Today, we know that healthy eating is important to keep our bodies in good condition. This link between diet and health was first ‘proved’ in the mid-1800s by Scottish naval surgeon Dr Joseph Lind, who is credited with running one of the earliest ever clinical controlled trials. His study demonstrated that citrus fruits could protect sailors from scurvy. The watershed finding set the stage for lemons and limes to be issued as standard in sailors’ rations and showed how healthy eating can save untold numbers of lives.
These days, science may have dissected almost every element of our diet, but many of us still feel at sea. Even when sticking to official advice, healthy foods that seem to energise one person can cause another to feel fatigued and bloated. In 2015, a team of scientists from Israel tracked blood sugar levels in the blood of 800 people over several days, making the surprising discovery that individuals’ biological response to identical foods varied wildly. Some people had a blood glucose ‘spike’ after eating sugary ice cream, while others’ glucose levels only increased with starchy rice – a finding at odds with conventional wisdom.
By 2028, genetics and biomolecular science should have redressed the balance, so that DNA from one organism is inserted into another, eliminating the need to undertake generations of selective breeding to acquire desirable traits.
New flavours arrive unpredictably as food manufacturers create new products. Silicon Valley – well known for attracting the brightest minds – is becoming the global hub for food innovation. A start-up currently making waves is Impossible Foods, which has created a meat-free burger that sizzles in the pan, tastes like meat and ‘bleeds’. Designed to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, the patties are made with wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, and flavourings. The secret ingredient is heme – the oxygen-carrying molecule that makes both meat and blood red – and seems to give meat much of its flavour. The heme that Impossible Foods uses has been extracted from plants and produced using fermentation. It’s a growth industry, with competitors such as Beyond Meat and Moving Mountains cooking up similar burgers, and plans are afoot for plant-based steaks and chicken. It doesn’t stop there, however: other start-ups are pioneering animal-free milk and egg whites. Expect to get used to the new tastes of meat-free meat and dairy-free dairy.
One remedy to our ignorance would be having a list of exactly what ingredients and how many calories a meal contains, and what allergens and toxins might be in it.
Food scanners will be able to tell how many grams of sugar a piece of fruit contains, or what the alcohol percentage of a drink is. Canadian TellSpec aims to develop a handheld food scanner that can inform users about specific ingredients and macronutrients.
Another device, SCiO, from Israel, uses a technology similar to TellSpec’s but is designed to identify the molecular content of foods, medicines, and even plants. It illuminates an object; optical sensors detect the reflected light; and the device analyzes it using an algorithm and a cloud-based database that is constantly updated. Penguin Sensor measures whether there are harmful toxins in your food. It is helpful if you would like to make sure that pesticides or antibiotics avoid your food. The start-up especially recommends it to families with small babies, kindergardens, school cafeterias, nursing homes etc. I believe every parent would send his kid off to school more relaxed knowing that even if the kid refuses to learn anything at least he will eat something healthy.
The Nima gluten-sensor was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 best inventions of 2015. It is a portable, nicely designed gadget, which is able to tell you from a small food sample within two minutes, whether the food on your plate contains gluten. The firm also hopes to apply its technology to detect other food allergens, including peanuts and dairy.
While technology and innovation might not be enough in itself to sort out every mystery around our eating habits, there are a couple of great solutions on the market, which might help in creating a healthy eating routine. For example, the smart fork named Hapifork teaches you, how to eat slowly and enjoy your food. As eating too fast leads to poor digestion and poor weight control, Hapifork helps to monitor, track and eventually change eating habits. For example, you can upload your data online to be able to follow the progress.
Smart utensils might also enable people with eating problems enjoy their food again. For many elderly people and patients with hand tremor, eating is torture. They lift their hands, but the food falls out of the spoon, and at the end of the meal they will be just as hungry as they started. The Liftware stabilizing handle might mean salvation for them. The smart utensil stabilizes hand motion, and enables the hand to shake 70 per cent less. Besides, the utensil comes with soup as well as fork attachment to broaden the horizon of meals.
Does food invention be limited to one industry in future? Lately, there is a trend for challenging the boundaries of food creation and combining cooking with various disciplines. One of the most well-known fields is molecular gastronomy, somewhere on the boundaries of chemistry, physics and food production. In a restaurant experimenting with molecular gastronomy, such weird meals could fall on your plate, as transparent ravioli, solid cocktail or Aperol gel.
Another direction is the combination of food creation with engineering. Eventually, people may start printing out food at home. Those who want to turn to technological solutions instead of spending time with preparing and cooking meals will have a chance to use 3D printers at home.
While obesity might be contained with the help of food scanners, an appropriate diet based on nutrigenetic data and sports, food shortages require a different approach. The Cultured Beef Project aims to create artificial meat in the laboratory. Technicians remove muscle cells from the shoulder of a cow, and feed the cells with a nutrient mix in a Petri dish, and they grow into muscle tissue. From a few starter cells one can derive tens of tons of meat. The whole world could be fed with meat from muscle cells grown in a lab.
Have you ever wondered that what will the future of our kitchen? A smart knife will be used to cut carrots, the little boy would use a food sensor to get to know whether the bread in front of him contains gluten. The family possesses a 3D-food-printer able to print out the dad’s favourite four-cheese pizza, they have a smart scale, a smart fridge and all kinds of useful kitchen gadgets.As a result, the family is together, they are preparing a meal together. Technology will not necessarily and of course, should not replace the social components of eating. Rather, it should extend it and solve global problems from obesity to hunger.