Foods of the future

Image result for image eating insects

We’ve all heard the prediction that by 2050 there will be 9.6 billion humans living on Earth and they will all need to be fed. Experts say that, to meet this demand, consumption of animal products will increase by up to 70 per cent – and we’ll have to produce these foods using the same limited resources that we have today.

Many experts have been considering exactly how we’re going to meet these expectations, with all sorts of imaginative solutions coming off the drawing board. A report from CSIRO this week has also taken a look at the top food trends we can expect to see as we move into the next decade.

Protein is an important part of healthy eating. It’s made up of amino acids and plays a vital role in repairing and building bones and muscles in our bodies. In the ASEAN region in particular, non-meat protein sources like tofu and eggs are becoming ever more popular. But even when we consider alternatives to animal protein, we have finite land space for growing crops.

The thought of eating insects like maggots, beetles, caterpillars and ants may give you the creeps, but experts say they may be the food of the future. Insects are high in protein, found everywhere and reproduce quickly. Importantly, they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint.

Pea protein milk is being produced as a dairy substitute, vegan cheese and chicken-less egg whites are also in various stages of development.

Protein substitutes from algae are also becoming more prominent.  Algae such as spirulina and chlorella are commonly found in the obscure corners of health food shops, but in the future are expected to move into the mainstream. Edible jellyfish are already popular in other parts of the world, including China.

‘Meat-free meat’ such as plant-based burgers and lab-grown meat are already on the market. However, getting costs down to a level competitive with the real deal is a major challenge. Plant-based seafood will not be far behind.

GM foods have been around for decades, but so far there has been no reason for consumers to be keen on them. Virtually every GM crop currently on the market is designed to help the farmer who grows it, rather than the person who eats it.  Now that’s starting to change.

From health benefits to increased flavour and longer shelf-life, the new generation of GM foods are being designed with the consumer in mind. CSIRO refers to this trend as ‘health by stealth’.

Some of these products are already available and appearing on our plates, and others will soon show up on our shopping lists.

We’re still learning about all the effects our gut microbiome has on our health but we know it is important to keep it in check. So foods that promote a healthy gut is all the rage.  Kombucha, kimchi and tempeh are pretty commonplace now, but we’ll no doubt see more fermented food, food with added probiotics, and food high in resistant starch popping up on the supermarket shelves.

Other healthy eating options on the menu of the future include things like coeliac-friendly wheat which contains only “good” gluten, potatoes that don’t produce acrylamides when fried, rapeseed oil rich in beneficial omega-3, apples that never go brown, higher fibre white bread, and much more.

CSIRO is ahead of these trends, with a high-fibre wholegrain that can be made into brekky cereal, wraps and bread. It is designed to deliver gut health benefits that can help combat cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.

Up to three per cent of children in western countries are allergic to peanuts. Scientists are also focussed on finding ways to turn off the genes that code for the main peanut allergens.

CSIRO also pointed out that the increased technology in our lives makes monitoring what we eat and our exercise regimes via our smart phones and watches easier than ever. This means we can access more personalised health information tailored to us and our lifestyles.

Imagine if this data could be generated from your individual DNA? Enter precision nutrition, where nutritional advice moves from being tailored but largely static, to real-time and personalised with the aim of preventing and managing chronic disease.

There’s no doubt that the future of food will be very different– and that means we’re going to have to get used to seeing all sorts of weird and wonderful things on our plates.

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