My friends and I have all been reading and talking about the books of Michael Pollan. It's been quite an eye-opening experience.
In the introduction to Food Rules: An eater's manual, Pollan puts forth two facts that are essential to understanding the relationship between diet and health, as well as the seven words that sum up his philosophy of healthy nutrition:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Here are the two facts:
People who eat a Western diet (processed foods and meat, added fat and sugar, & refined grains instead of fruits, veggies & whole grains) suffer from Western diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease & cancer).
Populations eating traditional diets don't suffer from these chronic diseases. Interestingly enough, these traditional diets vary widely, from ones high in fat (Inuit who eat mostly blubber), high in carbs (Central American Indians who eat mostly maize & beans) to high in protein (African tribesmen who eat mainly meat & milk products).
Based on these two facts, Pollan suggests that there is no single ideal human diet - our species has wonderfully adapted itself to a wide range of foods and diets over the centuries - except for one - the highly processed, more technological Western diet, which reliably makes people sick.
On the other side of the coin, people who get off the Western diet see dramatic improvements in their health. I've seen this myself over the last year, when I redoubled my efforts to eat (and when possible, serve my family) Real Food.
This means I shop the perimeter of the store. Produce, meat, dairy. (Okay - and pizza.) Hardly anything else comes into the house these days. Nothing with more than a few ingredients, nothing too far removed from its natural state. If the kids want a treat, they make it out of real stuff. These days, we Eat food. Coffee, organic milk, organic eggs, avocado, honeycrisp apples, cheese, organic yogurt, fruit, greens, fresh salsa, whole-grain tortillas, (preferably) organic meat, and chocolate. We drink water or natural seltzer. Sometimes wine. :-)
Regarding the Not too much portion of the seven words - my theory is that, when you're eating real food, it satisfies you better than when you're eating processed garbage.
I'm thinking my family could be better about Mostly plants. Not that we eat a lot of meat either. It's actually a pretty even plant / animal product mix around here, but I could push the veggies a little more. (Usually I sneak them into homemade soup or egg dishes.) I'll join a CSA next year and work on that.
Looking forward to sitting down tonight with Food Rules, which contains 64 guidelines such as:
"Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry."
"Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup."
"Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients."
"Eat only foods that will eventually rot."
"Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks."
"Have a glass of wine with dinner." :-)
"Spend as much time enjoying a meal as it took to prepare it."
"Treat treats as treats."
While I read tonight, I'm having a homemade treat. And a glass of wine.