Hippocrates was on to the root of something (no pun intended) when he made his famous quote, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Another well-known author and food-writer, Michael Pollan made an equally poignant statement in the opening of his book, In Defense of Food: an eater's manifesto, when he declares "the secret" revealed in all his years of research and writing about food and health.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
His book then goes on to describe the transition of Americans going from thinking about food in the way of, well, FOOD to thinking about food in the way of "nutrients". He describes how in order to avoid angering the meat and dairy industries by suggesting people cut back on those foods, governmental agencies instead advised Americans to "decrease their intake of saturated fats". Gradually over time, we became increasingly obsessed with the labels on the boxes with their nice tables of nutritional information. Calories, fat grams, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, etc were all there to be counted and compared. Personally, I know many people who shy away from eating fresh fruits and vegetables because there isn't a label describing their exact nutritional data.
Unfortunately, in our attempts to eat healthier, we exchange common sense for the current professional advice of the time. In John Harvey Kellogg's day, protein was the enemy, which led to his zeal for vegetarianism and regular enemas at his Battle Creek Sanitarium (side note: if you are one for satire, check out the 1994 movie "The Road to Wellville"). More recently fats have been the enemy, particularly in regards to cardiovascular disease, however these assumptions have been repeatedly challenged and now, "the lipid hypothesis is quietly melting away...(as we) come to the unavoidable conclusion that the emperors of nutrition have no clothes and we'll never listen to them again." writes Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food, chapter 5).
Meanwhile, Dr. Atkins and others proclaim that carbohydrates are the true enemy and many people (celiac or not) are delving into the gluten-free mantra. I agree that many people feel better on a gluten-free diet, but I am skeptical whether this is because they are avoiding gluten per se, or all the other low-quality carbohydrates found in processed foods.
By now, if you're like me, you've made yourself dizzy in trying to follow all these rules. So, what now? Again, I think Michael Pollan sums it up nicely:
Michael Pollan's 7 Rules for Eating:
#6 is my favorite...and the topic of another blog...
To your health!
Dr. Vannaman is a Board Certified Family Medicine Doctor in Kansas City who believes that trusting relationships and quality conversations are essential to providing outstanding primary care to one and all. Sign up today!