If you think chugging a charcoal milkshake makes sense, stop reading now. You will waste your time and get absolutely nothing from this post. If you chase after superfoods and avoid putatively cancer laden staples then you’re probably in the wrong place, too. There are plenty of sites that shill everything from charcoal to fermented who-knows-what that are more exciting and happy to take your money. If you are interested in livable, sensible advice about food and health then we should get along fine. Tjhere. You’ve heard my sales pitch.
I try to consciously eat, move, and live in a way that promotes good health and longevity. It’s never glamorous nor is it always easy – I’ve yet to meet a pastry or hot dog that I don’t like and much of the food industry sets itself against me. Like everyone else, I am busy. I have two girls who will only eat a handful of ‘foods’. I know it’s not the most healthy option for me or for my family, but I buy convenience foods and snacks and the kids live on chicken nuggets and noodles. I have no beef with grocery stores or industrial food plants and take lone responsibility for my health.
I have always liked Micheal Pollan’s advice to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It’s a sentiment backed by science and good sense. He’s not inflammatory. He’s not chasing. He’s not selling the latest and greatest nor is he warning us that eating this will put us in the cancer ward in a year. His focus is on good food and from there he touches on all things related to it including nutrition, economics, and family. He comes across as a wise friend who encourages me to just try something – if I like it great! If not, then that’s okay too.
If this resonates with you, then you might like to watch the documentary In Defense of Food. It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking hour and a half that looks at food from dirt to grocery to plate. They show how urban kids in so-called last-chance schools, given a garden and help growing vegetables, learn how to cook and enjoy eating what they grow. The French Paradox is explored: how is it that the French dine on fat, pastry, and wine and are more healthy than we are in the US? (Hint – they eat small meals, don’t snack, and relish fresh food). I was fascinated with the segment where several people were brought in a room for a pasta taste test. They grabbed plates, spooned up portions, and then discovered that the food was only lukewarm. The ‘hosts’ apologized and brought out another pot with new – slightly smaller – plates. The same folks dished up and each one put less on the plate. Sounds easy and self-evident? Then why not try it? In a similar exercise of social engineering, a high school sorted food in its cafeteria line from healthier to less so. Kids filled their plates with the healthy first and found less room for less healthy alternatives. In a very short time, the school went from needing 25 pounds of carrots a week for carrot sticks to 75. No one complained and no one demanded more space for pizza. The reverse of this engineering is foisted on us every day by food companies. They spend millions of dollars each year on advertising, packaging, and lobbying to put more and more food in front of us for more profit.
Pollan, for his mantra of ‘mostly plants’, walks a fine line between carnivores and vegans. He clarifies unapologetically that he’s not against eating meat and that meat can be healthy and enjoyable. It’s the amount of meat we eat that is unhealthy. Be sure to watch for the surgeons pulling solidified cholesterol from a clogged artery – that in itself might help change your habits as much as any sage or sane advice.
I haven’t a clue how long the documentary will run, but if brain health or Wayne Dyer shows are any indication of future showings on PBS, if you miss Defense of Food this time, just keep waiting. It will be back.
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Check out Pollan’s book In Defense of Food here.