On ‘healthy’ food

No food is healthy. Not even kale.

Michael Ruhlman for the Washington Post:

We will be healthy if we eat nutritious food. Our food is either nutritious or not. We are healthy or we are not. If we eat nutritious food, we may enhance what health we possess.

Because, and this is the judgment call, fat isn’t bad; stupid is bad. And until we have better information and clearer shared language defining our food, smart choices will be ever harder to make.

Besides the rant on  word usage errors, the article seems to rally against two main points – the government dietary guidelines and popular ‘healthy’ food fads.

The dietary guidelines have shifted through the years based on the available science; however, I would submit that following our best research into food and nutrition and human health is the best reasonable course we can take. I do understand that industry, politics and other factors influence the shape of the guidelines but the main ideas in those guidelines are pretty sound. It’s not enough of a reason to throw them out the window.

As for fads, in one sense, they can certainly help reduce the costs for people who absolutely have to follow those diets (i.e. gluten free foods are so much more available now and much cheaper) but they also muddy the waters for others. My recommendation is to look at the fads with eyes wide open and healthy skepticism. And eat foods in moderation.

On detoxes and cleanses

Scott Gavura for Science Based Medicine – The one thing you need to know before you detox:

“Detox” is a legitimate medical term that has been co-opted to sell useless products and services. It is a fake treatment for a fake condition. Real detoxification isn’t ordered from a menu at a juice bar, or assembled from supplies in your pantry. Real detoxification is provided in hospitals under life-threatening circumstances — usually when there are dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or other poisons in the body.

Gavura doesn’t mince words.

The lifestyle implications of a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, lack of sleep, and alcohol or drug use cannot simply be flushed or purged away. Our kidneys and liver don’t need a detox treatment. If anyone suggests a detox or cleanse to you, remember that you’re hearing a marketing pitch for an imaginary condition.

On paleo diets

Melvin Konner for the Wall Street Journal – Confessions of a Paleo Diet Pioneer

Anthropologists know that people obsess about diet. Kosher and halal diets are about discipline, not health. Hundreds of millions in India never let flesh cross their lips. All of these strategies—low-carb paleo diets, too—seem to be compatible with life and health. Within these bounds, pick your poison. With care, you can extend your life—but as far as I know, nobody lives forever.

 

On the updated 2015 US dietary guidelines

Marion Nestle:

In the 2015 Dietary Guidelines,

  • Saturated fat is a euphemism for meat.
  • Added sugars is a euphemism for sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Sodium is a euphemism for processed foods and junk foods.

If the Guidelines really focused on dietary patterns, they wouldn’t pussyfoot.

Why don’t they?  Politics, of course.

 

Insect and animal noises, and growing food

Podcast – Gastropod – Field Recordings

As an acoustics professional, the measurement and usage of insect and animal sounds in the growing of food is fascinating. I’ll definitely be reading up on some of the sound measurement methods.

(I’m just getting caught up on the archives, having only recently found out about this great podcast.)

Restaurants and food allergies

Why food allergy fakers need to stop

Neil Swidey for the Boston Globe:

Moreover, Leviton emphasizes that, as much as they work with extreme caution, they don’t cook in a vacuum. “We make bread in the same tiny kitchen we make everything else in,” he says, noting that it’s not as if the kitchen is being steam-cleaned to remove all flour dust. Most people who are “super-hyper-allergic,” he says, would stay away from restaurants because they know that just one tiny mistake could prove fatal.

This is the reason we haven’t served our son any restaurant food, and if we can avoid it, we don’t go to restaurants at all with him. We hardly go out to eat at all. Great for the wallet, but not so great if we’re out and forgot to bring his snacks/food with us.And then there are people who lie about their food preference or diet, calling it an allergy to ensure the item is taken out of their meal:

Dr. John McDougall, who peddles his low-fat, high-starch McDougall Program diet as a way to prevent degenerative disease, kicks it up a few notches, urging his flock to paint a picture for their servers. “Tell them you’re allergic to oil. [Say] ‘If I eat oil, I’ll have an anaphylactic reaction. I’ll have a seizure. You’ll have to call the ambulance. It will just be a whole big bad scene here in the restaurant. . . .’ ”

But restaurants are not blameless in this dance of deception. Culinary Institute of America professor and author Ezra Eichelberger is a leading voice on all things front-of-the-house. For too long, he says, too many restaurants tried to talk diners out of their preferences (“You’ve never had garlic the way our chef uses it”) or outright lied to them. They might, for instance, fail to disclose to vegetarians ordering the French onion soup that it was made with beef stock or neglect to wave pescatarians off the clam chowder because it has a little pork hidden in it.

Both restaurants and eaters need to come clean.

How to make the most of your herbs and spices – experimentation

The Science of Herbs and Spices

Harold McGee, for Lucky Peach:

Have you ever chewed on a sprig of thyme or chomped down on a whole peppercorn or clove? It’s not pleasant. That’s because most herb and spice flavors are actually chemical weapons. Their role is to repel insects and snails and other animals that try to eat them, and to kill microbes—especially fungi—that try to infect them. (The flavor chemicals also sometimes serve as a form of birth control. When the leaves of a thyme plant drop to the ground, thymol prevents the plant’s seeds from germinating, so the plant won’t have to compete with its offspring for nutrients from the same patch of soil.)