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Eating "food" again


lperry
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And would you really want to go to your grave never having popped a can of Pringles?

No, I wouldn't want to go to my grave having never had Pringles (which I don't like the taste of anyway), or a Triple Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or a bucket of KFC Extra-Crispy all dark meat :rolleyes:.

But I wouldn't want to go to my grave thinking that I had eaten those things every night of my life as dinner, or eaten Stouffer's Lean Cuisine and Hamburger Helper as my primary source of "nutrition" either.

And I wouldn't want to go to my grave thinking that I'd fed those to my kids every night either, instead of dinner made from whole, as-close-to-natural food sources as I could have.

You just restated Pollan's argument.

:biggrin:

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And would you really want to go to your grave never having popped a can of Pringles?

No, I wouldn't want to go to my grave having never had Pringles (which I don't like the taste of anyway), or a Triple Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or a bucket of KFC Extra-Crispy all dark meat :rolleyes:.

But I wouldn't want to go to my grave thinking that I had eaten those things every night of my life as dinner, or eaten Stouffer's Lean Cuisine and Hamburger Helper as my primary source of "nutrition" either.

And I wouldn't want to go to my grave thinking that I'd fed those to my kids every night either, instead of dinner made from whole, as-close-to-natural food sources as I could have.

You just restated Pollan's argument.

:biggrin:

Which I've been in agreement with since the beginning of the thread, notwithstanding having been called a Communist and a Religious Fanatic by some. :unsure:

The only two pieces of advice he gives that I don't follow are "eat less", and "eat less meat". My 'portion size' is quite large, by any standards. As far as the "less meat", that's only something that I've recently started to do; carnivorism is a hard habit to break!

Edited by markk (log)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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...

If you do believe that there is a health problem that is related to diet, you may disagree with my conclusions as well.

But, as I have said before and will continue to say (although more concisely now) you cannot pin ANY health problem on diet exclusively. You even have to have a genetic predisposition to have Type II Diabetes, although diet can cure it. There is even a genetic predisposition to obesity, or alcoholism, or Parkinsons, or anything else.

...

If and how to adjust one's diet with respect to health is a bit trickier than whether or not to smoke, but even with smoking there is no guarantee that you will get lung cancer or emphysema. Likewise it is possible for non-smokers to get lung cancer. This argument, that one can not absolutely "pin" lung cancer on smoking was the main justification (in his own mind) for an older relative to not quit smoking. Some people also downplay the potential bad effects of smoking (diet, also?) because then it means that they don't have to 'admit' that they have made bad choices in the past. I say, admit or not, but just get on with the better choices! I don't think one should feel "guilty" if one gets an illness that may or may not have a dietary component mixed in with a genetic one, but on the other hand, if there are reasonable steps one can take with one's diet, why not try to do it? And yes, thankfully, if one can afford it, there are medicines available to help to help mitigate things.

Despite what it may seem like from several of my posts, I am not fixated on diet and health! As lperry mentioned several pages back, one of the reasons I became more consciously interested in "whole" and 'real' foods was just that it corresponded more closely to the way I grew up AND to many foodstuffs that I valued. If anything, I had a tinge of suspicion or dislike of that type of "whole food" designation or claim. But finally, I realized that whole food was pretty similar to the types of food that I grew up with and now cook. I wasn't purchasing flax seed and whole grains from health food stores, I eat chips and drink diet soda; but I was actually cooking mostly "food" and using less "food products" per Pollan's definition.

My antennae were raised when it seemed that certain foods I valued were becoming no longer available and that it seemed like they were being displaced by cheap and artificial substitutes. It is one thing to just ignore some of the food products that I don't enjoy but it is another thing when you can't even get the original food anymore! That hits the bottom line even if one is not thinking beyond oneself. Then, looking around a bit, one's eyes are opened to not just the presence of some processed or convenience foods, but to their creeping dominance in terms of choices available! That or your only choice is to pay three times the price at Whole Foods if they even a carry the ingredient or foodstuff you are interested in. (Try asking for lard, or pork belly or liverwurst or real rye bread or almond paste without corn syrup at a Whole Foods.) So, while all is not doomsday by any stretch of the means, this initial sensitisation has opened my eyes to other issues as well.

Personally, and in my experience, I can't think of a food that is simply not around anymore. You may have to look harder, but I am stretching hard to think of an extinct vegetable. Then there is the whole retro thing when everything old is new again and pig breeds are being revived by breeding out what was bred in in the first place.

I see much more evidence of extinction in processed foods.

if you:

(Try asking for lard, or pork belly or liverwurst or real rye bread or almond paste without corn syrup at a Whole Foods.)

they will tell you it is bad, bad, bad for you and contributes to poor nutrition, for the most part. The almond paste argument will be that they can't afford it, so YOU surely can't afford it. After all, they specialize in unaffordable food.

Many issues.

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And would you really want to go to your grave never having popped a can of Pringles?

No, I wouldn't want to go to my grave having never had Pringles (which I don't like the taste of anyway), or a Triple Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or a bucket of KFC Extra-Crispy all dark meat :rolleyes:.

But I wouldn't want to go to my grave thinking that I had eaten those things every night of my life as dinner, or eaten Stouffer's Lean Cuisine and Hamburger Helper as my primary source of "nutrition" either.

And I wouldn't want to go to my grave thinking that I'd fed those to my kids every night either, instead of dinner made from whole, as-close-to-natural food sources as I could have.

You just restated Pollan's argument.

:biggrin:

Which I've been in agreement with since the beginning of the thread, notwithstanding having been called a Communist and a Religious Fanatic by some. :unsure:

The only two pieces of advice he gives that I don't follow are "eat less", and "eat less meat". My 'portion size' is quite large, by any standards. As far as the "less meat", that's only something that I've recently started to do; carnivorism is a hard habit to break!

Hehe.

I think the discussion has eclipsed the argument on this thread.

Less meat? Well. Depends. On a lot of things.

Eat less? Well, yes but eat more often. You will unconsciously eat less overall, I think.

Go cut the grass once in a while, for goodnessake. Get off your butt.

Yep.

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I was pondering this interesting thread, and I realized that my own dislike of processed foods has a lot to do with loving to cook - you know, ah, the joy of putting a chicken in the oven with an onion and some garlic strewn around, and seeing it come out all golden brown, with lovely goo in the pan for a sauce. Somewhere in that romantic notion is the idea that chemicals and additives have no place in food - but I do point out that that's a romantic ideal, and I'm saying that it's not just the desire for what I "feel" is better nutrition that fuels this feeling in me. As far as the studies that are showing that the fat in our diets makes no difference in our health, oh boy, if I could really get myself to believe that, (and I'd like to) I'd go back to eating rib steaks three nights a week!

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I was pondering this interesting thread, and I realized that my own dislike of processed foods has a lot to do with loving to cook - you know, ah, the joy of putting a chicken in the oven with an onion and some garlic strewn around, and seeing it come out all golden brown, with lovely goo in the pan for a sauce.  Somewhere in that romantic notion is the idea that chemicals and additives have no place in food - but I do point out that that's a romantic ideal, and I'm saying that it's not just the desire for what I "feel" is better nutrition that fuels this feeling in me.  As far as the studies that are showing that the fat in our diets makes no difference in our health, oh boy, if I could really get myself to believe that, (and I'd like to) I'd go back to eating rib steaks three nights a week!

Uh, dude, rib steaks three nights a week is overkilling it a bit. Even I don't buy that, overall.

Chemicals and additives have no place in food? What about the onion and the garlic added to the chicken? And, that electricity you are roasting that chicken with is a far cry from an open pit.

I am all about the romance of food. If it feels good, do it.

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I don't know about general health--I seem to see alot of articles talking about increasing rates of diabetes, obesity and obesity related health problems (for instance, joint problems). 

Just singling out one example here: the latest information I've seen indicates that the increase in joint problems among baby boomers is on account of exercise.

As reported in the New York Times, in a story last April titled "Baby Boomers Stay Active, and So Do Their Doctors":

Encouraged by doctors to continue to exercise three to five times a week for their health, a legion of running, swimming and biking boomers are flouting the conventional limits of the middle-aged body's abilities, and filling the nation's operating rooms and orthopedists' offices in the process.

They need knee and hip replacements, surgery for cartilage and ligament damage, and treatment for tendinitis, arthritis, bursitis and stress fractures. The phenomenon even has a name in medical circles: boomeritis.

I mention this not because the question of the cause of joint problems is particularly important in this conversation, but rather because I'm seeing factual assumptions made repeatedly here that are not good assumptions in light of the reporting in the same newspaper that published Pollan's essay. If you follow the health reporting in the whole paper, what you'll find in the past few years is revelation after revelation that the conventional wisdom about diet, nutrition, fitness, obesity, etc. is turning out to be wrong time and again. Pollan actually seems more aware of that than most of the people posting here in defense of his conclusions. The problem is that Pollan only presents the illusion of rejecting "nutritionism." He ultimately winds up supporting all the same old theories, just at -- as I said before -- a higher altitude.

Fundamentally, what Pollan relies upon is the -- yes -- quasi-religious belief that what's old is good and what's new is bad. However, that thesis flies in the face of many things we know to be true about how bad the old days were and how good we have it today. Before concluding that the foods we ate when life expectancy was 40 are better than the foods we eat when life expectancy keeps pushing towards 80, I'd have to be convinced that there's some reason why processed/refined/whatever foods are bad. After all, all these drugs that people here claim are keeping us alive for so long are artificial, man-made products. Why is it so hard to believe that man-made foods can be as good or better than natural ones? What's so great about natural foods, other than that people really, really want to believe they're great? Why do we apply a standard of "food your great grandmother would recognize"? It's like a bizarre belief of some cult that seeks to live frozen in a randomly selected moment in history. What? It was okay that mankind was making wine, cheese, bread, smoked foods, cured foods and all other manner of technology-driven foods, but it's not okay that we're extracting sweeteners from corn? What possible basis could there be for drawing that line, other than nostalgia?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't know about general health--I seem to see alot of articles talking about increasing rates of diabetes, obesity and obesity related health problems (for instance, joint problems). 

Just singling out one example here: the latest information I've seen indicates that the increase in joint problems among baby boomers is on account of exercise.

As reported in the New York Times, in a story last April titled "Baby Boomers Stay Active, and So Do Their Doctors":

Encouraged by doctors to continue to exercise three to five times a week for their health, a legion of running, swimming and biking boomers are flouting the conventional limits of the middle-aged body's abilities, and filling the nation's operating rooms and orthopedists' offices in the process.

They need knee and hip replacements, surgery for cartilage and ligament damage, and treatment for tendinitis, arthritis, bursitis and stress fractures. The phenomenon even has a name in medical circles: boomeritis.

I mention this not because the question of the cause of joint problems is particularly important in this conversation, but rather because I'm seeing factual assumptions made repeatedly here that are not good assumptions in light of the reporting in the same newspaper that published Pollan's essay. If you follow the health reporting in the whole paper, what you'll find in the past few years is revelation after revelation that the conventional wisdom about diet, nutrition, fitness, obesity, etc. is turning out to be wrong time and again. Pollan actually seems more aware of that than most of the people posting here in defense of his conclusions. The problem is that Pollan only presents the illusion of rejecting "nutritionism." He ultimately winds up supporting all the same old theories, just at -- as I said before -- a higher altitude.

Fundamentally, what Pollan relies upon is the -- yes -- quasi-religious belief that what's old is good and what's new is bad. However, that thesis flies in the face of many things we know to be true about how bad the old days were and how good we have it today. Before concluding that the foods we ate when life expectancy was 40 are better than the foods we eat when life expectancy keeps pushing towards 80, I'd have to be convinced that there's some reason why processed/refined/whatever foods are bad. After all, all these drugs that people here claim are keeping us alive for so long are artificial, man-made products. Why is it so hard to believe that man-made foods can be as good or better than natural ones? What's so great about natural foods, other than that people really, really want to believe they're great? Why do we apply a standard of "food your great grandmother would recognize"? It's like a bizarre belief of some cult that seeks to live frozen in a randomly selected moment in history. What? It was okay that mankind was making wine, cheese, bread, smoked foods, cured foods and all other manner of technology-driven foods, but it's not okay that we're extracting sweeteners from corn? What possible basis could there be for drawing that line, other than nostalgia?

That's good reasoning, but I still want to know what your "gut" feeling is; I'm looking for a "do as I do, not what I say" answer, so I still want to know if you're going to allow your son multiple glasses of soda pop a day, and if you're going to let him get his nutrition at mealtimes from junk, fast, and processed foods. Or if in actuality, despite the fact that the statistics don't back up my (quasi-) religious fanatacism, you're going to feed him more along the lines of how I've been saying I prefer to eat?

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Well, sort of :blink:

And on a separate note, I think that there are a lot of people who still cling to old-fashioned notions of food. I done some pondering, and remembered Pollan's reference to the "French Paradox", and I thought of a friend of mine, a chef in the French countryside with whom I became friendly over many yearly visits to his restaurant. One year I e-mailed him before we came and asked if I would get to eat any duck at his place, and his reply was "no, my father and I haven't gone hunting yet this season." Another night when I was there, I asked for frog legs, and was told that a friend of his who farmed them was bringing them later in the week. And this is a restaurant with a mountain stream running through the property where they catch the trout when you order it. They're living in 21st. century France, but they're living a lot closer to the land than Stouffer's is. And according to the "paradox", living longer than we are. It's not anything religious to them; it's the only way they know of thinking about food. It's as natural to them (my friend the chef, and his father the chef before him) as breathing.

And unless you're consuming food solely as nutrition, unconcerned with flavors and nuances and the hedonism that's part of eating, I don't think it's such a far fetched notion to look at the ingredients in a frozen Tyson chicken wing "product" and be horrified. Sure, it's only belief of mine. But, what are all those things doing in the food, really! I'd like the chicken wing, and hold the next 48-86 ingredients, please.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Fat Guy, I don't want you to feel like you're coming under personal attack from all sides on this Internets, but *why* exactly are you inveighing so strongly against what is meant to be something healthy? How in the world can you NOT see "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." as anything more than good common sense and sound advice?

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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I like to eat my roast chicken and brown rice, instead of having the McChicken meal and combining it with a vitamin pill.  To my mind, those two halves do not equal the whole, because, for one thing, we don't know what else in the original food sources that existed in synergistic relationships with the other compounds that Mother Nature put there, makes them work for us, and of course, we only know those components that we have isolated, which is exatly one of Pollan's main points. For me, it makes more sense to eat an apple, rather than a portion of "apple fiber" from one package and a tablet of multi vitamins and a capsule of multi minerals from another package.

I found that to be the point of Pollan's article.

YES, yes, yes! I have been diligently reading this thread, piling up replies upon replies in my head until overflowing, and finally I must comment on this post because it's a biggie for me. (I promise I'm still reading all the rest of the thread... and I've done the 'required' reading, as well! :smile: )

The reason to eat real food rather than supplements is simply that we don't know what's in real food that makes our digestion 'tick'. Just from one aggregator source alone, I got 152 hits for the search, "new vitamin".

The interactions of nutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, fibers, et cetera from a leaf of kale (or a glass of wine, or a venison steak for that matter) is something far more complicated than we hope to reproduce by taking iron supplements for energy or resveratrol for those red-wine benefits.

It was mentioned upthread that people are going to get all the nutrients they need "unless they go on a 1200 calorie per day diet", which was implied to have the promise of extended life. Whether or not a diet of caloric restriction will ultimately enhance OR extend life won't be known for awhile, its adherents are certainly getting MORE than their RDA amounts of nutrients, both known and unknown, because of the insane variety and amounts of plant foods that they eat. Romaine lettuce has one of the best nutrient profiles per calorie of any food, and you can eat a boatload of it for a mere 100 calories or so.... and it just goes on from there.

People "on" Calorie Restriction are a curious bunch. They enjoy their food, but only after an adjustment period to change their palates, and keeping track of known nutrients is time-consuming yet rewarding for most of them. All of it fascinates me, but before I venture too far down this path, find out all you've ever wanted to know about this and more here and here.

To respond to another issue discussed above, do I enjoy a snack of McNuggets or a Whopper sometimes?  I sure do!  How can anybody who likes food not crave something that's salty and greasy and which you can get anytime you like without leaving your car!  But I don't eat them thinking that they're a source of nutrition, and I don't eat them that often because of their salt and saturated fat content.

I think the Egg McMuffin deserves the food equivalent of the "lifetime achievement award", so brilliant it is.... and I enjoy them at about the rate of 1 or 2 a year. Even an Egg McMuffin is not all that processed - it's bread, plus "cheese", plus ham, plus an egg (yolk visible and all!) - compared to my other convenience-food weakness: meal replacement bars. :wub: Ugh. :hmmm:

Would I be better off eating cottage cheese and fruit rather than my beloved Balance Bars? Oh, probably. But that's another issue, not for this thread.

Great comments and writing so far, everyone. I am thoroughly enjoying this romp.

Andrea

in Albuquerque

http://tenacity.net

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

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Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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I don't want to misinterpret your post, but this is what it seems to be saying:

1. My grandparents and other relatives during the Depression and other times died relatively early in life and they ate predominately whole foods.

(Therefore, there is no (or little) benefit to eating whole foods and more fruits, and vegs, etc.)

Actually, the way that I would interpret the original post is strikingly different: those that grew up during the Depression and had internal weaknesses were 'killed off' early in their adult lives, very similar to even ancient times. Those that had a better genetic chance at a full life fulfilled that promise, and THEN SOME by dint of the enormous amount of "last third of life" medicinal advances.

In a nutshell, it seems to be that it is the same as always - some die young because they were "meant to", some live longer. BUT, those who are currently elderly are living well beyond the 40 or so years they would have in preceding centuries, having survived genetic maladies and then getting our modern technology to boot.

[i'm re-reading my own words above, and I think I could phrase them more succinctly, but I hope ya'll know where my sentiment is going, regardless....]

Andrea

in Albuquerque

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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Daniel Engber gives us his take in Slate: Survival of the Yummiest

His conclusion:

For all its foibles, food science has given us a reliable set of data on what works and what doesn't. As Ben Goldacre points out in the New Statesman, solid epidemiological work has validated the standard advice we get from our doctors: Exercise more and eat your fruits and vegetables.

Pollan cites the same scientific research to support what he describes as his "flagrantly unscientific" diet plan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I'm happy to follow those dicta if they'll help me to live a longer, happier life. But that doesn't mean I have to buy into the misleading, great-great-grandma-knew-best philosophy that spawned them. I'd rather stick to the science, warts and all.

Cheers,

Anne

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if I could really get myself to believe that, (and I'd like to) I'd go back to eating rib steaks three nights a week!

Uh, dude, rib steaks three nights a week is overkilling it a bit.

No, it's not. The Zocor rep told me that very clearly. :biggrin:

But it's how I grew up eating. We had fatty red meat on average 5 nights a week. As a young adult I kept eating that way, because it tasted good. We never ate fish, so I never cooked fish when it was my turn to cook dinner in life.

Well, a side story in case it's of any interest. After college I was invited to my first dinner party as an adult at the home of an Italian fellow twenty years my senior. He served pasta as the main course, which I had never had before. Later, I asked a friend, "Is he poor?" and the friend told me that no, of course he is not. Why did I ask? Well, my answer was, "My mother told me that only poor people eat starch for dinner", and since then, I've learned that that's not quite true. That's the point at which I started thinking about what I eat, and why I eat it.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Having finally slogged through all six pages of posts on this topic, I am reminded of the old joke that runs:

"Having read about the dangers of smoking, drinking and eating, I have decided to give up reading."

“Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."

I had marked a bunch of posts on this discussion for comment, but as I now realize that I'm likely either to repeat someone else's point or make this post interminably long by addressing each one individually, I'm just going to do a riff on what I think everyone has said here. There may be occasional references to actual words posted; these are purely accidental.

Frankly, I really don't see what is so controversial about the advice above. I guess what makes it so contentious is the elaboration of the injunction. And yet if I understand Pollan's point accurately, our attempts to isolate nutrients probably makes them less effective than they are in their naturally occurring state.

Consider white bread, for instance. This indeed may be one of the world's oldest processed foods, and people ate it for thousands of years without much worry. But once we learned about nutrients, and found out that removing the outer hull of the grain also stripped it of a lot of nutrition, we ended up adding the missing nutrients back to the refined-flour bread. Are they as effective added back discretely in this "unnatural" state as they are in whole wheat bread? Maybe, but signs cited here suggest maybe not. (Somewhat relevant aside: Some of those who smoke marijuana for legitimate medical reasons [e.g., to ease the pressure on blood vessels surrounding the eye related to glaucoma] argue that the THC in marijuana is more effective than the pill form, Delta-9 THC [Marinol]).

Or as a doctor I had in Boston many moons ago said, "You don't need to take any supplements. A salad a day will give you all the vitamins you need."

I don't seem to have many problems with most of the products of modern food technology -- and it's likely that modern scientific research will unearth more information about nutrients and benefits. But will the resulting fortified foods deliver them as effectively as the non-fortified stuff you find in the produce department? Quite likely not.

And that's not how we should eat anyway. Daniel Rogov had that exactly right: If it tastes good, eat it.

I'm getting tired. More later if I tihink of it.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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My mother, who is 85, grew up in Nicaragua, one of eight. It was an upper-class family in a country that was still almost feudal. Chicken, beef, and fish every day; soup as first course, and every day, a big salad that usually included wild greens such as purslane. Rice and beans, of course. Cooked greens, fresh cheese. All of this was "organic"...that is, raised or grown as Nicaraguans had produced their food for generations before. No sea food, no pork. Ice cream was a huge treat, and there were no soft drinks. Everyone drank water that had cooled in a big clay jar. At parties, the grownups drank rum or beer; the kids, lemonade. Plenty of fresh fruit, both whole and squeezed for drinks, a big variety. My mom and her siblings spent much of their free time on horseback, roller skating, playing basketball.

They had no air conditioning; international travelers were almost unknown, and those came and went by boat. Mom says that nobody in the family, that she recalls, ever had a cold or flu. She feels that the isolation kept foreign germs away.

All of my mother's brothers and sisters are still alive and in good health: the oldest is 90. They have survived revolution and war, earthquakes, personal crises and financial loss, but all have a zest for life and a determination to come out on top that I, as a tired, overweight 52-year old, can only envy. The 90-year-old, by the way, has struggled his entire life with clinical depression, but his business still runs and supports three generations of family members.

So what does all that prove? To me, it's simple: fresh, varied food, cooked with care, and plenty of physical activity in clean air equal health and longevity. When my mother was bringing us up in the States, she served the rice and beans she grew up with, but we little Americans also loved our Sarah Lee and McDonalds. We rode our bikes and explored creeks, played outdoors for hours and went for long walks in the rain - but the quality of our food and air was not to be compared to what my mother had growing up.

Today, I try to repair the damage done by Coca-Cola and potato chips ( although still addicted, still addicted) by cooking and baking and brewing "from scratch" and from ingredients as close to natural as I can get. Vitamins and supplements, yes; I am convinced that in spite of my efforts, my family's diet still lacks essential nutrients, or at least, lacks enough of them. I do feel better taking vitamin B12 than not; my cholesterol has gone down since I've started taking Omega-3 capsules. My husband's appetite and energy have returned since he gave up sugary drinks. But I live in an apartment, in an industrial city, in a country of enormous stress. My wild greens come from abandoned gardens and empty lots.

True, nothing is ever so simple. But I am only contributing what I've grown old enough to see.

Miriam

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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Consider white bread, for instance.  This indeed may be one of the world's oldest processed foods, and people ate it for thousands of years without much worry.  But once we learned about nutrients, and found out that removing the outer hull of the grain also stripped it of a lot of nutrition, we ended up adding the missing nutrients back to the refined-flour bread.  Are they as effective added back discretely in this "unnatural" state as they are in whole wheat bread?  Maybe, but signs cited here suggest maybe not.

Thousands for the processed stuff you mean?

Or did you mean for thousands of years we've eaten bread?

Bread, yes a long long time. White bread no not so long.

Hundreds of years might even be an exageration.

...All of my mother's brothers and sisters are still alive and in good health: the oldest is 90. They have survived revolution and war, earthquakes, personal crises and financial loss, but all have a zest for life and a determination to come out on top that I, as a tired, overweight 52-year old, can only envy. The 90-year-old, by the way, has struggled his entire life with clinical depression, but his business still runs and supports three generations of family members.

So what does all that prove? To me, it's simple: fresh, varied food, cooked with care, and plenty of physical activity in clean air equal health and longevity. When my mother was bringing us up in the States, she served the rice and beans she grew up with, but we little Americans also loved our Sarah Lee and McDonalds. We rode our bikes and explored creeks, played outdoors for hours and went for long walks in the rain - but the quality of our food and air was not to be compared to what my mother had growing up.

Today, I try to repair the damage done by Coca-Cola and potato chips ( although still addicted, still addicted) by cooking and baking and brewing "from scratch" and from ingredients as close to natural as I can get. ...

Miriam, I am 55. Sugar is an addictive poison to me. I am a fellow chipaholic too! But still I eat both. I solace myslef with crunchy Triscuits when I'm being good. But I have also taken time to have spent periods of my life here lately to go on a sugar free, chip free diet. The benefits are intoxicating. And while I know better and feel better the bonds of my personal food addictions are strong. However, when I am sugar free I have no hot flashes. My skin is much prettier, some say radiates, I think it's just a gleam from the white hair. The benefits are staggering.

I am in process of losing my holiday weight, the process delayed by a visit from my favorite chef. So I am back 'on' sugar free and no white flour. The weight drops off like crazy. I'm not a dieter, in the sense of constantly trying every different diet that comes out but I go by the South Beach Diet for incredible results.

I had a copy of the book Sugar Blues years ago and just replaced it back into the library this week. I recommend that you get that book. It is a great motivating eye opener.

My health has improved tremendously and I can still sneak in a chip or two sometimes.

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Consider white bread, for instance.  This indeed may be one of the world's oldest processed foods, and people ate it for thousands of years without much worry.  But once we learned about nutrients, and found out that removing the outer hull of the grain also stripped it of a lot of nutrition, we ended up adding the missing nutrients back to the refined-flour bread.  Are they as effective added back discretely in this "unnatural" state as they are in whole wheat bread?  Maybe, but signs cited here suggest maybe not.

Thousands for the processed stuff you mean?

Or did you mean for thousands of years we've eaten bread?

Bread, yes a long long time. White bread no not so long.

Hundreds of years might even be an exageration.

I guess a distinction must be made between white bread and bread that is white.

My "thousands of years" comment referred to the traditional breads, which obviously were not made from whole grain flour, for otherwise they would be darker in color and have a sweeter and nuttier flavor.

You are correct that "enriched bread" -- the stuff most of us think of when we use the term "white bread" (often as a pejorative) -- is a 20th century invention. And, of course, the process of "enriching" it is what I referred to in that earlier post: Adding back what was removed in processing.

Though I must wonder where this variety of wheat that produces a white or off-white bread without removing the hull from the grain comes from. (This variety is the source of the flour used in those new "whole grain white" breads.)

Moving back to the larger topic:

I think the basic problem that has some people exercised in this discussion cannot be solved without a far more sweeping and radical transformation of society than is possible to discuss in this forum or maybe even conceive as actually happening. That is because you cannot address the needs and desires of large masses of people with small-scale methods. Unlike with computers, where you can harness millions of microprocessors in tandem to perform the work of a single huge supercomputer, it seems that millions of small, independent organic farms cannot feed billions of people adequately, and they certainly can't at a level people in Western societies have become accustomed to. On second thought, maybe the computer analogy is not totally inapt, for what it seems has to happen is that farms are not only consolidated, but networked--individual farmers contract with large processors/distributors. The point remains that many of the other values some in this discussion have advocated are of necessity diminished or discarded as the quantity of people served rises. Put another way, unless we broke up the United States into several hundred small countries, Earthbound Farms was inevitable.

Another thing I think people have missed is that even the industrial revolution in food production offered benefits as well as disadvantages. I'm currently reading a book Pontormo generously sent me, Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender and Class at the Kitchen Table, one of a spate of books in which (mostly feminist) scholars look at literature about food and cooking and discover all kinds of social ferment buried among the recipes. The first chapter of the book makes a claim that I think many will find startling: Convenience foods were a steppingstone on the path to women's liberation. Articles in women's magazines praising the time savings these new canned and processed foods offered stressed how they freed women to pursue other avenues for (self-)development; readers who might have felt guilty about the lack of creative input their preparation involved could have that guilt assuaged through recipes incorporating the new convenience foods into other dishes; and finally, books like Peg Bracken's bestselling I Hate to Cook Book struck a blow against the tethering of women to home and hearth, a move those new foods made possible.

Those of us here who are pursuing artisanally produced and/or organic foods for their virtuous qualities are IMO still a minority of all cooks and consumers, and even those of us who pursue them because they are higher in quality and taste better are still a minority, albeit a larger one. The great bulk of us are looking for ways to get dinner on the table with a minimum of time and hassle for whatever reason, and because of this, we get such absurdities as Slow Cooker Helper and Crock-Pot Classics, products designed to save even the minimal prep time involved in cooking using an appliance that saves time for the cook by doing the cooking while the cook's doing other things.

Unless and until this changes, Pollan's admonition that we all "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" will have to make room for things that he--and many of us--probably wouldn't regard as "whole." John Mackey recognizes this and has gotten rich by squaring the circle as best he can.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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Consider white bread, for instance.  This indeed may be one of the world's oldest processed foods, and people ate it for thousands of years without much worry.  But once we learned about nutrients, and found out that removing the outer hull of the grain also stripped it of a lot of nutrition, we ended up adding the missing nutrients back to the refined-flour bread.  Are they as effective added back discretely in this "unnatural" state as they are in whole wheat bread?  Maybe, but signs cited here suggest maybe not.

Thousands for the processed stuff you mean?

Or did you mean for thousands of years we've eaten bread?

Bread, yes a long long time. White bread no not so long.

Hundreds of years might even be an exageration.

I guess a distinction must be made between white bread and bread that is white.

My "thousands of years" comment referred to the traditional breads, which obviously were not made from whole grain flour, for otherwise they would be darker in color and have a sweeter and nuttier flavor.

You are correct that "enriched bread" -- the stuff most of us think of when we use the term "white bread" (often as a pejorative) -- is a 20th century invention. And, of course, the process of "enriching" it is what I referred to in that earlier post: Adding back what was removed in processing.

Though I must wonder where this variety of wheat that produces a white or off-white bread without removing the hull from the grain comes from. (This variety is the source of the flour used in those new "whole grain white" breads.)

Moving back to the larger topic:

I think the basic problem that has some people exercised in this discussion cannot be solved without a far more sweeping and radical transformation of society than is possible to discuss in this forum or maybe even conceive as actually happening. That is because you cannot address the needs and desires of large masses of people with small-scale methods. Unlike with computers, where you can harness millions of microprocessors in tandem to perform the work of a single huge supercomputer, it seems that millions of small, independent organic farms cannot feed billions of people adequately, and they certainly can't at a level people in Western societies have become accustomed to. On second thought, maybe the computer analogy is not totally inapt, for what it seems has to happen is that farms are not only consolidated, but networked--individual farmers contract with large processors/distributors. The point remains that many of the other values some in this discussion have advocated are of necessity diminished or discarded as the quantity of people served rises. Put another way, unless we broke up the United States into several hundred small countries, Earthbound Farms was inevitable.

Another thing I think people have missed is that even the industrial revolution in food production offered benefits as well as disadvantages. I'm currently reading a book Pontormo generously sent me, Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender and Class at the Kitchen Table, one of a spate of books in which (mostly feminist) scholars look at literature about food and cooking and discover all kinds of social ferment buried among the recipes. The first chapter of the book makes a claim that I think many will find startling: Convenience foods were a steppingstone on the path to women's liberation. Articles in women's magazines praising the time savings these new canned and processed foods offered stressed how they freed women to pursue other avenues for (self-)development; readers who might have felt guilty about the lack of creative input their preparation involved could have that guilt assuaged through recipes incorporating the new convenience foods into other dishes; and finally, books like Peg Bracken's bestselling I Hate to Cook Book struck a blow against the tethering of women to home and hearth, a move those new foods made possible.

Those of us here who are pursuing artisanally produced and/or organic foods for their virtuous qualities are IMO still a minority of all cooks and consumers, and even those of us who pursue them because they are higher in quality and taste better are still a minority, albeit a larger one. The great bulk of us are looking for ways to get dinner on the table with a minimum of time and hassle for whatever reason, and because of this, we get such absurdities as Slow Cooker Helper and Crock-Pot Classics, products designed to save even the minimal prep time involved in cooking using an appliance that saves time for the cook by doing the cooking while the cook's doing other things.

Unless and until this changes, Pollan's admonition that we all "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" will have to make room for things that he--and many of us--probably wouldn't regard as "whole." John Mackey recognizes this and has gotten rich by squaring the circle as best he can.

Good points!

I find Pollan's views to be rather simplistic and elitist. As such they are not practical.

I do find them to be valuable as one person's ruminations, much as i find a great deal of philosophical thought of value.

Interestingly, if Mackey simply offered artisianal food based on quality and taste only, I wonder if he would be as rich as he is? i do believe he would be less tortured in trying to resolve the dilemma of reconciling good tasting with wholesome.

Finally, I am usually pretty suspicious of those who are looking at a subject in search of a socio political conclusion.

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Begin quote

Take a walk around an old cemetary or research some death certificates. The small plots are the most heart breaking.

significant portion of that generation didn't even make it to adulthood in order to eat "processed" foods. Check the dates. It is even sadder when you see a family plot in which little stair steps have been laid to rest, alongside a mother, from the days before RH factors were routinely tested for and gestational diabetes was not understood, much less the factor of the poor mother going through pregnancy after pregnancy - because of lack of birth control - and the wear and tear that put on her body. Before school lunches, before WIC, before food stamps.

I know a very dear lady who survived cancer only to die within six months from a heart attack. But the point is, she survived breast cancer which would have certainly gone undiagnosed a few decades earlier, because mammograms were not routine and even if they did find it, they didn't have a clue how to deal with it. Ironically, there was some speculation that the target area for her radiation weakened an artery.

My mother was widowed at 32 when her husband died of lung cancer at 35 in the early 1960s. She had 5 children.

I guess I am cautious when I feel like the Depression Era is being aggrandized. It was an awful, awful period in our history, and for humanity in general.

I think it is pretty easy to say that things have improved since. However, the human animal does not settle into complacency.

Edit to add: My Grandfather lost his first wife and two sons to Malaria in the early 1910s. My father lost all his hair due to high fever when he contracted Scarlet Fever as a teenager in the 1930s. He lost an older sister to pneumonia when she was three. Three of his younger siblings were stillborn. One of my Uncles contracted polio as a child, and died in his 30s. My Uncle on my Mother's side died at 4 from a congential deformity in the late 1940s. They ate organic, though.

end quote

I'm sorry if I gave the impression I thought that pre-sulfa/pre-antibiotic, and pre other good medical treatments era was all that much better. I don't. My mother almost died from diptheria as a child, a disease I have no knowledge of other than through her telling me her story and what I've read because of the development of a vaccine. She also suffered through scarlet fever as a child. I know two people who contracted polio (as a child or as an adult), one had a slightly withered arm, the other, now elderly, suffers from post polio syndrome. However, I've also known at least one person who died of cancer, and it was probably caused by her exposure to Agent Orange (2,4, 5-T, w/TCDD contaminant) one of the Green Revolution's herbicides. Another friend suffered from multiple miscarriages (as did many women living in that valley during that time period) most likely due to the same cause. No generation, it seems, is "safe."

The US has (I believe) the highest infant mortality rate of the wealthy industrialized nations, so we still have a ways to go.

Also, in "good old days" of, for example, Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" food in many urban areas was adulterated in a big way.

What I was trying to say, and I guess I didn't say it well, is that I don't think that increased human longevity in the US can be atttributed to eating processed foods because the first generation that's had opportunity to eat alot of processed foods is probably the babyboomer generation, not the Depression/WWII generation. And it's the latter, having survived childhood, that is currently demonstrating greater longevity than prior generations.

As you say, there are a number of factors that contribute to decreased childhood mortality rates. Among them is having fewer children (also tends to contribute to increased maternal survival rates and longevity) and starting to bear children at a later age (not 15 or 16, but 19 or 20 or around then), plus better birthing practices, antibiotics. I remember reading that a group of scientists recently voted better sanitation as the biggest accomplishment of the 20th century. Lots of factors contributing to increased longevity, decreased infant mortality.

azurite

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I don't think it's possible at this point to boil nutrition down to a few simple maxims. I grew up with food-conscious parents who kept me & my siblings away from a lot of junk food (just the occasional treat!) while my best friend who grew up down the street pretty much still doesn't have any idea what to do with a raw vegetable. My god, in college she lived on white rice soaked in soy sauce and Ruffles dipped in Heinz tomato ketchup. And Dr. Pepper. Guess who's fatter. Guess who has high cholesterol.

My point is just to illustrate that there's no magic bullet. The best that one can hope for is finding the diet that keeps one's own body in the shape one finds aethetically acceptable and out of the doctor's office.

I also think it's weird that nutritionism assigns a good/bad value to foods. The idea that one's diet could make one morally superior to another person based on the nutritional "value" of the food in question is actually quite strange.

Edited for spelling. :unsure:

Edited by Blanche Davidian (log)
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I don't think it's possible at this point to boil nutrition down to a few simple maxims.  I grew up with food-conscious parents who kept me & my siblings away from a lot of junk food (just the occasional treat!) while my best friend who grew up down the street pretty much still doesn't have any idea what to do with a raw vegetable.  My god, in college she lived on white rice soaked in soy sauce and Ruffles dipped in Heinz tomato ketchup.  And Dr. Pepper.  Guess who's fatter.  Guess who has high cholesterol. 

My point is just to illustrate that there's no magic bullet.  The best that one can hope for is finding the diet that keeps one's own body in the shape one finds aethetically acceptable and out of the doctor's office.

I also think it's weird that nutritionism assigns a good/bad value to foods.  The idea that one's diet could make one morally superior to another person based on the nutritional "value" of the food in question is actually quite strange.

Edited for spelling.  :unsure:

You make some good points based upon common sense!

Too often statistics are used to make a case; using ,say, infant mortality rates to make a point.

It is not so simple. I believe this minimalizes a serious subject like infant mortality--worthy of discussion in and of itself.

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...

I also think it's weird that nutritionism assigns a good/bad value to foods.  The idea that one's diet could make one morally superior to another person based on the nutritional "value" of the food in question is actually quite strange.

...

I think one of the reasons, but not all, that this attitude exists is as a result of the marketing machine. Getting people to feel that they are superior, more "virtuous" or at the very least better informed merely as a result of purchasing something is a powerful marketing lever.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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