Fifteen years is a long time. Fifteen years ago, Facebook had only just been created. Instagram wasn't even a twinkle in someone's eye. Fifteen years ago, the only evidence-based nutrition advice around came from the government, and to be honest, it was pretty uninspiring.
Fifteen years ago, Healthy Food Guide founder Phil Ryan had the idea to start a mainstream magazine all about healthy eating. The rest is history: it became the country's top-selling food magazine, won multiple awards and gained hundreds of thousands of loyal readers.
Our world has changed, though. When's the last time you bought a print magazine? The November issue of HFG will be its last in print (though the brand will live on in digital form).
It's timely then, to think about what's changed in nutrition, and what we've learned, in 15 years. Here's a quick (far from complete) roundup.
1. Diet trends come and go. When we started HFG, the Atkins diet was all the rage. Remember that one? It was low-carb, high-fat, and everyone was doing it. Until they weren't. Things have cycled around through various trends and now the popular diet everyone's keen on is keto: which is, oh yea… low-carb, high-fat…
2. We're getting fatter. In one generation, according to a recent study, our obesity rates have tripled. More than a third of us is obese now; add in overweight and that goes up to two-thirds of us. In another 20 years, it's predicted two million of us will be obese.
3. We're getting sicker. Along with the weight increase comes a health decline. Type 2 Diabetes rates have steadily climbed in 15 years, rising by over 100,000. It's estimated one in four of us has pre-diabetes, many of us without knowing it.
4. We have more food issues. Fifteen years ago, gluten was something most people had never heard of. Now, gluten-free food is commonplace, along with food catering to allergies and intolerances to a wide range of foods. Diagnosis – both medical and self – has vastly increased.
5. Nuances in fat and sugar. Evidence and understanding about fat and its role in health has emerged in the past 15 years, and advice has slowly become more nuanced. HFG ditched its "low fat" recipe badge a few years back, and (hopefully) we all know now it's not about how much fat we eat, but the type of fat. Sugar, ditto: we've had lots of confusion, but hopefully we all know that lollies are bad, fruit is not.
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6. Gut health is great. The research into the gut, its bacteria and what they do has exploded. We now know the health of our gut affects the health of almost every other system in the body, and there's a huge range of foods aimed at boosting our gut bugs.
7. Plants rule. If there's one thing that's been consistent in the past 15 years, it's the importance of plant foods – vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes – to human health. It's also one of the few things everyone in the nutrition community can agree on.
8. Whole is good. Again, a thing everyone can agree on – hoorah – is that foods that are fresh and whole are better than foods that are highly processed.
9. Booze is bad. Fifteen years ago we were still hanging on to the notion that red wine was healthy for the heart. Now, not so much. Not drinking is much better for most of us than drinking.
10. People and planet are inextricably linked. We've always known it; now it's front and centre. We can't separate sustainability issues from health issues any more.
11. Everyone's an expert. It's hard to overstate the effect social media has had on how healthy eating information is spread. Anyone can publish anything – accurate or not – about nutrition, and publish they do. Often with a narrative that "they" – meaning the scientific establishment – don't want you to know about this, and 'they' are really behind the times.
12. Nutritional kookyness abounds. In 2004, it was viral emails bearing dire warnings about the dangers of microwaving, and that margarine is "just one molecule away from plastic". Now it's raw juice fasts, anti-seed oil rants and essential oil nonsense on Facebook.
13. We don't trust science. Closely related to the above point. It feels like now we'd rather trust an Instagram influencer, a seller of supplements or a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook for our nutrition advice than a body of actual scientific evidence.
14. We still mostly ignore expert advice. We all actually know, pretty much, what and how to eat for health, despite all the noise. Humans are contrary creatures, though, so most of us don't do it.
15. Nutrition is complex! And so are humans. Food is not just fuel. It's emotional; it's tied up with family and community and self-image. What and how we eat is meaningful and personal. One size, still, definitely does not fit all.
• Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide; www.healthyfood.com