Historical Reflection of Food Processing and the Role of Legumes as Part of a Healthy Balanced Diet

The purpose of food processing has changed over time. High-intensity industrially processed food often exhibits higher concentrations of added sugar, salt, higher energy, and lower micronutrient density than does similar food or meals prepared at home from raw or minimally processed food. Viewing the evolution of food processing from history, one could make out three major transitions related to human socioeconomic changes. The first transition was marked by the change from hunting and gathering to settled societies with agriculture and livestock farming. The second and third transitions were associated with the Industrial Revolution and with market liberalization, global trade and automation, respectively. The next major transition that will influence food processing and shape human nutrition may include the exploitation of sustainable and efficient protein and food sources that will ensure high-quality food production for the growing world population. Apart from novel food sources, traditional food such as legumes and pulses likewise exhibit great potential to contribute to a healthy balanced diet. The promotion of legumes should be intensified in public dietary guidelines because their consumption is rather low in high-income countries and increasingly displaced as a traditional staple by industrially processed food in low- to middle-income countries.


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