It’s not just about nutrients – the Journal of Ethnic Foods now open for submissions

Food studies provide better insights into important societal processes involving economics, health, politics, history, and the environment. The Journal of Ethnic Foods, published by BMC as of January 2019 and supported by the Korean Food Research Institute, pursues an interdisciplinary paradigm including insights from cultural anthropology, population health, biology, history, ecology and geography. We talk about the journal with the Editor-in-Chief Dr. Dae Young Kwon.

What makes this journal unique?

This journal looks beyond a research informed solely by biology, technology and industrial engineering, and seeks a more comprehensive paradigm to answer a broader question – what role is food going to play in our societies in the future, especially in the post-industrialized era? We believe that looking at food from a wider perspective in terms of behaviors and well-being, ethnicity, traditions, the environment and cultural heritage is as important as other approaches in food research today. We hope that more food scientists and countries will take a greater interest in the importance of food analyzed from this interdisciplinary perspective in the Journal of Ethnic Foods.

Geographical diversity and inclusiveness of perspectives stand out when browsing through the articles. What range of topics and contexts does the journal cover?

In our globalized era, it’s important to emphasize diversity of context and heritage.

In our globalized era, it’s important to emphasize diversity of context and heritage. This is why the Journal of Ethnic Foods has published articles about foods from many different countries and ethnic groups to date, including papers with a variety of methodologies and approaches.

We aim to continue shedding light on the amazing diversity of foods and dietary styles around the world. Our goal is to identify the wider array of skills, cultural traditions and lifestyles associated with foods from a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage, and to examine them from an academic and scientific perspective, as a fundamental aspect of acknowledging their importance. Ultimately the journal contributes to helping a wider public around the world make more informed choices that will improve their health and well-being.

Source: pixabay.com

It is said that food and eating are more than just nutrients. Can you think of a specific research example that shows how an interdisciplinary approach is key when studying food?

In countries where getting sufficient nutrition is no longer an issue, food policies that relate to lifestyle are very important. However, our point is that it’s hard to achieve effective policies without including social, psychological and cultural aspects, especially if the paradigm is focused only on food production and industry. We believe that a more collaborative and integrated approach between subject areas is necessary.

A cross-disciplinary effort identified some unique features of the Korean diet, such as the use of fermented food, high consumption of vegetables, moderate to high consumption of legumes and fish, and low consumption of red meat.

The paper Korean diet: Characteristics and Historical Background (2016) is an example of this interdisciplinary effort. This paper discusses the main features of food history and traditions in Korea. The diversity of raw materials and cooking methods used in Korean cuisine has recently attracted interest about positive health benefits, but available literature looks insufficient and further research is needed.

Similarly to research carried out on renowned healthy diets, such as the Mediterranean and Nordic ones, or on the so-called ‘French paradox’, this paper identifies some unique features of the Korean diet, such as the use of fermented food, proportionally high consumption of vegetables, moderate to high consumption of legumes and fish, and low consumption of red meat. A very interesting list of dishes and recipes is available in the supplementary materials of the article.

Another intriguing point we wanted to address is the ‘Korean paradox’ – high-in-salt recipes such as kuk, tang, and kimchi are very common in Korean diet, but the average life expectancy in Korea is > 80 years, although high salt intake is widely considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This article contained an outline of the subsequent Seoul Declaration, which was the result of a cross-disciplinary effort by almost 100 experts. Of course more research is needed on this subject, but I think this article goes a long way towards promoting greater understanding of a local food tradition like the Korean one.

Why open access?

All the content published in this journal is ultimately about health, well-being, food safety and eating behaviors. We believe that a wider public of researchers, scholars and consumers should access to this kind of information and the open access model suits perfectly this purpose. Also, we like the idea of health and well-being as values to share at all levels across societies, and scientific content that is fully open and free to share with anyone in the world fits neatly with this view. It’s all about these values of sharing after all.


Dae Young Kwon completed his Bachelor degree in Department of Food Science and Engineering at Seoul National University; MS and PhD in Biological Science and Biotechnology at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). After completing his Post-doctoral training at Whitehead Institute, MIT, Cambridge (USA), he has started his research as Research Scientist at Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI). He worked at KFRI in the field of Food Biological Chemistry. He worked as Adjunct Professor at Sookmyung University in 1997-2003. He is a Professor of United University of Science and Technology since 2004. He worked as the President of KFRI. He is a Fellow of Korea Academy of Science and Technology since 2011. He has worked on the health effect for metabolic syndrome, anti-aging food and food culture and history.

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