Tag Archives: nutritionism

Top 5 Worst Nutrition Advice in History

This is a great article by eatlocalgrown.com. It is great especially for people who think eggs are unhealthy, or that you need to be on a low-fat diet, use canola oil, vegetable oil, and margarine instead of real oils, fats, and butter, or if you think that the quality of food (unprocessed, organic, fresh, and REAL) is unimportant.

Top 5 Worst Nutrition Advice in History:

  1. Throw away egg yolks, the most nutritious part of the egg
  2. Everyone should be on a low-fat, high-carb diet, even diabetics
  3. A calorie is a calorie, food quality is less important
  4. Use polyunsaturated vegetable oils for cooking
  5. Replace butter with processed, trans fat laden margarine

Read the whole article from eatlocalgrown.com here.

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Click here to see other food-related posts I’ve written.

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.

linked-together

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