The Way We Eat Now Book Summary - The Way We Eat Now Book explained in key points
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The Way We Eat Now summary

Bee Wilson

How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World

4 (101 ratings)
30 mins
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    The Way We Eat Now
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    We live in an age of abundance but not necessarily of balanced diets.

    Humanity crossed a remarkable line in 2006. For the first time in history, the world contained more obese or overweight people than underfed. So, even though more people than ever are experiencing a plentitude of food rather than a scarcity, their diets are far from healthy. 

    But what really qualifies as a healthy diet? Well, it’s more than simply eating an apple a day.

    In fact, according to one 2015 study that looked at the eating habits of 88.7 percent of the world’s adult population, consumption of fruit has been steadily increasing by an average of 5.3 grams per day since 1990.

    But the study also shows that in over half of the world’s countries, we’re consuming higher quantities of unhealthy foods as well, such as sugary drinks, processed meats and products containing trans fats. As a result, we’re seeing skyrocketing numbers of obesity- and diet-related diseases.

    We can chart the rise of these deadly new foods by looking back at the four stages of our food history.

    Stage one took place back in our hunter-gatherer days. At this time, half of our caloric intake was from eating wild fruit and greens, with the rest of our diet being made up of wild animals.

    Stage two began around 20,000 BCE when agriculture began to emerge. As a result, our diets became more homogeneous – consisting mostly of a few staple crops like rice and wheat. During this stage, people began to settle down and form communities. But this also made us more vulnerable, since drought and bad weather could ruin crops and result in famine.

    Stage three began around the 1800s when agricultural innovations like fertilizer and crop rotation reduced the chances of famine by expanding our diets to include a wider variety of foods.

    After World War Two, we reached stage four – otherwise known as the stage of plenty. This was when nations in the West began to rebuild, industrialize and turn agriculture into the heavily subsidized business that it remains to this day. This marked such a huge increase in production that the worldwide amount of wheat, corn and cereals tripled between 1950 and 1990.

    Meanwhile, both food production and distribution have been taken over by a few international megacorporations, and they’ve managed to increase profits drastically by producing processed foods full of sweeteners, artificial flavorings and mysterious additives like “crispening agents.”

    As of 2019, companies selling processed foods earn 15.5 cents of every food sale in the United States. That may not sound like a lot until you realize that only 10.5 cents are going to farmers.

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    What is The Way We Eat Now about?

    The Way We Eat Now (2019) offers an overview of the global food system in which we live – and try to eat. It traces our food history to the present day, where hunger is scarce and obesity is abundant. Author Bee Wilson provides an informative overview of today’s food trends, including veganism, meal-replacements and intermittent fasting. She describes what our dietary future may hold, and how we may be on the cusp of a new stage in our relationship with food.

    Best quote from The Way We Eat Now

    Meals are not just a way to use up time, but a series of ceremonies through which we experience time.

    —Bee Wilson
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    Who should read The Way We Eat Now?

    • Foodies
    • Students of anthropology
    • People overwhelmed by food trends and fads

    About the Author

    Bee Wilson is a food historian and writer whose work has appeared in such publications as the London Review of Books and the Guardian. She has won several awards, including being honored as the food writer of the year by both Fortnum & Mason and BBC Radio Four. Her previous books include First Bite (2015) and This Is Not A Diet Book (2016).

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