Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Holy Huge-a-riffic-ness Batman!

  Monday I posted about the book 'Food Rules' by Michael Pollan. The family was amused by the fact that I was reading a book about food and nutrition and spouting off bits of nutritional wisdom for the next several days. Then they got a look at the next book I was planning to read and they stopped laughing. Their mouths dropped open. They knew then that I had definately gone off the deep end.

The book was (Holy Huge-a-riffic-ness Batman! ) What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating. It's written by Marion Nestle, a Professor at New York University who has degrees in molecular biology and public health nutrition. Her web site, has topics ranging from the latest nutritional studies and whether or not she feels they have merit, to the advertising of health claims on foods, sustainability, etc Anything involving food policies and politics.

So I picked up this monster of a book at the library. This book is a many-paged, 3 inch thick monster. I really didn't plan on reading it through cover to cover - it was just too huge to try to read the whole thing and I didn't have 3 years to spend at it, so I picked out the chapters I found of interest and skimmed through them. Overall this was an interesting book. It contains a lot, like tons and tons, of information and research on just about every food imaginable. It's organized like a supermarket with chapters on produce, dairy, frozen foods, butter/margarine, cereals, breads etc.

One nice thing about it is that she doesn't tell you what to do and not do. She doesn't say "Don't eat this!" or "Eat that" or "Always choose this." She lays out the facts and lets you decide for yourself. Is organic the way to go? She lays out the facts on organic labeling, what organic is, how food companies comply with organic labeling, the results of nutritional studies and research, the costs of organic and lets you make your own decision. Each of the chapters/topics in the book is presented in the same way.

Another thing mentioned in the book that I found interesting, that most people probably don't think much about, is the fact that the main goal of a supermarket is not to encourage you to eat healthy. It's about the supermarket making money. It's about the companies that make the foods making money. And often making money at the expense of those eating it. Margins in the grocery business are small - so food companies, supermarkets, etc do everything they can to get you to buy their food and to buy large quantities of it. One (of many) ways they do this is by putting various health claims on the packaging. Marion Nestle discusses many of these health claims and tries to put them in perspective. Putting a health claim on a box of cereal that is comprised mostly of sugar, refined wheat flour and artifical colors and flavors doesn't make it healthy. And while the health claims in many cases may be based in truth, it's still deceptive in that you are mislead into thinking you are eating healthy.

If you are really interested in how to choose the right foods at the supermarket - where there is an overwhelming array of foods, pseudo-foods and advertising; if you really want to know how to eat healthy and what factors are important to take into account while doing your weekly shopping, then pick up this book (carefully though - it's heavy. You don't want to pull any muscles.) It's filled to the brim with any and all information that you would need to know to choose what's best for you.


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