Such simple advice, yet so complicated! Americans are bombarded daily with colorful, shiny packages, cans and boxes. They see commercials throughout their favorite shows of all of the quick, easy to heat meals that they can “nuke” after work in a hurry. Do we even know what is real anymore?
When Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto“, speaks publicly, he talks of the varied diets all over the world. “The French paradox is that they have better heart health than we do despite being a cheese-eating, wine-swilling, fois-gras-gobbling people. The American paradox is we are a people who worry unreasonably about dietary health yet have the worst diet in the world.”
Americans have out of control rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and they can all be traced back to our horrible diet. Something has got to change!
Maybe we have strayed so far away from our roots because of the industrial age. Times were difficult then, but through progress of technology we were able to improve upon ways to save crops from being wiped out, preserve foods longer, and mass produce meat, dairy, poultry, etc. We remedied the problem of starvation. Or did we?
As a result, we are now over fed and undernourished. We are now eating more “food-like” substances than we are real food! This has created nutritional deficiencies, therefore leaving us to crave more and more, and be satisfied less and less. It’s left us on medications for aches, pains, headaches, food allergies, all sorts of auto-immune issues, attention disorders, and more. Now the medications’ side effects are leading us to more medications to manage the symptoms.
So where do we start?
We start with the basics. We go back to our roots. We learn to cook from scratch using real, whole food ingredients! Luckily, people like Michael Pollan help to keep us on tract with some great tips to help us filter through the mess!
- Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
- Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store, where real food tends to be on display.
- Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. Honey would be one of the few exceptions to this rule. If it could last through a decade long zombie apocalypse, it’s probably not real food. (OK, I threw in the last bit!)
- It’s not just what you eat but how you eat. Always leave the table a little hungry. Pollan adds that “in many cultures they have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. In the German culture they say to ‘tie off the sack before it’s full’.”
- Enjoy meals with the people you love. Eat with the family, and at regular meal times.
- Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car!
Eat Foods, Not Nutrients:
Pollan describes how we have begun to focus on invisible nutrients in foods instead of on foods themselves, calling it “nutritionism”. He explains how science will break down healthy foods and look for those active ingredients to explore the possible benefits. What happens next is that experts will tell us we need to eat more foods with this particular substance. Then comes the food industry, fortifying “food-like” products with this substance to market to their consumers — even though it may have many unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and salt.
Next you have the supplement industry making bottle after bottle of this miracle nutrient to sell to unwitting customers who have no idea what kind of quality it is, where it came from, if it was natural or chemically made, or what other fillers and excipients could be included. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for supplementation. There is. It’s designed to supplement your healthy, whole food diet, not to be used as a bandaid to suppress the latest symptom.
One of the other problems with this idea is that you are removing the co-factors that were with that nutrient in its original form in nature. Often co-factors play a key role in how it is absorbed or utilized in the body, or will balance out the effects of the nutrient. This is why it’s always best to use whole food supplements and not isolated or synthetic supplements, which can be not only sub-optimal, but often ineffective or even detrimental to your health. Just remember, everything is best in it’s closest form to how nature provided it to us. We need to reconnect with our food.
For more amazing tips and rules for eating, I highly recommend the documentary “In Defense Of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” Michael Pollan shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.