Book Review ‘In Defense of Food – An eater’s manifesto’
Author: Michael Pollan

‘Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants’ is Michael Pollan’s call to humans of the Western Culture. This statement is simplistic at face value but as he examines the current state of ‘nutritionism’ in America (and here) it becomes more profound. Nutritionism is a broad term indicating the Western Cultures intense focus on nutrients and their health benefits from a reductionist point of view.

For example, food companies can market a dubious food item as a healthy option by simply adding a vitamin, mineral or health promoting nutrient. Think white bread with added omega three fats, calcium or iron. Or think Milo Flakes cereal with the heart foundation tick. These scientifically endorsed ‘foodlike substances’ have pushed our basic produce to the bottom of the shopping trolley. With over 17 000 food items for sale, we are bombarded with clever advertising and subtle marketing to look past our fundamental ‘real’ food items.

It is made clear that food is not simply the sum of its nutrients. A healthy diet is not based simply on the number of nutrients we are consuming. Whole foods have a far greater impact on health than a supplement which simply provided the same amount of nutrients.

Michael Pollan provides some rules of thumb…

  • ‘Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food’.
  • ‘Get out of the supermarket whenever possible,’ utilise local farmers markets
  • ‘Avoid food products that make health claims’
  • ‘Avoid food products containing ingredients that are

– Unfamiliar
– Unpronounceable
– More than five in number’

This was an excellent read, providing a thoughtful insight on our need to escape the Western Diet and return to traditional and ecologically sensible eating habits.

Diabetes Diet – Sifting Fact from Fiction

The saying ‘take a grain of salt with what you hear’ is an appropriate message for people with diabetes. With 280 people developing diabetes daily and over 1.7 million diagnosed cases in Australia, there is a significant amount of nutrition advice fed into and circulating this large population. From personal trainers, friends and relatives, naturapaths, nurses, doctors, diabetes educators and dietitians, it is very easy for a diabetic to get confused with such a simple task as eating food.

Which of the following statements are Fact, Fiction or a Bit of Both?

1. “Don’t eat anything white”

2. “Watermelon is not allowed”

3. “Avoid Fruit altogether”

4. “Nuts are fattening”

5. “Butter is better than Margarine”

6. Sea salt or Himalayan salt are healthier than regular salt.

7. ‘Light’ olive oil is better than regular olive oil

Answers:

1. Bit of Both. It is right to recommend patients to eat wholegrains not white bread, rice or pasta.Sweet potato has a lower GI but has more carbohydrate than white potato in weight. A small jacket potato in a meal is suitable.

2. Bit of Both. As watermelon is high GI, there are many other low GI fruits around – such as berries, stone fruits, and citrus. Combining watermelon with other low GI fruit as in a fruit salad is appropriate.

3. Fiction. Fruit provides many nutritional benefits. Two serves a day is suitable for all diabetics. A serve is not a kilogram of grapes! Example: 2 kiwi fruit and a pear is two serves. Strongly recommended to avoid Fruit Juice.

4. Fiction. Even though all nuts contain up to 80% fat, there is good evidence that they are important in the diets of diabetics. For example 25g (approx ¼ cup) walnuts have been shown to improve glycemic control in type two diabetics.

5. Fiction. Both Butter and Margarine are Non-essential items in our diet – so it is appropriate to recommend a reduced intake of both.
Processing of margarine over the last 30 years has improved dramatically. Margarine’s now have less Trans Fatty Acids than Butter. Butter is 54% Saturated fat, whereas typical Margarine’s have only around 15% Saturated fats. Despite butter being more natural it remains a less healthy option than margarine.

6. Fiction. The health outcomes of ingesting any type of salt remains the same.
Himalayan salt is 95-96% sodium chloride, 2-3% gypsum plus another 10 other minerals
Sea salt is also around 97% sodium chloride with other trace amounts of minerals

7. Fiction. There are many deceptive statements on food labels. This is a classic example. The ‘Light’ in Light Olive Oil refers to taste and colour not calories. The opposite is true, the darker more flavoursome olive oil is the more health benefits it contains. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is the pick.

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