Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Food for thought

I'm reading a fascinating book by the American nutritionist Michael Pollan, who says all nutritional and dietary advice should be viewed with great scepticism as we actually know very little about what happens to food inside the human body.

The typical food item contains so many substances, many of them not yet even identified, that it's pretty hazardous trying to predict what that food will do to us after we eat it.

Also, every person has a unique metabolism that processes food in a unique way. So how a food will affect my body is quite different from how it affects someone else's body.

One person will get fat and develop heart disease, while another person eating the same food will stay thin and have a healthy heart.

Food is far more complex than nutritionists make out, but if they admitted how little they know about food and what it does to our bodies, their reputations would plummet.

One splendid example of ill-informed pronouncements was the advice to cut down on saturated fats to avoid heart disease. When people did so, the incidence of heart disease in fact rose. The advice turned out to be based on guesswork and supposition rather than solid evidence.

I must say I generally ignore nutritionists' advice, as I know that advice can change radically from year to year, often totally reversing the previous accepted wisdom. I just try to eat a healthy range of foods, including as many raw foods as possible.

One thing many nutritionists agree on is that what's known as the Western diet - lots of processed food, foods full of sugar and fat, food lacking vital vitamins and minerals - is wreaking a huge toll of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. So I also try to avoid such foods.

Common sense is probably more reliable than the latest dietary dictum.

Pic: Michael Pollan

30 comments:

  1. The herbalist I worked for said "eat what can go off and eat it before it does"
    I think that pretty much covers it

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    1. Kylie: That's a good rule of thumb. So many foods only stay edible because of all the artificial preservatives pumped into them.

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  2. By now you would have gathered from my blog posts on food that I simply follow my instincts and do not bother about the quality of the food or its nutritional value.

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    1. Ramana: That sounds a bit rash, but hey, if it works for you as they say....

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  3. Pollan is an interesting guy, maybe I will check out that book. I like food sometimes called the Mediterranean diet, which I learned about when living in Turkey and Greece. Fish, fresh veg and fruit, olive oil, and did I mention feta cheese and olives!

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  4. Terra: That sounds like a very healthy diet. I love feta cheese and olives! I've tried a few vegan cheeses but they're all horrible. I'll stick to brie and stilton and cheddar.

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  5. I'm a huge fan of his books and his treatise on mushrooms was extraordinary.

    My doc says salt is the big killer, horrific damage to kidneys and heart. It's in everything though I am very, very conscious of it as I positively adore cheese, real cheese.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. www: I eat as little salt as possible, but yes, I also love cheese so salt sneaks its way in!

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  6. Ditto taking with a grain of salt. My diet is rather boring and completely adequate.

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    1. Joanne: Boring but adequate is better than exciting and heart-rotting!

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  7. I eat what I can - jaw permitting - and avoid salt in large doses.
    Sx

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    1. Ms Scarlet: I daresay in a few years' time the nutritionists will be telling us the more salt you eat the better!

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  8. Most people would think my food boring, but that plus exercise makes me feel good so I'm sticking with it.

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    1. Jean: If your choices sound boring but you feel good, that sounds okay to me.

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  9. I’ve heard of him, but not read his work. My diet consists of as much fresh, unprocessed food as I can. I do agree that people’s own body chemistry makes a difference.

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    1. Bijoux: Me too. I eat very little processed food but I'm very partial to pizza.

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  10. It seems that many people have differing ideas on the best foods to eat. I have heard of Pollan's many books, but not read any. As a rule, we eat minimal processed foods and the frozen food area of the supermarket is an unknown area for us. We are however on very good terms with the produce and seafood depts.

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    1. Beatrice: This book is well worth reading. Thoroughly researched and critical of a lot of accepted wisdom about food and health.

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  11. So many of my friends have read his book. I keep meaning to. Maybe this will serve as a reminder to me to do so.

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    1. Colette: He seems to be very well known in the States, but still an unfamiliar name in the UK.

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  12. I agree with you Nick. I eat a range of foods, fruit with breakfast; fresh veg, stir frys, lots of fish and chicken, I try to steer clear of processed foods and fats but.....I have a sweet tooth and also eat chocolate and desserts and occasionally pizza, Indian, Chinese and MacDonalds!

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    1. Polly: That sounds like a pretty healthy diet, though personally I would pass on the fish and chicken as I'm a vegetarian. I also have a bit of a sweet tooth. I love Lindt truffles and Cherry Bakewell tarts!

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  13. All those considerations are for rich societies. More than 800 million people are starving and more than 2 billion struggle to get one meal per day especially for their children. Thinking about it drives me crazy. Our planet is a planet of injustice. Will it ever change ?
    Hannah

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    1. Hannah: I know, we who're used to regular meals day after day can easily forget the millions who're lucky to get one decent meal a day, if that. I wish I could believe our planet of injustice will change, but the reality is massive inertia and indifference.

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  14. It's nice to see that a nutritionist is admitting that they don't know everything. It does seem insane to try and make food and nutrition a one size fits all thing. A perfectly "healthy and reasonable" diet for one person could be extremely detrimental to someone else.

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    1. Danielle: That's right, a one-size-fits-all approach is not helpful. In the end we just have to find out for ourselves what's good for us and what isn't.

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  15. Yep, common sense is probably the best thing but some people have none.

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    1. Mary: Unfortunately that's true. Some people blunder through life without any clear idea of what's in their own best interests.

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  16. I agree that common sense with a balanced diet and moderation in all things seems wise.

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    1. Joared: "Moderation in all things" has always been my motto. Jenny sometimes gets exasperated because I don't go wild often enough!

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