It’s egg time. Spring has sprung, flowers are bloomin’ and the country is consuming chocolate at an alarming rate. I used to really hate eggs, I thought of them as kind of gelatinous baby chicken which made them seem really unappetising. But for some reason I stopped caring that yolk is a failed fluffy chick and started eating eggs. This seems to be the case with many people and different foods. As children the thought of consuming foods like fish or spinach is so disgusting that it warrants a visceral reaction. But as we grow into adults, our preferences evolve and get over our innate predisposition to likevery plain or sweet foods. Remember trying your first beer and thinking it tasted like piss? Or having to run around gasping for water after tasting a curry so mild that you’d now scoff at the thought of ordering.
Why do our likes and dislikes change so much as we grow?
We build up tolerance for alcohol and spices, not because our taste buds change but because we expose ourselves to these flavours until our bodies accept them.Psychologists have found that repeated exposure to disliked food over a period of weeks or months generally results in the eventual acceptance of that food. From an evolutionary perspective it make sense why children are hesitant to try new foods – humans have adapted to the potential danger of eating unrecognisable berries or leaves by avoiding novel foods until they could be sure they are safe to eat. So basically if you eat tomatoes enough times your body will accept that they are not poisonous and you’ll finally stop having to pick them out of every salad.
This process continues throughout our lives until we develop a spectrum of different palates almost as sophisticated as our acquisition of language. If we are evolutionarily designed to learn and acquire an unconscious understanding of food, then why do we need to look to science to tell us what we should be eating? I’m reading a great book by Michael Pollan called ‘In the Defence of Food’ which essentially blames the ‘era of nutrition’ for obesity and modern health problems. As a society we stopped trusting our instincts and looked to professionals and food companies to tell us what to eat. This gave them almost complete control over our diets. Unfortunately, due to bad science and the money obsessed food industry, processed foods became favoured and the Western world didn’t know any better.
Pollan uses the low-fat debate as an example. In the 60s, nutritional science made some far-fetched discoveries that were to change the history of food. ‘Eating fat makes you fat’ was the new revelation that almost all believed to be true, and many still do. Based on this ‘evidence’, the Western population were driven ditched fat and increased carbohydrate consumption causing huge weight gain and increase in cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Of course, the food companies pounced on this and began to market their foods as ‘low-fat’… which meant replacing the healthy fats with a bunch of sugar and chemicals that are bound to be worse for our health. But the nutritional content of the food does not matter to the everyday person who has read in every newspaper that saturated fats should be avoided at all costs. However, when the data was reviewed, not a single study has found a concrete proof of the negative consequences of a high-fat diet. Our society relied on science to tell us what to eat and as a result we ended up fat, miserable and left the fate of the NHS hanging in balance.
It is important to remember that we are animals. Just look at how cleverly we adapt our flavour preferences based on experience. We do this without reading research or food labels but using complex psychological processes that were designed long before we had any academic understanding of nutrition. Don’t justify food choices based on research that’s probably going to become debunked in a years time. It’s so easy to read research that says chocolate actually fights cancer and use this as justification for reaching for a fourth easter egg but try to listen to what your body wants and needs. Somehow, as a society we must unearth our innate ability to know what’s good for us.
In the spirit of easter and my new love for eggs I have this delicious brunch recipe for you all. Eggs Benedict is one of the most amazing dishes but unfortunately is pretty unhealthy. So I give you my take – healthy eggs Benedict salad that your instincts will tell you to eat again and again!
Ingredients (per person)
1 handful salad leaves
1 handful edamame beans
1 red onion
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the ‘hollandaise’
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 splash lemon juice
salt and pepper
1. Finely slice the radish and chop the onion
2. Mix all the vegetables together and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar
3. Meanwhile poach the eggs. Heat boiling water in a pan and create a whirlpool by swirling with a wooden spoon. Crack the egg in the centre of the whirlpool so the white covers the yolk. Leave to cook for around 3 mins.
4. To make the sauce simply mix ingredients together and season well.
5. Place the egg on top of the salad bed and drizzle with the ‘hollandaise sauce’