I sat down with my friend last week and we started discussing sustainability, organic food and the book, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (the author of An Omnivores Dilemma).
The book discusses how the United States’ food system centers around protein as the master nutrient, which has given us cheap (but unhealthy) meat and milk, which in turn has given us larger waistlines, disease outbreaks and food safety issues.
It also gives great advice on why to eat organic (non-chemical non-pesticide, free-range, fresh and wild) food.
After we finished our drinks, I asked if she could provide some of the most helpful and influential advice from the book. Here it is, The Top 16 Facts About Eating Healthier (via In Defense of Food):
- Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
- Babies fed most “nutritionally complete” formula fail to do as well as babies fed human milk.
- It is now increasingly recognized that the lowfat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences.
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than 5 in number, or that include high fructose corn syrup. The ingredients in Sara lee’s Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White bread: Enriched bleached flower, water, whole grains, high fructose corn syrup, whey, wheat gluent, yeast, cellulose, honey, calcium sulfate, vegetable oil, salt, butter, dough conditioners, guar gum, calcium propionate, distilled vinegar, yeast nutrients, corn starch, natural flavor, beta-carotene, vitamin D, soy lecithin, and soy flour, fail the test miserably.
- To make dairy products lowfat, it’s not enough to remove the fat. You must go to great lengths to preserve the body or creamy texture by working in food additives (including fake smell/taste). In the case of lowfat or skim milk, that usually means adding powdered milk, which contains oxidized cholesterol & antioxidants. And removing the fat makes it that much harder for your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that are one of the reasons to drink milk in the first place.
- Avoid food products that make health claims.
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle: processed food dominates the center aisles, fresh food line the walls.
- Even better — get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market (plus, it’s sustainable).
- Eat plants, mostly leaves (a semi-repeat, but important!)
- You are what what you eat eats, too (take this one to heart).
- Eat well-grown foods from healthy soils.
- Eat wild foods when you can.
- Pay more, eat less.
- Do all your eating at a table. No, a desk is not a table.
- Try not to eat alone.
- Eat slowly.
In conclusion, In Defense of Food highlights a couple key ideas.
If you want to eat healthy, get out of the supermarket and shop your farmers market this summer (you’ll support local farmers and get tasty organic meat, cheese and veggies).
If you must shop the supermarket, read labels, don’t trust low-fat to be healthy and try to find the organic section.
And don’t forget, eating healthy local and organic foods will help dissolve your carbon footprint, as well make you feel better!