In defense of Food by Michael Pollen
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
“Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.”
You might say Julia Child planted the seeds for Slow Food in the U.S. At a time when fast foods, TV dinners and convenience cooking using pre-processed foods was on the rise, she was encouraging cooking good meals using real ingredients.
Sounds simple. But do you have any idea how much food Americans eat that isn’t really food?
You’ve heard it before. Processed foods contain a lot more salt than we need. They contain a lot more fat than we need. The dangers of hydrogenated oils. They contain a lot less nutrition due to over processing. They contain ingredients we can’t identify and can’t pronounce. And they contain ingredients that aren’t food. If it’s boxed, bagged, canned or jarred and has a list of ingredients on the label, it’s processed.
Methods used to process foods include:
* Aseptic Processing
Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for “safety” and convenience reasons. And scary as it seems, about 90 percent of the money that Americans spend on food is used to buy processed items.
Sugar is sucrose. High Fructose Corn Syrup has been processed to combine fructose and glucose. HFCS is up to 10 times richer in harmful carbonyl compounds, such as methylglyoxal, than a diet soft drink control. Carbonyl compounds are elevated in people with diabetes and are blamed for causing diabetic complications such as foot ulcers and eye and nerve damage. Consumption of fructose is more likely to lead to obesity than consumption of sucrose. There are some indications that HFCS turns off our body’s ability to sense when it’s full and stop eating. Large quantities of fructose stimulate the liver to produce triglycerides, promotes glycation of proteins and induces insulin resistance. Glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body but all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of test animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis, similar to problems that develop in the livers of alcoholics. In a 2007 study, rats were fed a diet high in fat and HFCS and kept relatively sedentary for 16 weeks in an attempt to emulate the diet and lifestyle of many Americans. The rats were not forced to eat, but were able to eat as much as they wanted; they consumed a large amount of food, and the researcher, Dr. Tetri stated that there is evidence that fructose suppresses the sensation of fullness. Within four weeks, the rats showed early signs of fatty liver disease and type II diabetes. Some HFCS manufactured in 2005 contained mercury. In 2009, trace amounts of mercury were still being found in a wide assortment of products containing HFCS.
Some people are more sensitive to fructose. They include hypertensive, hyperinsulinemic, hypertriglyceridemic, non-insulin dependent diabetic people, people with functional bowel disease and postmenopausal women.
Sugar glossary and list of hidden HFCS and amounts HERE.
To spot fructose on a food label, look for the words “corn sweetener,” “corn syrup,” or “corn syrup solids” as well as “high-fructose corn syrup.”
Other “non-foods” to avoid are:
Trans Fats, “partially hydrogenated,” “fractionated,” or “hydrogenated” (fully hydrogenated fats are not a heart threat, but some trans fats are mislabeled as “hydrogenated”). The higher up the phrase “partially hydrogenated oil” is on the list of ingredients, the more trans fat the product contains. Olive oil good. Palm kernel oil, bad.
Refined Grains, white bread, rolls, sugary low-fiber cereal, white rice, or white pasta. That includes refined white flour and even unbleached flour.
Salt, otherwise known as sodium. Your limit should be 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, about the amount in three-fourths of a teaspoon of salt. (Table salt, by the way, is 40 percent sodium, 60 percent chloride.) Only the “Nutrition Facts” panel on a food package will give you the real sodium count. Don’t believe claims on the package front such as “sodium-free” (foods can still have 5 mg per serving); “reduced sodium” (it only means 25 percent less than usual); or “light in sodium” (half the amount you’d normally find). In fact, between the nutrition information and the ingredients list, you’ll be able to cut a lot of unhealthy “food-like products” out of your diet.
Or you can follow Michael Pollen’s guidelines:
Avoid foods that are:
3. More than five in number
4. Include High Fructose Corn Syrup
Not too much.
Portion control. Sounds simple. But in fact isn’t that easy. Do we weight it? How many of us have food scales in our kitchen weighing grams of this and grams of that? Or do you to volume? Nothing bigger than your clenched fist. Remember that one? Or how about calorie counting? Or Richard Simmon’s “food wallet” with the cards. How much is too much. Not realy my problem. I did Nutrisystem for a year and my problem was not eating enough. After I reached my goal weight I had a cupboard full of “snacks” and some breakfasts left. So “not too much”. Well , I’m still working on that. In my lastest quest to try to portion (eat enough of the correct thing) I have found….Bento.
Bento boxes are portion sized and intended to be used for brown bagging lunch. Most work out to about 600 – 800 ml. There are some larger boxes for men and even family picnic sized bento sets. There are smaller boxes for children’s lunches. You can tell them by the anime and cartoon characters that decorate them and their bright colors. There are thermal ones with seals for transporting soups or liquids. Once you get used to the size of a bento lunch, portioning for breakfast and dinner becomes easier. You can bento a breakfast too. And there are open bento trays designed for dinners.
And even though there is no research supporting it, you’re still going to want to avoid HFCS in case that contributes to over eating.
Sounds simple. Until you’ve priced fresh produce. And what if you’re trying to eat green. You can’t grow enough to provide all of the fruits and vegetables you really need. You want to eat local. You also want to eat as organic as possible to avoid chemicals and keep your carbon footprint low. Locavore. Urban gardening. Edible Landscapes. There is a huge movement to replace lawns with edible gardens. Fritz Haeg wrote Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn. Front lawns came into vogue after WWII. With the advent of the middle class and boom in housing, people wanted to display their prosperity in the same way the rich have on their estates: with a huge, wasteful, high-maintenance lawn.
At the extreme there is Urban Homesteading. This isn’t for everyone and is definately time consuming. You’ll also have to check local codes to see if you’re allowed to have urban chickens or other livestock as “pets”.
Can’t grow your own? You can still eat local and organic. Just find a farm near you that will allow you to join their co-op. You can have fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables year round every week, or every other week.
And for those that don’t have their own yards, there are community gardens. No community garden to join? Well, there’s always…guerilla gardening.