Sunday, February 04, 2007

Think with your stomach


This is the time of year that many people try to watch what they eat, with the gyms seeing a surge in membership and "healthy" products selling well. Cutting through the crap is this excellent article by Michael Pollan from the NY Times. It's a long read, but really, really worthwhile.

Taking a stand against the "science" of nutritionism, it outlines how what we perceive as healthy food today is a result of political fudging in the USA in the late 1970's. He argues that the shift from eating food to eating nutrients has made us take our eye off the ball, ignoring the fact that foods can interact chemically with each other inside our bodies.

A fascinating read, he details a few rules of thumb for eating (read pages 1, 11, and 12 if you can't be bothered digesting the whole thing) which seem to make perfect sense. They have certainly inspired me, especially the first 3:
Eat food: he suggests only eating what your great-grandmother would have recognised as food. What I'm taking from this is that processed and "laboratory" food is to be avoided. Although we all eat things that would not have been known here 100 years ago, like bananas and chillies, our great-grandmothers would still recognise that we were using fresh fruit and veg. In other words, use raw ingredients or food with "real" ingredients wherever possible.
Avoid food making health claims: these foods are most likely processed and their benefits at best dubious. See "eat food".
To quote verbatim, "Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed".

There we are then. A long post for a long article, but one that I genuinely think is worth making and reading. Sorry if this bored you, but food nowadays often seems to veer from what seems right: Sunny D contains oil, and less than 2% fruit juice...

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