In many food products you’ll see the term enriched flour. This applies to grains such as wheat, corn, and rice. You’ll also see the addition of reduced iron, niacin, and other B vitamins. This is all very misleading but, ironically, a good indication that the food has been processed.
When a grain is processed, it loses quite a lot of its nutritional value. When food companies first did this with grains, people became very sick and developed diseases. It was quickly noticed that processed grain was nutritionally deficient. The government stepped in and stated that food companies were to add back the missing nutrients. Hence they were enriched. While the quick-to-occur diseases were halted, there was no determination on the long term effects of processed grains. Decades later, we have a society afflicted with widespread obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.
The fact remains that in processing grains, the food is broken. Even returning specific nutrients to the food can’t account for all that was lost. The mechanics of food and health is a complicated thing on the level of nutrients. So next time you’re shopping for grains, avoid the enriched stuff. Go for the whole grain. It’ll make a mountain of difference in your health and wellbeing. If you don’t find whole grains palatable, slowly introduce it into your diet and you will adjust to it and even come to enjoy it.
We’re actually very good at ‘getting used to things’. Our minds are built to see things in a relative, or comparative, manner rather than on an absolute scale. Our bodies and behaviors also adjust and can change their set-point (much like setting a thermostat) and redefine comfort zones. We’re often not aware of how strongly this works because it takes time, and sometimes a lot of it. Likewise, gradual changes work better than drastic ones since it’s easier and quicker for us to adapt to smaller changes. You can leverage this to reach goals or take comfort in knowing that some challenge will become easier.
So suppose you wanted to eat better. Well if you typically ate processed food and moved on to real food, your body is gonna put up resistance to the change. But only at first. Over time, your mind and your body (including your taste buds) will make the adjustment. At some point, you’ll actually really enjoy your new diet and will become disgusted with process food (this has happened to me and others I know).
There are a couple of things to consider. One is to take things gradually. This limits the mental and physical resistance you’d have to deal with. The other thing is to keep all this in mind and have a proper attitude. Accept that things will take time so you have to keep at it. That things may be uncomfortable but they’ll get easier. Remember that this is progress to reach an respectable goal. And take comfort in knowing you’ll adjust to the new changes and they’ll become your new ‘normal’.
McDonalds is setting an incredibly bad example with their barrage of commercials for the 2010 Olympics. It’s not surprising for an organization like McDonalds to provide sponsorship for the event but these commercials have crossed a line. The video above shows a series of spots for the Canadian airwaves (a similar set was shown for the US). It’s absolutely ridiculous for these amazing athletes to purport this body-destroying junk. It may be true that some like to eat McDonalds [and occasionally at best if they want to remain competitive]. But the athletes are setting a terrible example for millions of kids, world wide, who idolize them, as one blogger as noted from her personal experience.
There was one commercial that really bugged me: A coach talking to a kids ice hockey team. He said that they played like Olympians today, so today they eat like Olympians. Cut to the shot of them in McDonalds. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is just blatant. And I’m sure it’s a slap to the face to all the Olympic athletes that work so hard to train and take care of their bodies.
Eating well is a confusing mess and much of that is due to bad information purported by self interested parties (more on that in a future post). Fortunately there are a bunch of legitimate resources out there to help you eat better. The NYT Magazine article, Unhappy Meals, blew me away and really got me rethinking the whole notion of eating better. This piece was written by Michael Pollan who has written many other great pieces regarding food culture. One relevant example is In Defense of Food which is an expansion of his NYT Magazine piece.
Another fantastic NYT Magazine piece, written nearly a decade ago, is What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes. This piece is striking because it completely upends the notion that fats are the “nutritionary evils” that most people consider them to be. If anything, this article is worth a read because it spurs the kind of thought required to dispel much of the bad advice on eating well.
The following two books are interesting because of their seemingly antagonistic nature. Several reviews for Nina Plank’s Real Food slammed the book for bad advice and the reviewers suggested reading The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, instead. Seeing this, I decided to read both and did in fact find a common ground in between them.
InReal Food, Planck argues that foods containing saturated fats and cholesterol are improperly labeled as bad guys and consuming these foods is better than vegan or vegetarian diets. She also argues against “food”, such as soy this and soy that, that imitates other foods.
In The China Study, Campbell argues that the “western diet”, which often put animal products at the center of the plate causes “diseases of affluence” (heart disease and cancer among the biggest of these). Assertions are based on his decades of research that compare diets and disease occurrence between western cultures and traditional cultures (in this case, rural areas in China).
It is very interesting that each of these books addresses the same issue but from opposite ends. Certainly, they both call for eating food that is less processed. Also, they push for food that is closer to what humans ate for hundreds of generations before its transformation in western societies.
There are plenty of other great reads on eating well and our food culture (and I’ll cover some of those in future posts). But I’ve found these five pieces particularly astounding in providing a big-picture view for eating well – between bringing light to the mess of information on how to eat, to the actual process of eating better.
The main part of training your body is obvious enough. You just do it. You push on. You sweat. You fight through the pain (or enjoy it). The other part, equally important, is not so obvious – the recovery. Your body needs to rebuild itself after training. And guess what? It’s gonna have a very difficult time doing so if you’re neither sleeping plenty nor eating properly. Real foods such as vegetables, grains, and fruit go a long way to help the body repair itself (as well as to optimize performance during training). There’s no sense in doing another training session if you’re cutting short your sleep for it. Wasted effort at best.
Whatever new healthcare changes we have are ultimately doomed. It’s not that the reform ideas are bad ones; they’re actually outstanding and much needed changes. It’s just that the American way of life is very incompatible with this system. We Americans are health destroying machines and there’s no way our healthcare system can pick up the slack. We put very little means into taking care of ourselves and that has very serious, painful, and expensive consequences. Imagine if every unhealthy person in the country, which is to say most of the population, was covered by insurance. There’d be no way to pay for all of their medical expenses.
Unless we start eating better and doing more physical activity, among other things, we’re heading for a total disaster. We could very well bankrupt the country in trying to pay off health bills or fees for insurance. So take care of yourself. In doing so, you build your own “insurance” – one of your own wellbeing. I know it’s not easy as it does have its own costs, including time. But it’s one we’re better off paying now than the huge costs we’d incur in the future instead. We also need to approach our food system as we’re doing our health system, as food writer Michael Pollan has stated. With this, we will make eating healthier easily attainable goal.
There’s talk in NY to instate a tax on soda in order to combat obesity. I believe these efforts are commendable because they could realistically reduce soda consumption. But I think the idea is absolutely absurd. We already pay a tax on soda: one that lowers its cost in the first place. Our tax dollars subsidize the production of corn and this greatly deflates the cost of producing soda. The cost of soda is artificially low because of this.
Applying a tax ignores this root of the problem and is instead a superficial fix. We would be much better off if the true price of soda was realistically reflected on the market. This would likely produce a stronger impact than a soda tax. Approaching the root of the problem would be extremely difficult though primarily because industries have a stranglehold on our government and the industries would fight hard to protect their interests. Still, if one part of government has the guts to consider a soda tax, there is hope that it can stand up for its people and not for the industries.