Friday, May 30, 2008

In Defense of Food

I was just listening to the Audiobook for In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It is one of the very few books that can tear into a branch of science while still not offending me by following some pseudoscientific extremism. This is more shocking by his masters degree in English.

Anyways I heard something obvious, and fairly shocking to me about white flour, rice, and other similarly processed grain. One primary reason it is so popular is it can last a great deal longer than normal grain. Why does it have this property? It is pretty much that it is just too nutrient deficient to grow most microbes. Pretty scary when we expect the stuff to be able to grow children...

My current understanding of an ideal diet pretty much comes down to this:

Avoid any product from a store with more than about 5 ingredients particularly if you are fuzzy on what those ingredients are. There are exceptions to that rule health wise, but most products in a box that make health claims are a scam. The oatmeal is better than any breakfast cereal that breaks this rule no matter how healthy its label claims to be.

Avoid processed grains like white flour, and white rice.

Avoid all sweeteners. This includes Sugar, Corn Syrup, and all zero calorie sweeteners. They have no redeeming value and make up about a quarter of the calories the average American eats. An extension of this is to avoid any sweetened beverage. Yes this includes juice, which is pretty much an incomplete sugar extraction from a fruit removing a great deal that is good, there is little evidence it is any better for you than soda, and is unquestionably worse than water.

Stop using Margarine, Corn oil, Vegetable oil, and any other grain based oil. Canola, and olive oil can, and should be substituted as we already have too much corn and soybeans hiding in our diet.

While I don't see myself doing this because it is expensive, replacing industrial with grass fed meat is probably also worthwhile.

Notice all those are rules of thumb on things to avoid, not things to eat. There is a reason for this, there are societies where people have lived quite healthily on an amazing range of whole foods. From the Eskimos, and Masai eating almost entirely meat, to vegetarian cultures. None of these societies had problems with heart disease or diabetes nearly as bad as us(although obviously infectious diseases were worse). Yes, you can have an all meat diet at little risk of heart disease, another hole in the hypothesis that eating fat and cholesterol leads to heart disease. Modern industrial food processing(which mostly consists of taking good things out of food, or making them worse before sending them back to you) is worse than almost any conceivable diet you can make out of whole foods.

No comments: