Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's For Dinner?

Where to begin? I'm having a real hard time with this blog entry.

Grace sent me a link yesterday to a New York Times article by Michael Pollan called, "Unhappy Meals." Pollan says quite a few things that I agree with and some that I don't, but he does touch on why it has been so hard for me to get going on what was to be the purpose of this blog, and that is to share what I have learned about nutrition with those that might be interested. Problem No. 1 is that "diet" and "nutrition" have become very complicated subjects. For example, we read about one study that proves X and the next month we hear that X has been disproven. Problem No. 2 is that we have been given advice ad nauseum that has no scientific basis at all, but "everybody knows" that we should be avoiding this or that and eating more of the other thing. Many of the books I have read include some of these assumptions, like the whole saturated fats are unhealthy issue. When you go looking for the proof, it is not there. Problem No. 3, you can get sued if someone follows what they interpret as your advice and then they don't get the desired result or worse get sicker.

After reading all these books and more (I didn't put any of the cookbooks in the photo), doing a lot of searching on the web and filling five three-ring notebooks with printouts, and reading discussion forums on diet issues to see what results real people are getting, I have come to the conclusion that nobody has it right 100% yet, if they ever will, and that includes me. We are back to Problem No. 1, the complexity of the material and the complexity of human beings, their genetic heritage, their environmental influences. What I can relate here on my blog is what I have learned in the last three years of pondering the questions, What do we eat? What do I serve my family to keep them healthy? What do I want to eat?

If I were to sum up my philosophy of diet and nutrition (as a science nutrition is still in its infancy) in a few words, it would be: Eat real food. That's it. No restriction on amount, but I assume you will eat only when hungry and stop when you are full. (If you eat a high carb diet, you may not know when either of these points occur.) Eat food that will go bad in a few days if it is not refrigerated. Eat food that is in as close to its natural state as you can get it. Eat from the four food groups at every meal (a la Diane Schwarzbein): protein, fats, carbohydrates, and low-carb veggies. Have something green with every meal. That's where the magnesium is (along with a lot of other good things.)

I am basically a Paleo Dieter. And I don't mean dieting to lose weight or to control a disease. I am referring to what everyone should eat in general. I believe that Loren Cordain is correct that we need to get back to the kind of diet our bodies evolved over thousands of years to eat. Trouble is there aren't any mastodons around anymore and can we really know what paleolithic man ate every day? We live in today's world and have to eat what is available now. But I don't eat grains at all as Cordain recommends. Grains became part of our diet only recently in evolutionary terms. His reasons for not eating grains include the lectin theory which basically says that grains have complex proteins in them called lectins, antinutrients, that we cannot digest very well.

I also like very much what the Drs. Eades have to say in Protein Power, which I have referred to before. I like them because they work with patients every day and see the results of the diet they recommend, they are not just researchers or journalists. And they are ready to change their minds about things if new, good research proves them wrong. Aside from their books, they are not trying to sell a whole line of products either as some authors do. I tend not to trust people who I feel are just trying to sell me something. If you decide to go the low-carb route, I strongly recommend you read the Eadeses' book Protein Power Lifeplan first, especially the chapters on magnesium and potassium. Changing to a low-carb diet can be tough without their helpful hints.

What I don't like about the Eadeses is their insistence on using sugar substitutes in their recipes because their main concern is carbs. No sucralose, please! If you're going to cut out sugar, then just cut it out and let your taste buds experience other flavors besides sweet. And they seem to think that it's OK to microwave your food (I'll do another blog on that later).

Which brings me to Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, authors of Nourishing Traditions. Enig is the scientist and Fallon is the writer. Together they have promoted the work of Weston Price who is in many ways the grandfather of this whole new movement in nutrition. His book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, is fascinating and led to the now coming-to-be-accepted notion that traditional foods are best, as Pollan states in his article.

So that's what I intend to do here. Try to make you aware of the current SAD (standard American diet) state of our eating habits, point you in what I think is the right direction to better health, share recipes and tell you where to go to get ingredients, and pique your curiosity to do your own research.

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