Today there exists a deep disconnect between the sheer volume of products and services that are offered to “make our lives better and happier,” and the actual quantity we need to stay healthy and happy. There is no doubt that subtraction is almost a necessity in order to restore a healthier, happier life. And as a matter of fact, we have been trying to subtract. Especially for eating habits, a wide variety of diet methods have been introduced, albeit mostly unsuccessful.
Why does subtraction fail? It is because we almost always assume that “more” is always better than “less,” and consider subtraction as a trade-off between pleasure and sacrifice: “I need to stop eating my favorite treats in order to regain my health.” ”I want this product so badly but I cannot buy it because I need to save money to send my kids to college.” Subtraction is something you have to do regretfully or unfortunately. And because of these negative notions, the efforts rarely work.
But there is an emerging trend in subtraction that completely changes the dynamics between “more” and “less.” In food industry, subtraction of intense, concentrated and artificial ingredients is now linked with deliciousness and pleasure.
Take a look at Plum Organics, which was founded in Emeryville, California in 2007 to provide safe, healthy and delicious baby food. The co-founder, Neil Grimmer, who was a designer at a renowned design firm IDEO, decided to start Plum Organics when he realized that he didn’t find any products at grocery stores he wanted to give to his newborn baby.
What’s really revolutionary with Plum Organic is the fact that they introduced “culinary-inspired recipes” in a baby food market, not just safe, high quality and organic ingredients. Despite our obscure perception that babies don’t tell subtle flavors, our taste buds critically (often irreversibly) develop in the first 1000 days – 10 months as a fetus, and two years as a baby. Believe or not, babies’ taste development is already started in utero as they taste food through what their mother eats. Once born, they start recognizing what they are eating after about four months. Then when it’s time for solid food, they’ve already developed some (or strong) likes/dislikes towards foods.
If we fail to develop our taste buds in our early life during which they critically establish their own definition of “deliciousness,” they will become much more prone to intense, strong flavors we need to avoid to stay healthy. And since they are keenly aware of the importance, Plum Organics advocates delivering well-prepared, fine foods at the first bites of a baby.
Their product lines contain spinach, pea, kale, broccoli, carrot, zucchini or parsnip among other vegetables that are nutritious, but avoided by many people because they taste “bad.” But Plum Organics combine and cook those otherwise “unwelcome” ingredients with fruits, grains and dairies to maximize their deliciousness. Yes, babies can definitely learn to appreciate kale. It is encouraging.
Other niches in food market that leverage subtraction include gluten-free or Paleo diet. Gluten-free category was created to take care of the people who are allergic to gluten, but has been evolving ever since as a driver to re-discover deliciousness outside wheat and other gluten-containing grains.
Subtracting wheat and other grains is a big deal because it is literally everywhere. It’s found even in ketchup or salad dressings, not just bread or pasta.
But if you remember the history of our diet, wheat is with us only for 0.05% of our entire history – it is still new. The fact that so many people are allergic to it demonstrates that our body hasn’t quite finished the feasibility study to fully embrace wheat. It is still a foreign food that causes stress in digestive systems of many of us. But nonetheless, we love it and kept growing the amount of production and consumption dramatically over the last couple of years. Why? Because it’s a very concentrated form of carbohydrate, for which our taste buds are designed to find deliciousness. Because it’s so intense it’s almost addictive.
As we increased the reliance on wheat, we forgot other food we used to eat in lieu of it. But it’s just the matter of remembering them by re-tuning our taste buds. It would take some efforts because wheat dominates our definition of “deliciousness” in many ways, but people are on the track of re-discovering many food that were long forgotten.years ago.
If you start subtracting more “new” food such as refined sugar, dairy products or processed foods from your diet, you will become a Paleo diet eater. (Beans, including lentil is gluten-free, but Paleo diet excludes them from “to-eat” list.) As the name suggest, Paleo diet tries to mimic what our Stone Age ancestors ate. But its purpose is not anthropological. The idea is to make sure you are eating the food that is completely compatible with your body and digestive system.
The emerging trend of subtraction in food industry is aimed at reducing any sources of stress to our digestive system (which turns to be a lot), and leverage its abilities originally intended for.