Wednesday, November 21

Food for thought

You Call That Health Food? (Men's Health)

It can be hard to walk through a grocery store and actually understand what is good for you. Setting aside misleading food marketing, you've got a media that picks up on every new food-related scientific study and reports it as fact, and you've got a community of scientists and nutritionists that can't even agree on what type of fat you need or what the latest additive (aspartame, olestra, etc.) will do to your body.

Author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) offers the following nugget of wisdom, as a way to cut through all of the confusion: If your grandmother wouldn't recognize what you're eating, it's probably not good for you.


Sara said...

My Grandma does not recognize sushi, or most "ethinic" foods, for that matter. And yet, the components of the Japanese diet make-up one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. I wonder what Pollan has to say about international cuisine. And not that tofu is so so healthy, but would an average Grandma recognize that? Even if his statement was confined to a universe in which only local food was available (no possibility for other styles of food or cooking), why is a Grandma the most qualified to discern good from bad?

Does Pollan argue that by "healthi-fying" food (beyond recognition by a Grandma) and therefore making it synthetic this and non-fat that, we are usually removing any nutritional value? Ok, fine, that is compelling. But I think he might be giving Grandmas too much credit. Referring back to the Men's Health article, how many grandmas understand how a non-fat salad dressing would impede absorption of vital nutrients? I love my Grandma and all the food she pushes on me, but I think her nutrition wisdom is limited. Apart from a nutritionist, I say talk to exercise freaks or people who have been on Weight Watchers - they know a fair amount about the interaction of foods.

LindsayBluth said...

I am currently in the process of reading this book. I don't think that Pollan means you to take his statement "If your Grandma won't recognize it, it's probably not healthy" literally. He is simply saying that the closer to nature a food is, the more healthy/complete it is going to be. Grandmas are not always going to be pools of wisdom just because they are Grandmas. But Grandmas also grew up in an age before 8000 ice cream flavors and processed chicken nuggets (which is really redundant). And as I have been forced to take "food" classes (I never thought I would be a food scientist), I have become very interested in what makes up the American food supply. It comes down to chemistry. There is a constant supply of new foods on the market with claims to reduce cholesterol etc and other foods that are obviously not healthy (though obvious is relative). And yet, when I go to the grocery store, I seek simplicity. Simplicity and variety. All of the products listed in the Men's Health article are processed foods and manufacturers process foods for a reason...because it increases product value. They can incorporate inexpensive ingredients together in one product and mark up the price many times over what they could charge for the individual ingredients. So the moral of the story is if you are concerned about what you are consuming, study some chemistry and decide for yourself.