Category Archives: Books

Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 4.2

Not Too Much: How to EatGlorify God in Your Body

In this post of the Getting Over Nutritionism series, I am discussing Michael Pollan’s chapter in In Defense of Food, entitled Not Too Much: How to Eat. So far, I have talked about why food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts as well as the fact that a diet is also more than the sum of its foods; in this post I will discuss why food culture is more than the sum of its menus.

Pollan explains that what nutritionism misses when it sees the French Paradox (the fact that the French eat gobs of saturated fat and wash it down with wine, yet they are some of the healthiest cultures) is that these people have a totally different relationship to food than we have. Nutritionism looks too much into the chemistry of food rather than to the sociology or ecology of eating. The French don’t snack very often, and most of their foods are eaten in meals that are shared with other people. Their portions are small and they don’t have seconds, yet they spend much more time eating than we do. Because of all of these combined habits, the French eat much less calories than we do, and they enjoy them much more.

In Defense of Food - Illustration
Image credit: Austin Kleon: A Writer Who Draws.

  1. Eat meals.[10]

There is a common (yet untrue) belief held (especially among Americans) that snacking between meals is better for you than simply eating three meals a day. Because of this belief, people have began snacking much more and eating meals much less. There is a fourth meal that we eat that lasts all day long. We eat this meal while watching TV, studying, driving, etc.

“It is at the table that we socialize and civilize our children, teaching them manners and the art of conversation.”[11]

When a family eats whole meals together, parents can be in charge of portion size, eating and drinking behaviors, as well as implement social norms about greed, gluttony, and waste. Eating meals together is less about filing and fueling ourselves and more about developing language and culture. Many families say and believe that they eat together three or four times a week, but when researchers put cameras in homes and watched them eat their meals, it turns out they eat their “meals” together much less than the families realize. In reality, mom might prepare something for herself and sit at the table eating it alone for the majority of the time; dad and kids each prepare themselves something separately – microwaving or opening packages of food – and eat at the table with mom only for as long as it takes to eat (and not all at the same time). In these kind of situations, Kraft or General Mills decide portion sizes, and the social value of a family sharing food is lost. [12] Also in these situations the family members tend to eat more because they have exactly what they want, therefore, the food companies who have made these products encourage this type of “family meal.” They market to each family member – “low carb for the dieting teenager, low cholesterol for dad, high fat for the eight-year-old, and so on) – and create these meal replacements so that even the eight-year-old can prepare his own meal safely.

Snacks are also a threat to the meal – and possibly the biggest one. Historically, work used to be a place free of food for the most part, causing people to go the five or six hours between lunch and getting off work without food. But now, many workplaces have kitchens full of candies and other kinds of snacks for you to bring back to your desk. Business meetings and conferences are full of bagels, muffins, pastries, and sodas. Economists at Harvard calculate that the majority of the calories we take in are from snacks – and these are not snacks consisting of fruits and vegetables. Instead, snacks are filled with refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated oils, corn sweeteners, and salt.[13]

In order to overturn the rise of snacking and to eat and share more real meals, start with these rules of thumb:

  1. Do all your eating at a table.[14]

“No, a desk is not a table.”[15]

  1. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.[16]

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) gas stations make more money by selling food and cigarettes than they do selling gas. The foods they are selling are, for the most part, (except maybe for the water) all highly processed, nonperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks in huge bottles.

“Gas stations have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you.”[17]

  1. Try not to eat alone.[18]

A growing number of Americans eat alone. It has bee found, though, that light eaters eat more when they eat with other people (most likely because they spend more time at the table), and people who over-eat tend to eat less (because they are more likely to over eat when they away from people watching them eat). When we eat alone, mindlessly watching TV or driving a car, we eat more.

“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture.”[19]

  1. Consult Your Gut.[20]

Psychologists have found that most Westerners use outside (mostly visual) cues to determine when we stop eating.

“The larger the portion, the more we eat; the bigger the container, the more we pour; the more conspicuous the vending machine, the more we buy from it; the close the bowl of M&Ms, the more of them we eat. All of which makes us easy marks for food marketers eager to sell us yet more food.”[21]

It is important to take other things into consideration besides our eyes, does this food smell as good as it looks, does the last few bites of this cake taste as good as the first, I could eat more of this, but am I really still hungry? It is said that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you are full, yet most people finish meals in less than 20 minutes. Because of this, our feeling of being full has almost no say in when we stop eating. Therefore, eating slowly can help us to eat less. The long, lleisurely meals the French have contribute to their ability to tell when they are full. Brian Wansink asked a group of French people how they decided when to stop eating, they said “When I feel full.” But most Americans said, “When my plate is clean” or “When I run out.”[22]

In his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think, Wansink gives dozens of tips on how to better use your senses to determine when you are full: Serve smaller portions on smaller dishes, serve foods and drinks from smaller containers – even if this means repackaging, leave empty bottles, bones, etc. on the table in order to see how much you have eaten or drunk. Use glasses that are taller rather than wider (because people tend to pour more in shorter, fatter glasses), leave healthy foods in sight, and unhealthy ones out of sight (or to make it even easier, don’t buy so many unhealthy foods), leave serving bowls in the kitchen instead of putting them on the table in front of you (this discourages grabbing for seconds).[23]

  1. Eat slowly.[24]

As said previously, this can help you know when to stop. But it is important to eat slowly in a different way as well. Eat deliberately and with knowledge.

“Slow Food is well grown and well prepared [it is] enjoyed at leisurely communal meals… it elevates quality over quantity and believes that doing so depends on cultivating our sense of taste as well as rebuilding the relationships between producers and consumers that the industrialization of our food has destroyed. ’Food quality depends on consumers who respect the work of farmers and are willing to educate their senses.’”[25]

Eating slowly is to have knowledge of what is involved in taking food out of the earth and on to the table. It also means to eat deliberately; eat from freedom rather than of compulsion. Don’t eat thoughtlessly or hurriedly, but have knowledge and gratitude about the food you consume. There is no gratitude (or even knowledge usually) about eating a hamburger who’s meat came from a feedlot and a slaughterhouse who’s workers knew nothing of the animal, and cooked with an artificial grill flavor.

Something that can help gain knowledge and gratitude for your food is to involve yourself in food production by doing things like planting some herbs or foraging edible greens or wild mushrooms. This brings us to our last rule:

  1. Cook, and if you can, plant a garden.[26]

“To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values that implicit in it: that food should be fast, cheap, and easy; that food is a product of industry, not nature; that food is fuel, and not a form of communion, with other people as well as with other species – with nature.”[27]

If you want to get fresh foods, plant a garden; the food you grow there is more fresh than any you can buy – and in the long run it can save you money. The work you put in to growing your food contributes to your health before you even sit down to eat it. Pollan explains that it is extremely satisfying to enlist your body to its own sustenance. And even when problems arise in your garden, it gives you a much bigger appreciation for the farmer you can fall back on who somehow knows how to always get it right. [28]

“When the basket of produce lands on the kitchen counter, when we start in on the cleaning and cutting and chopping, we’re thinking about a dozen different things – what to make, how to make it – but nutrition, or even health, is probably not high on the list. Look at this food. There are no ingredients labels, no health claims, nothing to read except maybe a recipe. Its hard contemplating such produce to think in terms of nutrients or chemical compounds; no, this is food, so fresh it’s still alive, communicating with us by scent and color and taste.”[29]

When you grow your own food, you have taken control from the food scientists and processors. You now know exactly what is in your food – and what is not in it: you do not have to worry about high-fructose corn syrup, ethoxylated diglycerides, or partially hydrogenated soy oil. You don’t have to worry because you know that you did not ethoxylate or partially hydrogenate anything, and you didn’t add any additives (unless you begin with a can of soup – then you should worry).

The last paragraph of this book is too great and too inspiring to summarize, I just couldn’t do it justice without letting you read it for yourself:

“And what these acts subvert is nutritionism: the belief that food is foremost about nutrition and nutrition is so complex that only experts and industry can possibly supply it. When you’re cooking with food as alive as this—these gorgeous and semigorgeous fruits and leaves and flesh—you’re in no danger of mistaking it for a commodity, or a fuel, or a collection of chemical nutrients. No, in the eye o f the cook or the gardener or the farmer who grew it, this food reveals itself for what it is: no mere thing but a web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on the other, and all o f them ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight. I’m thinking o f the relation­ ship between the plants and the soil, between the grower and the plants and animals he or she tends, between the cook and the growers who supply the ingredients, and between the cook and the people who will soon come to the table to enjoy the meal. It is a large community to nourish and be nourished by. The cook in the kitchen preparing a meal from plants and animals at the end of this shortest of food chains has a great many things to worry about, but “health” is simply not one of them, because it is given.“[30]

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Other posts in this series:
For You Were Bought With A Price, So Glorify God in Your Body
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3.1
Part 3.2
Part 3.3
Part 4.1

Continue reading Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 4.2

Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 4.1

Not Too Much: How to Eat

Glorify God in Your Body

In this post of the Getting Over Nutritionism series, I am discussing Michael Pollan’s chapter in In Defense of Food, entitled Not Too Much: How to Eat. So far, I have talked about why food is more than the sum of its nutrients and that a diet is also more than the sum of its foods; now I will discuss why food culture is more than the sum of its menus.

Pollan explains that what nutritionism misses when it sees the French Paradox (the fact that the French eat gobs of saturated fat and wash it down with wine, yet they are some of the healthiest cultures) is that these people have a totally different relationship to food than we have. Nutritionism looks too much into the chemistry of food rather than to the sociology or ecology of eating. The French don’t snack very often, and most of their foods are eaten in meals that are shared with other people. Their portions are small and they don’t have seconds, yet they spend much more time eating than we do. Because of all of these combined habits, the French eat much less calories than we do, and they enjoy them much more.[1]

In Defense of Food - Illustration
Image credit: Austin Kleon: A Writer Who Draws.

This post gives the first eating habit Michael Pollan suggests, along with reasons as to why these habits are so healthy. The next eating habits will be explained in the next couple of weeks.

  1. Pay more, eat less.[2]

Pollan says, “What the French case suggests is that there is a trade-off in eating between quantity and quality.”[3] The food industry in America has devoted more than a century to the quantity and price of foods rather than the quality of foods. Although times seem to be changing for the food industry, history shows that the guiding principle has been pile it high and sell it cheap.[4]

Taste and nutritional quality quite often go hand-in-hand, yet they also often cost more. This is because their growth has been handled less intensively and with much more care. It is shameful, Pollan says, that many people cannot afford to eat high-quality food in the United States (and in many Western cultures). But, the people that can, should. There are countless benefits (such as reducing your exposure to pesticides and pharmaceuticals) to eating high-quality foods for you, for the farmer, and for the people who live near the farmer.

When you pay more for food, you tend to eat less of it, which is an important benefit. Although most people don’t want to hear the tip, eat less, it is something pretty much every American (or Westerner) should take more practice of, even if you are not overweight. Some scientists believe that restricting your calorie intake is the biggest link between diet and the prevention of cancer.

“Overeating promotes cell division, and promotes it most dramatically in cancer cells; cutting back on calories slows cell division. It also stifles the production of free radicals, curbs inflammation, and reduces the risk of most of the Western diseases.”[5]

Although eat less is much easier said than done, we can take up the practices of other, healthier cultures. The French eat small portions and don’t go back for seconds, and the Okinawa people (which is one of the oldest-lived, healthiest populations in the world) practice something they call hara hachi bu: Eat until you are 80% full.[6] American practices are usually that we do not stop eating when we are full (much less when we are 80% full), but we stop eating when our environments tell us to stop, such as when the bowl is empty, plate is clean, or when the TV show is over. According to Brian Wansink (a Cornell professor of marketing and nutritional science) says that Americans pay more attention to external cues rather than internal cues about when we should stop eating.

Paying more for food can help is in a few ways. One, if it costs less, in many cases – for our financial well-being – we need to buy less of it. When we pay more for higher-quality food, we are usually purchasing foods that require a bit more effort to eat. “The rise in obesity in America began around 1980, exactly when a flood of cheap calories started coming off American farms, prompted by the Nixon-era changes in agricultural policy.”[7] Since this time, the price of sweeteners and added fats (mostly coming from subsidized corn and subsidized soybeans) dropped 20%, but the price of fresh fruits and vegetables increased by 40%. The 300 extra calories that Americans have added to their daily diet since 1980 has come from convenience foods like snacks, microwaveable meals, soft drinks, and all kinds of packaged food substances.

Not only are these extra calories cheap, but they require very little time and effort to prepare. If you had to peel, cut, and fry potatoes every time you ate French fries, they would be eaten much less often. In 1980 only 10% of Americans owned a microwave, but in 1999 83% of households had a microwave in their kitchen. “As technology reduces the time cost of food, we tend to eat more of it.”[8]

Pollan explains, though, that the opposite would hold true as well – paying more for food (whether in money, time, or effort – or all three!) will cause us to eat less of it. It is all about priority. Many people cannot afford to pay more for food, but most of us do pay for things like fast internet, multiple phone bills, television, etc. These things are a priority for most of us. Pollan explains that paying more for food isn’t so much a matter of being able to, but more of a matter of priority. When I first started researching real food, I was overwhelmed thinking that we would never be able to afford high-quality foods. But, my husband and I made changes to our priorities, and because of that, we were able to make eating real food work for us. Most Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than people of any other society. If we took a step back and made high-quality food a priority, we might see that it is possible to spend more on food each week (and therefore, eat less of it).

Although you will start to eat less food, you will not be hungrier. Real, whole foods are more filling and tastier. Your taste buds will be satisfied, and so will your stomach. “Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories.”[9]

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Other posts in this series:
For You Were Bought With A Price, So Glorify God in Your Body
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3.1
Part 3.2
Part 3.3
Continue reading Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 4.1

Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 3.3

Mostly Plants: What to Eat

Glorify God in Your Body This is the last post of Part 3 of the series, Getting Over Nutritionism. This series is based on Michael Pollan‘s book In Defense of Food. In Part 3 of this book, Pollan gives tips on what to eat and why real food (no matter the fat content) is always the healthiest option. This post explains the last four tips Pollan gives (visit Part 3.1 and 3.2 to see the other rules he gives).

In Defense of Food - Illustration Image Credit: Austin Kleon – A Writer Who Draws.

  1. Eat more like the French. Or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks.[16]

It has been proven that people who eat a diet full of traditional foods are generally much healthier than people eating a Western diet. These diets include those of Japanese and other Asian diets, diets of Mexico, India, and Mediterranean, including France, Italy, and Greece. These diets consist of two dimensions: the foods the culture eats and how they eat the foods; both are very important to the health of the people (I will discuss their eating habits in the next post of this series). Traditions in a culture reflect a lot of the people, the environment, and the history of the people of the culture. Foods and the way cultures prepare and eat them show just as much. Eating spicy foods help people keep cool in warmer climates. Spices also contain antimicrobial properties, which help keep foods fresh for longer (an important feature needed in foods found in hot environments). It has been found that the hotter the climate, the more spices are found. Cuisines are not only there for health or biology, but also for religious, traditional, or practical reasons. But even more than any other cultural practice, eating is deeply connected to nature – connected both to human biology and the natural world. Many of the combinations of foods and how they are prepared are products of biocultural evolution. [17] For example, corn and beans are commonly eaten together in Latin America. Each of these foods are lacking an important amino acid that the other is abundant in; eaten together, they form a balanced diet when meat is not part of the meal.

  1. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.[18]

As Pollan said, diets are products of an evolutionary process. With this in mind, new foods or food substances that resemble mutations could be an evolutionary improvement, but they probably aren’t – for example, soy. Americans are eating much more soy products than ever before, mainly because of the industry that can and wants to process and sell huge amounts of subsidized soy that comes from North and South America. But we are eating soy today in ways that Asian cultures (who have much more experience with soy) would not recognize; things like soy protein isolate, soy insoflavones, or textured vegetable protein from soy and soy oils (which make up a fifth of the calories in the American diet). These soy products are in thousands of processed foods, resulting in Americans eating more soy than even the Japanese or Chinese. Unfortunately, there are many negative effects of these food products. Soy insoflavones (that is found in the majority of soy products) are compounds much like estrogen that actually binds to human estrogen receptors (although it is unclear whether or not these phytoestrogens act like estrogen or only trick our bodies into thinking they are actually estrogen). Phytoestrogens have an effect on the growth of some cancers, menopause symptoms, and the function of the endocrine system.[19] These uncertainties have rendered soy insoflavones GRAS (“generally regarded as safe”) status by the FDA.

  1. Don’t look for the Magic Bullet in the Traditional Diet.[20]

Just as foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts, dietary patterns are more than the sum of the foods that comprise them. There has been much study and research on what exactly it is in these traditional diets that make them so healthy (Is it the olive oil? Fish? Wild greens? Garlic? Nuts?), but any time they pinpoint one single food of value, it is not sufficient to explain why people who live off of these diets live longer, have lower cancer rates than people living off the Western diet. It is obvious that the whole of these dietary patterns is greater than the sum of its parts.[21] According to the current scientific standards of dietary guidelines, the French eat unhealthily (too much saturated fat and wine), Greeks get too much of their calories from fats (mainly by eating so much olive oil), yet the people who live off of these diets are significantly healthier than people who live off of the Western diet. Recently, some have began studying whole diets instead of individual foods and nutrients. Their findings support this idea that whole diets are more than their individual parts. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied and compared the Mediterranean and Asian patterns (which are high in fruits, vegetables, and fish but are low in red meat and dairy products) with the Western patterns (which is high in processed meat, refined grains, sugary foods, and dairy products). This study found huge amounts of evidence that whole dietary patterns (not specifically foods or nutrients) are what cause these people to be healthier.

  1. Have a glass of wine with dinner.[22]

Although wine isn’t an X factor of any diet, it is a huge part of the French and Mediterranean diets. There has been an abundance of scientific evidence that shows there are health benefits of alcohol (along with centuries of belief and evidence). Although there are, of course, threats of alcoholism, it has been found that people who drink in moderation seem to live longer and suffer much less from heart disease than those who drink much more or not at all. Red wine in particular has unique protective qualities. There are heart benefits that increase with the amount of alcohol you consume (up to four drinks a day – depending on your body type – any more increases your risk of having other health issues). Therefore, it is recommended that men have no more than two drinks a day and women have one drink a day. It is important to remember that drinking a little bit daily is healthier than drinking a lot on the weekends. Drinking with food is also healthier than drinking without eating.

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Other posts in this series:
For You Were Bought With A Price, So Glorify God in Your Body
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3.1
Part 3.2
Part 4.1
Continue reading Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 3.3

Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 3.2

Mostly Plants: What to Eat

Glorify God in Your Body In Part 3.1 of this Getting Over Nutritionism series, I explained why leaves are especially important to make a significant part of your diet. In this series we have learned why real food is so important, what it really is, and why cultures can thrive on healthy diets of both high-fat and low-fat. As long as the foods you eat are built on the foundation of whole foods instead of industrially processed products, your diet will most likely be a healthy one. Although almost any real food diet will be a healthy one, there are combinations of foods and ways to prepare them that contribute to your health. Part 3.3 I will talk about the last few tips Michael Pollan gives in his book In Defense of Food. You can see the first tip he gives in my previous post.

In Defense of Food - IllustrationImage Credit: Austin Kleon: A Writer Who Draws.

  1. You are what you eat eats too.[5]

“The diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality, and the healthfulness, of the food itself, whether it is meat or milk or eggs.”[6] This seems obvious, but unfortunately it is neglected by the industrial food chain in order for them to make huge amounts of cheap animal protein. Because of this, many of the animals we eat have gone from a diet of grass (which they are naturally meant to eat – and is the most healthy for them to eat) to a diet of seeds. Animals are fed seeds because seeds typically are more energy-rich (they have more calories), therefore the animal will grow faster and produce more milk or eggs. Unfortunately, because most animals, such as cows and sheep, are meant to eat grass, they get sick from eating too many seeds, causing them to be given antibiotics. Some animals, like chickens and pigs, do not get sick from eating seeds, but they are still much healthier if they are able to eat green plants; their meat and eggs are much healthier as well when they have been given a diet rich in green plants (therefore, we are much healthier when we eat meat, milk, and eggs that have lived their lives on a healthy, natural diet). When animals are able to eat a diet of grass, much healthier fats (more omega-3’s and CLA; and fewer omega-6’s and saturated fat) are produced in their meat, milk, and eggs, along with much more vitamins and antioxidants. At times, you can even see the difference, as in the eggs below.

eggs2
Image credit: 100 Days of Real Food

  1. If you have the space, buy a freezer.[7]

Pollan says, “When you find a good source of pastured meat, you’ll want to buy it in quantity. Buying meat in bulk – a quarter of a steer, say, or a whole hog – is one way to eat well on a budget.”[8] When you have a large freezer, you can also buy a lot of produce at the height of its season and store it throughout its offseason, allowing you to eat it throughout the year without losing a ton of its health. Freezing does not significantly lose nutritional value of produce as canning does.

  1. Eat like an omnivore.[9]

Whether you are a vegetarian or not, it is important for your body to have variety in the foods and species it consumes. When there is diversity in your diet, you consume much more vitamins and nutrients than if you were to eat the same things throughout the year (or every week). Another reason to have diversity in your diet is for the food chain. “Biodiversity in the diet means biodiversity in the fields. To shrink the monocultures that now feed us would mean farmers won’t need to spray as much pesticide or chemical fertilizer, which would mean healthier soils, healthier plants and animals, and in turn healthier people. Your health isn’t bordered by your body, and what’s good for the soil is probably good for you too.”[10]

  1. Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.[11]

Although it could be easier to simply say “eat organic” (and it is true that certified organic foods are better from a health standpoint), organic oreos are not a health food.

“Most consumers automatically assume that the word ‘organic’ is synonymous with health, but it makes no difference to your metabolism if the high-fructose corn syrup in your soda is organic.”[12]

Foods that are grown in healthy soils, though, are much healthier and nutritious than any foods grown in unhealthy soils – organic or not. BUT, if the foods you are eating have come from across the country, the nutritional quality has deteriorated since the time of picking to the time you consume them. Therefore, it is best to purchase foods that are both organic and local.

  1. Eat wild foods when you can.[13]

The two healthiest plants in the world are weeds: lamb’s quarters and purslane. One of the healthiest traditional (nonwestern) diets, the Mediterranean, are full of wild greens. These plants are much healthier than their domesticated relatives because they have had to make themselves stronger in order to defend themselves against pests and diseases without the help of pesticides made by people. Many crop plants are bred for sweetness, not health; many defensive compounds that plants produce are more bitter than sweet. Wild animals, as well, are generally healthier to eat than farmed animals. Wild game contain less saturated fat and more omega-3 fatty acids than farmed/domesticated animals.

  1. Be the kind of person who takes supplements.[14]

Generally, people who take supplements are healthier than people who do not take supplements. BUT, in controlled studies, it has been found that supplements do not work. So why are the people taking the supplements healthier than people who do not take them? The health of these people has nothing to do with the pills themselves; people who take supplements are, for the most part, more conscious of their health and more knowledgeable about health and food. “So to the extent you can, be the kind of person who would take supplements, and then save your money.”[15] Experts in nutrition suggest that everyone take a multivitamin, especially adults. Your diet should give you all of the nutrients that your body needs to be healthy, especially if your diet consist of mainly real foods, but as you age, your body does not absorb vitamins and nutrients as well, so taking a multivitamin-and-mineral pill is a good idea. Michael Pollan also suggests taking a fish oil supplement if you do not eat fish often. The next post in this series will discuss the last four tips that Michael Pollan gives on what to eat.

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Other posts in this series:
For You Were Bought With A Price, So Glorify God in Your Body
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3.1
Part 3.3
Part 4.1

Continue reading Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 3.2

Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 3.1

Mostly Plants: What to Eat

Glorify God in Your Body

In the previous post of this Getting Over Nutritionism series, I talked about the importance of eating real food, and what exactly real food is. In part 3, I am discussing what foods are best to eat and why. Michael Pollan explains in his book In Defense of Food that as long as you eat food, whatever the food, the majority of the time, you are okay. People from all over the world have survived and thrived on a vast array of different kinds of diets, full of only real foods. These diets consist of anything such as healthy high-fat and low-fat diets; as long as the foods you eat are built on the foundation of whole foods instead of industrially processed products, your diet will most likely be a healthy one.

Although a diet consisting of all whole foods will pretty much be a healthy one no matter what, there are some whole foods that are better than others. There are also ways of cooking and combining whole foods that are healthier as well. Therefore, this section will discuss Michael Pollan’s tips on what real foods to eat.

In Defense of Food - IllustrationImage credit: Austin Kleon: A Writer Who Draws.

As I was writing this post, I realized it was going to be a lot longer than anticipated. There are so many important things I wanted to share that I just couldn’t leave out. Because of this, I’ve decided to break Part 3 up into multiple parts. The first topic in Part 3 of the Getting Over Nutritionism series is:

  1. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.[1]

There are many disagreements among scientists about diets, theories, and what about whole foods is so good for us (Is it the antioxidants? The fiber? The omega-3 fatty acids?), but there is one thing they do agree on – plants are really good for you and that people should eat more plants than anything else in their diet.

There are some big evolutionary reasons why we depend so heavily on vitamin C, an antioxidant. The bodies of ancestors once possessed the ability to make vitamin C on their own. Our body’s cell metabolism and the defense of inflammation both produce something called oxygen radicals which are atoms of oxygen that have an unpaired electron that make them keen to react with molecules in ways that can create health problems such as cancer and other problems that are many times associated with aging (because this oxygen radical production raises as you get older). Vitamin C and other antioxidants work to absorb and even out the radicals before they are able to react badly with other molecules.[2] These antioxidants help our bodies in other ways such as helping our liver to break down toxins – this is why it is important to eat all different kinds of plants; the bigger variety of plants, the bigger variety of antioxidants.

Because our ancestors were eating so many plants that provided this vitamin C, their bodies slowly stopped producing it (because the evolutionary process gets rid of attributes that are no longer needed). Therefore, it is important that we eat mostly plants in our diet so that we receive the antioxidants that we need. Many studies show us that in countries where people eat one pound or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half than what it is in the United States; it actually reduces the risk of dying from all Western diseases. [3]

All of the nutrients that are found in meat (except B12) can be found in plants. Although we do need B12, we do not need much of it and it can be found in all animal foods, and in bacteria (in dirty, decaying, or fermented produce). Meat is very nutritious and supplies many vitamins and minerals that we need in our diets, but we do not need to eat it in the quantities that most Westerners (especially Americans) do. Some studies, according to Pollan, show that the more meat (especially red meat) you have in your diet, the higher your risk is for heart disease and cancer. Some studies suggest that you should eat meat as more of a side dish, than a main portion.[4]

There isn’t a clear reason why we need to worry a bit more about our meat intake, but it is found that when people eat more meat, plants are pushed out of the diet. Eating industrial meat also causes us to consume more saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids, growth hormones, and carcinogens than anyone should have in their diet. Meats have the advantages of getting much of the nutrients from its food when it is fed its natural diet, but it also has the disadvantage of getting much of the toxins when it is fed an unnatural diet. This is a perfect example of the connection between the health of the soil, plant, animal, and eater. This introduces us to our next rule: You are what you eat eats too.

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The next post in this series will discuss the next six rules that Michael Pollan gives on what to eat.

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Other posts in this series:
For You Were Bought With A Price, So Glorify God in Your Body
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3.2
Part 3.3

Continue reading Getting Over Nutritionism – Part 3.1