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This issue of Sight and Life magazine focuses on food culture and we have curated contributions that explore the social and cultural domains of food choices and food experiences more broadly. We acknowledge that this is only part of the story. We promise to explore cognition (psychology, brain) and biology (evolution, genes, biochemistry) – factors that also drive food choices – in a future issue of the magazine. For some of our readers trained in biology or chemistry, culture may seem a fuzzy, perhaps non-scientific, topic. Be assured, however, that culture is as much part of nutrition as are biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and genes, and there is a rich body of research on nutrition and culture. 

Food, culture, and nutrition science

The Oxford English Dictionary defines culture as the beliefs, values, practices, social forms, and material traits of social groups. So when we speak of food and culture or of food culture, what we are examining are the shared values, beliefs, and practices that guide the food choices of a group of people. The cultural perspective is especially useful when seeking to understand the multiple factors that affect eating, such as food availability, food purchases, meal preparation or meal selection, and the eating environment. As the late Professor Hans Rosling said,

“Scientists want to do good, but the problem is that they don’t understand the world.” 

Please enjoy perusing this issue of Sight and Life magazine with a curious mind, with a view to learning more about how a cultural perspective can enrich your nutrition research and programs.

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