From last weekend's The New York Times Magazine comes Michael Pollan's latest article about The Age of Nutritionism. I would've written about it sooner but it took me until last night to finish reading it. It's 12 pages long. While the entire thing is absolutely worth reading, he ends with a "few (flagrantly unscientific) rules of thumb collected in the course of [his] nutritional odyssey" that bear repeating here, with my notes:
1. Eat food. Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
Non-dairy creamer? You're out. You too, breakfast-cereal bars.
2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
Science keeps changing, so trying to follow fads won't guarantee health. You have a better chance at health by just eating a well-balanced diet.
3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
All those signs point to food that's been processed. More process = less nutrients and vitamins, never mind the environmental costs of producing the food.
4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
Buy food at farmer's markets and you can avoid the foods listed in #3 very easily.
5. Pay more, eat less.
Pay for that grass-fed beef, but reduce your over-all beef consumption and it's not an exorbitant expense. Interesting figure from the article: "Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation."
6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
You don't have to turn into a bunny, but make sure you're getting greens. They pack a nutritional wallop, but science still can't tell you exactly what inside is so good.
7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are.
You know, that whole Mediterranean diet, "French Women Don't Get Fat" thing.
8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.
Duh. If you cook from scratch, it's unlikely you'll add ferrous sulfate or sodium tripoly-phosphate to your dinner. See #3 above.
9. Eat like an omnivore.
Variety is important, and we've been reducing the diversity in our diets over the years. Plus "biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields."
Those tips should be given to every single citizen of the United States, as far as I'm concerned. It's hard to believe we've gotten to the point that we don't know how to eat anymore.
Also: The Kitchen has a summary of the article as well, highlighting some other facets of Pollan's argument.