Monday, May 14, 2018

Edible Food-Like Substances

I recently watched and loved the documentary In Defense of Food. It follows journalist Michael Pollin as he dissects different aspects of food and answers the question: what should I eat to be healthy? One of his rules of thumb is to "Eat Food." As in, eat real food.

As he points out in the documentary, food today has adapted so much from what food used to be. Everything in the middle of the grocery store may as well called "edible food-like substances" instead of food. Its pretty obvious that the fruits and vegetables count as real food. Also everything in the meat section. But once you get into the center things get interesting. You see all sorts of food labels that are loud proclaiming the benefits of using the product: "Low Fat! Glutin Free! No preservatives! etc.. "  The history of it is that science was used to make the food more efficient, possible to store longer. This made the food less healthy. And now science is being used to fix that original problem by adding nutrients back into the food. Wonder Bread is a good example of this where the germ was removed from the bread, making the wheat less nutritious but would store longer. But because it was less nutritious, they decided to add vitamins back into the bread. If you eat real food you will get the nutrients directly from the food and not have to guess at whether the claims of the processed food is valid or what is being hidden behind the message. Real food isn't loud, it sells itself.

The second interesting thing about this is Pollin's insight about the rise of foodism. Foodism happened when the conversation stopped circling around what food to eat but rather what the food contains.

"It’s sort of like a religion ’cause now, if what matters about a food is something you can’t see, then you need a priesthood to mediate your relationship to that mystery. And so we have a priesthood that consists of doctors, who we consult about food, and various experts, and writers of books on nutrition and nutrition scientists of all kinds. And we defer to them."

And its not bad to know nutrients are in the food but it does make eating very complex considering there are scientists on both sides and the information keeps changing. One of the things we can do is to simplify our choices and take advantage of nature and evolution. Eating food that existed hundreds, thousands of years ago makes more sense than eating something made in a factory by humans not so long ago.

Until you differentiate between real food and edible food-like substances, its very hard to eat healthy since every single edible food-like substance has some sort of health claim nowadays. Its no wonder people are confused. Stick to simple, real food and you'll be fine.