Sunday, February 4, 2007

Unhappy Meals: Eat Food, Not Nutrients

The big obsession these days seems to be about fat people (along with smokers and about 40 other categories of undesirables). Sister Edith, who is a professor of Sociology at St Scholastica in Duluth, who blogs at Monastic Musings, has tipped us all off to an interesting article about food from the New York Times.

Don't let the silence of the yams fool you, says Michael Pollan, in his excellent - and lengthy - essay about food in today's New York Times. In their plain and simple skins, they are real food, while many of the products that carry fancy claims in bright colors are not.

In his essay, Unhappy Meals, he explores how we moved from eating FOOD — whole items, produced by farmers and prepared by hand in our kitchens — to eating NUTRIENTS defined by science and refined by processors. The change, he claims, is why we are fat and sick.

The story highlights the negative impact of food science on our health — even the nutritionists recognize the problem — and the dizzying complexity of the food products offered in the supermarkets today. He demonstrates the subtle change to thinking of food and nutrition in terms of particular nutrients, rather than recognizing eating as a holistic process relating us to the plants and animals we consume.

He concludes with nine guidelines:

1. Eat food.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

5. Pay more, eat less.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet.

This extended essay is well worth printing out and reading. Highly recommended.

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