Would you like to know more about food or about issues connected to it?
What it is made from, how it is processed, how does it influence our health? Have you ever wondered what from the plethora of information that is flooding us is actually true?
I do. I like to eat good food, I like to eat well, I am interested about how food is made and what food products are made from. I read labels, try to follow related news and I watch some programmes about the food industry.
But to be fair, however much I try to be informed, I am often confused. And suspicious.
Suspicious about the next best superfood or diet. Confused if being vegetarian/vegan is good or bad for people. Is eating according to the so-called paleo diet really beneficial to you? For example. Of course you can find plenty of materials supporting any view, any side, for as well as against. What is only marketing and what is actually true?
Superfood and kale
Nobody will probably argue that fruit and vegetables is healthy for you. But is some fruit/veg so much better than others that we have to call it superfood? Maybe it has more vitamins in less calories, but the rest of fruit/veg have also their advantages. Isn´t calling it healthy/nutritious food enough? Probably it would be, but superfood sounds better. Do you remember the kale craze last year (I found an interesting article about it here)? Did the scientists suddenly find out that this the veg that is beating everything else around? I am not sure, but I don´t think so. I don´t think that kale or goji berries or chia seeds are so much better that it has to be called superfood. Of course they are healthy and good for you, but do they need to be put on such a high pedestal as we can see it nowadays? What about a humble orange or another type of cabbage without that fancy name? Maybe they are on marketing people´s list of superfood for one of the following years…
In one food-related programme on BBC they said that there is actually no superfood, but you can hear the opposite from all other sides. And this kale and superfood example was just, well… an example. One from many. So who to believe? Where to find reliable information? Nutrition therapists might want to sell a specific product, books might be too subjective, magazines are advertising what they pay them for and I´m not even talking about the mighty Internet.
Well, using one´s brain was the first option that came to my mind. However, what if my brain is biased against superfood and there is actually some? I was thinking – where could I find a source of REALLY objective information? Which places should be non-biased? I concluded that it should be universities – places that are supposed to really educate people and be free from any advertising or similar influences.
As a result, I started to pay attention to new courses on food-related topics in a list of MOOCs I receive into my email inbox every week. MOOCs are massive open online courses offered usually for free. The courses are university-level, but without the need to complete an entire programme of studies. Many established universities offer them and there are several online platforms which work as their directories. Some courses are with a fixed schedule, some are self-paced.
I was searching on only one platform and only in English and found quite a lot of food-related courses. I am sure you´d find many more on other sites/platforms and in different languages.
I have to say I haven´t completed any course about food yet, but I saw some really interesting ones.
So what can you learn about?
This list is just for inspiration about how many topics you can study. The majority of the courses below have already started/finished, however I think some of them are repeated on a regular basis, so you might catch them later on.
Food for Thought – this was the first food related course I noticed and became interested in. Unfortunately I didn´t have enough time to do it. I still hope they will run it again.
Introduction to Food and Health from the Stanford University. “In this course, learners will be given the information and practical skills they need to begin optimizing the way they eat.”
The Science of Nutrition – “Explore the science behind what you eat with this free online course.”
Nutrition and Wellbeing – “Demystify the complex and conflicting messages we hear about diet, health and lifestyle today, with this free online course.”
Identifying Food Fraud – “An introduction to modern analytical science techniques and how they can be used to uncover food fraud.”
Obesity – “In this course we will discuss the facts and misconceptions around obesity, and the gaps in the scientific knowledge.”
Tackling the Global Food Crisis: Sustainable Agri-food Systems – “This course looks at food insecurity and the challenges to be overcome in order to maintain healthy and sustainable food supplies.”
Now to you – have you ever taken any food-related course? Did you like it? Do you recommend any?