Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why all of us are confused about nutrition

This idealized farm house on the side of Perdue chicken trucks is part of a campaign by that processor and many other companies to trick the public into thinking they are buying food that has been raised or grown naturally on small family farms.

I received a comment from a reader, Emily Wesley, who said:

"You have written a nice blog, and I have learned a lot from you after reading this. 

"Still, you can add some more information about these organic foods sold in markets by discussing their benefits. 

"I am a concerned person on what I eat and in everything I do."

It's no surprise that, like many of us, Emily wants more information about the nutritional value of organic and other food.

I don't hold myself out as an expert, but I do know where she and others can go for unbiased information about food.

It's not the mainstream media, which depend so heavily on advertising from food processors, supermarkets and restaurants.

Forget the papers

It certainly isn't my local daily newspaper, which employs a restaurant reviewer who is so addicted to sugar she occasionally rates the desserts higher than the entrees, and rarely eats salad.

And don't bother with the Food Channel, which is also beholden to advertisers.

Recall recent news reports on a study that supposedly exposed the "empty calories" in alcoholic drinks and compared them unfavorably with such sugary drinks as Coke and Pepsi.  

Red wine may have "few nutrients," but it has proven health benefits, doesn't rot your teeth and isn't linked to the obesity epidemic, as sugary drinks are.

So, does the issue of "empty calories" really matter or is this just another clueless wire-service reporter trying to hype the latest study?

Winking at Twinkies

After Hostess, the company that makes some of the worst processed food known to man, looked like it was going out of business, National Public Radio actually called Twinkies and Ding Dongs "iconic foods."

I feel bad for all the workers who might be joining the unemployment lines.

But if Twinkies can by any stretch of the imagination be called "iconic," then they are another symbol of the obesity epidemic and all that is wrong with the marketing of junk food.  

In fact, "Ding Dong" sounds like a character in a porn movie.


What you could look like, if you eat Twinkies and other junk food.

Road to ruin 

On the New Jersey Turnpike, travelers pay for the privilege of stopping for fried chicken, low-quality fast-food hamburgers and other unhealthy food.

They fill the tables in the food courts of rest areas, gorging on greasy french fries and ignoring the few healthy choices, such as salads at an Italian-American concession or the fruit-and-cheese plate at Starbucks.

Watching them eat is almost enough to turn my stomach.

On Monday, I stopped for a cup of coffee on the turnpike, and noticed that the Asian Indian man at the next table was eating a salad he had brought with him.

He said he runs the sunglass concession, and always brings his own lunch. As a Hindu, he doesn't eat meat.

And if he did, he certainly wouldn't be eating any of the garbage served at Nathan's or Burger King.

Cholesterol, he said, clogs coronary arteries and weakens vision.

Most of the food choices on the New Jersey Turnpike are unhealthy.

Honest food reporting 

If you want honest, unbiased reporting on food, nutrition, supermarkets and related issues, Consumer Reports is one of the few places to find it.

Consumer Reports magazine and a newsletter, Consumer Reports on Health, are filled with information you will have a hard time finding anywhere else.

They are published by the non-profit Consumers Union, and they don't accept advertising.

Consumers Union recently launched a campaign to get a big food retailer, Trader Joe's, to carry only antibiotic-free meat and poultry.

Have you seen anything on the campaign in the mainstream media? Of course not.  

Jumbo shrimp and mixed vegetables in fresh garlic from Zen Kitchen in Teaneck.

Leftover vegetables made a great side dish at breakfast the next day.


Personal tips

You can go a long way toward improving your health by giving up meat and poultry altogether.

Eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible, even non-organic; choose the kind of whole grains you find in brown rice and whole-wheat pasta; buy wild-caught, low-mercury fish, and low-fat milk and cheese; and favor ethnic restaurants that serve tofu and lots of vegetables.

I gave up bread, pizza, meat and poultry, and lost more than 40 pounds. I go to the gym, and walk as much as possible. 

And I have a glass of red wine with dinner two or three nights a week.

I feel great, and look forward to every meal.    

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