What, you didn’t think it was tricky? You just cooked food and ate it? Oh, you’ve no idea what horrors and pitfalls await the modern urban professional journalist…
Eating in our time has become complicated – needlessly so, in my opinion. Most of us have come to rely on experts of one kind or another to tell us how to eat – doctors and diet books, media accounts of the latest findings in nutritional science, government advisories and food pyramids, the proliferating health claims on food packaging.Well, there’s a quick way out of that, Mikey; don’t listen to any of it!
We may not always heed these experts' advice, but their voices are in our heads every time we order from a menu or wheel down the aisle in the supermarket.Ummm, no, actually they aren’t.
Most people just don’t worry about that sort of anally-retentive rubbish, preferring instead to concentrate on what’s a good deal or a tasty, quick option for dinner, or if it’s a special occasion, what will impress the significant other.
Or if they did once worry about it, they’ve learned not to as a result of the contradictions and ‘Oops, we got that wrong!’ and the just plain bad science (which as Leg-Iron points out, may have serious consequences)…
Also in our heads today resides an astonishing amount of biochemistry. How odd it is that everybody now has at least a passing acquaintance with words like "antioxidant," "saturated fat," "omega-3 fatty acids," "carbohydrates," "polyphenols," "folic acid," "gluten," and "probiotics"?Do they? I never bother to read the list of ingredients, frankly.
Most of them are not worth bothering about anyway, being the latest fad or scare story in the media, to be quickly forgotten or supplanted by others by the time the next supermarket shelf-relocation event comes around…
But, for all the scientific and pseudo-scientific food baggage we've taken on in recent years, we still don't know what we should be eating.I do. I eat what I like, when I like.
Should we worry more about the fats or the carbohydrates? Then what about the "good" fats? Is it really true that this breakfast cereal will improve my son's focus at school or that other cereal will protect me from a heart attack?Oh, for god’s sake, man, just grow a pair, will you? Stop listening to the ‘experts’ who are inevitably disproved a few months or years later by their colleagues, and just eat what you want!
A few years ago, feeling as confused as everyone else, I set out to get to the bottom of a simple question: what should I eat? I'm not a nutrition expert or a scientist, just a curious journalist hoping to answer a straightforward question for myself and my family.Hallelujah! At last, he’s seen the light!
The deeper I delved into the confusing thicket of nutritional science, sorting through the long-running fats versus carbs wars, the fibre skirmishes and the raging dietary supplement debates, the simpler the picture gradually became. I learned that science knows a lot less about nutrition than you would expect – that in fact nutrition science is, to put it charitably, a very young science. Today it's approximately where surgery was in the year 1650 – very promising, and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate on you? I think I'll wait a while.
There are basically two important things you need to know about the links between diet and health, two facts that are not in dispute.And they are?
The first is that populations that eat a so-called western diet – generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables, fruits and wholegrains – invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes.Well, that’s undoubtedly true, but it may not be the food at fault, but our sedentary lifestyles. Did that ever occur to you?
Secondly, there is no single ideal human diet; the human omnivore is exquisitely adapted to a wide range of different foods.And a wide range of lifestyles, too. A ‘western diet’ high in sugar and fat would be burned off very, very quickly by most third world labour-intensive jobs, or even a western farm labourer or building worker.
It isn’t the food that’s at fault, it’s the fact that we no longer adapt to our reduced activity roles.
However, Mikey has a plan:
The selection of food rules below are less about the theory, history and science of eating than about our daily lives and practice. They are personal policies, designed to help you eat real food in moderation and, by doing so, substantially to get off the western diet.There follows a list of bizarre ‘rules’ to live by, including ‘Eat only foods that will eventually rot’ and ‘Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature’ (to avoid preservatives and ‘artificial’ ingredients).
That’s followed up with ‘Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans’ (no, not an instruction to forgo that late-night after-drink kebab, but an instruction to avoid ‘corporation’ food, i.e. fast food. Because that, presumably, isn’t cooked by humans…).
And then we get to the real meat of the article (ha, ha!): ‘Eat mostly plants, especially leaves’ and ‘Treat meat as a flavouring or special occasion food’. In other words, go vegetarian. Though he does redeem himself a little by suggesting that you ‘Have a glass of wine with dinner’, which will upset the nanny state no end…
And at the end of these exhausting, pettifogging, irritating rules (‘Eat your colours’ – WTF?), he suggests ‘Break the rules once in a while’...!
Our experience over the past few decades suggests that dieting and worrying too much about nutrition has made us no healthier or slimmer; cultivating a relaxed attitude toward food is important.A relaxed attitude towards food doesn’t require the creation of ‘rules’, Mikey.
Epic FAIL, I’m afraid…