are willing to contribute. There are some organizations that organize special events and educational campaigns for people to change their behaviors. The NGO “Love Food, Hate Waste” is focusing on the fact that people consume too much. It can be easily proven by the increasing number of obese people in the developed world (1). In each country such NGOs should be created to start influencing people to change their behaviors and make them realize that by consuming more (and I am not only speaking about food) they are actually harming themselves. I will get back to that idea at the end of this post.

A Canadian organization called Ontario Association of Food Bank’s has created a program to harvest all left over crops that were considered not profitable (2). Does it make them not edible? Last year they have collected almost 6 tones of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, eggplants and corn and donated them to Toronto Food Bank. Another example that is worth pointing out is the way of living of Tristram Stuart. Besides being a writer (if anybody is interested in this topic I really recommend to read his book “Waste – Uncovering the global food scandal”) he also successfully showed that people could live differently. Of course, it depends on the individual’s free will and commitment to this conviction. He was living for a couple of months only feeding himself with food found in London’s garbage. Last November he organized an event “Feeding 5000” on Trafalgar Square in London (3). Those people were fed with food that would be otherwise thrown away.

Tristram’s actions are a perfect connection to get to my main point of my Development Perspectives blog. If people, the inhabitants of planet earth, want to do something about the tons of food waste they generate, they have to change the way the think and act. The main problem for us to understand is the fact that almost every one of us is only able to make a change in his/hers behavior or way of thinking, only if we see tangible negative consequence from our actions. Our biggest problem today is the high level of consumption. Sometimes I feel that people won’t stop throwing things away, unless they will see those things hiding the view from their own window.

We have entered the XXI century 12 years ago and we still think and measure success in XIX and XX century ways, by counting tangibles like money, property, country measure their development level by GDP. We need to change that way of thinking because it is outdated and it doesn’t reflect the environment we live in today. The US Environment Protection Agency suggests a 6 step process on how to decrease food waste (5). The most important is to reduce the quantity of generated wastes. Then it goes through feeding hungry people, feeding animals and finally as a last resort, to use landfills. It is very important for all people to be aware of those priorities. Education and information diffusion in the food waste problem is crucial.

Food waste is a very complex problem. Many actions from different sectors and fields have to be taken and implemented in our day-to-day life. This is why I believe it is so important for the NGO, individuals and governments that are conscious of the food waste problem to lead others by example. It is the only way this issue can be tackled. People will see that another way of life is possible. At first it will become a trend and then it will become something that everyone will do. In history we have a lot of examples that shows this process. Recycling was on of those processes. First it was only available for rich countries, then it became a trend in all of the developed countries and now it is something that people simply do. So I invite all of you to lead others by example and to contribute something to better our own environment. At the end I wanted to share with you this inspirational video. Hope you will all like it.


posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Gastronomy Industry #4 – Solutions

Looking around the internet I realized that information about how to reduce food waste was really scarce. The main solutions encountered by me were about what to do with food waste in order not to throw it into a landfill. There are many individuals that are devoting their energy towards making a change. Those are good initiatives that our population needs and that help the environment. However, doesn’t it create a new market for technologic companies (the solutions were mainly high-tech composting machines)? Doesn’t it ignore the fact that food waste exists in such great numbers? Isn’t it actually not caring about our environment and only making “a nice face to a bad game”? In this entry I will cover some general issues concerning the solutions I will propose later. I will also speak about the role of governments and what they can do.

First I wanted to present two problems that are strongly influencing the growth in food waste, which are not necessarily directly related to the gastronomy industry. One of them is the corporation interference into the whole food production process. I suppose that most people reading this blog already know what am I talking about, but I just wanted to point out an important issue for the topic. What is actually happening is that some farmers are spending money on pesticides and other chemicals to feed their animals or crops. These chemicals are not a matterof life for those organisms and it is only a way to increase profits. Meanwhile there are millions, if not billions people and animals starving, who at the sight of landfills full of food waste would probably get a heart attack.

The second problem is indirectly a consequence of the first one. Countries of the so-called “first world” are producing too much food (because of the chemicals that helps the growing process) plus are also importing food from abroad. Even though by wanting to protect their agriculture, subsidies are being given to the farmers. It means that poorer countries are not able to export their food and most of the food produced in the “first world” is too expensive for them, so they cannot import.

By the end of the day “rich” people are throwing food away, because they have nothing to do with it and their stomachs are satisfied. Think how many times have you done it yourself. But do you care? If subsidies would be taken away it would regulate the market so “the first world” would not generate so much food waste. It would be possible to feed a lot more people following a certain logistic process and decrease hunger problems. The question is if rich countries are able to let go? If yes, how much or how many they can let go?

Now I would like to move on towards gastronomy industry. As I said before, first I will speak about government’s role in this topic and what they can do. I mentioned in one of the previous posts about the existence of a certain Good Samaritan Act. It is a very good law. However, governments should put much more weight into such kind of initiatives. The politicians should know that it is an important issue for the country and its society and should make sure that all target recipients will know about the act. It can be done by targeting informative campaigns on restaurant owners or by engaging more NGO’s to create a general awareness in that sector. Governments can also try to develop some other laws. For instance there could be a decrease on taxes for those restaurants and establishments that produce less food waste. This is always a well working incentive for business sector, because it reacts directly on profits. There are also negative measures that can be undertaken. If restaurants do not donate food, they can get a fine. So actually food donation (for restaurants waste donation) will be obligatory. That could create a whole new system of food distribution for those who need it.

In my next entry that will appear next week I will continue developing solutions with a more detailed approach towards gastronomy industry. I will try to explain the food distribution system. I will also tell you, what do I think is the most important thing to reduce food waste. Those who were following my blog from the beginning may already know what is my belief in that topic.


posted by Piotr Wielezynski