As the food industry has grown and become more complex, so have people’s dietary needs. People are much more interested in what they are eating these days, and where that food comes from. While there are many people who have special dietary requirements based on food intolerances and allergies, there are also large portions of the population making conscious decisions to eat in a particular way for a number of reasons.
Around 1 in 5 Australians currently live with a food intolerance or allergy, and the rate of allergies in children is increasing. An allergy is caused by a false reaction by the immune system recognizing a protein component of a food as a threat.
Reactions to food allergies can escalate quickly and be life-threatening, so it’s important to ensure people know exactly what ingredients go into the foods they are eating. The most common food allergies involve tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and gluten, however people can have allergies to almost anything.
In people with coeliac disease, their immune systems have an adverse reaction to a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats that causes small bowel damage which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and gastrointestinal symptoms.
An intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system but can cause a range of reactions including hives, swelling, ulcers and stomach irritations. Gluten and dairy intolerances are the most well-known food intolerances. Dairy intolerances are linked to a sugar found in milk products, lactose, which some people have trouble breaking down and digesting. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Other dietary requirements may be based on health conditions that demand a specific diet designated by a health professional, and diets that people stick to for moral, health or goal-orientated reasons. Vegetarianism and veganism are on a steady increase among young people in the western world with people generally switching to vegetarian or vegan diets because of environmental and animal welfare concerns, but there are also a number of athletes who are making the switch for improved athletic performance and general health.
Below you can see, ‘Modern Eating: The Basics’ — an infographic that will help you when understanding or catering to dietary needs.