Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What Shall We Eat Today?

I've had Michael Pollan's bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma, sitting in my "To Read" pile for the past month or so--it was a Christmas present, or, actually, what I bought myself with the Barnes & Noble gift card that was my Christmas present.

After reading this weekend's article by Pollan in the New York Times (registration required, I think), I'll have to move the book higher up in the stack.

In "Unhappy Meals," Pollan says a lot of things strict low-carbers will disagree with--he advocates a mostly plant-based diet, albeit of "real" foods, not processed foods, with meat as a side item rather than the star of the meal.

But the article is fascinating for his insights into the food industry, the food lobbyists in Washington, and how the ridiculous food pyramid has been compromised and sold out in the name of politics over the years.

His thoughts are interesting about how the transition was made from eating a diet based on foods to a diet based on nutrients (counting carbs, fats or proteins). Who knew George McGovern played a role?

His point that we need to get back to the basics of planning our diets around real food is well made -- he points out all the conflicting research coming out of the nutritional arena. It results in what he calls the "cognitive dissonance of the supermarket shopper."

"Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease," Pollan writes. "The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions. While the Institute of Medicine stated that “it is uncertain how much these omega-3s contribute to improving health” (and they might do the opposite if you get them from mercury-contaminated fish), a Harvard study declared that simply by eating a couple of servings of fish each week (or by downing enough fish oil), you could cut your risk of dying from a heart attack by more than a third — a stunningly hopeful piece of news. It’s no wonder that omega-3 fatty acids are poised to become the oat bran of 2007, as food scientists micro-encapsulate fish oil and algae oil and blast them into such formerly all-terrestrial foods as bread and tortillas, milk and yogurt and cheese, all of which will soon, you can be sure, sprout fishy new health claims."

More later--gotta go to work now. But check the article out if you haven't read it!

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