I have a cousin who used to have an herbal supplements business. He gave me some of the best advice in my life: the best medicine is the food you eat. It’s obvious to me that much of what is wrong with the US has to do with food, from the industrial production of it which destroys the nutrients of the soil and poisons agriculture, to the artery clogging ingredients of processed foods, to the low quality of most restaurant foods, to the transportation of foods causing global warming, to the imbalance of food stuffs that people consume, to the ill-health and lower life span this causes, to the nauseating taste of most prepared foods, and so on.
Michael Pollen, the one-man food revolutionary who authored The Omnivore’s Dilemma and now a new book, In Defense of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating, distills some his latest views in this fantastic interview. If you want to know what is going into your body and avoid future trips to the hospital, I highly recommend reading his work.
AlterNet: Health and Wellness: Michael Pollan: Americans’ Unhealthy Relationship with Food:
I spent a lot of time looking at the science of nutrition, and learned pretty quickly there’s less there than meets the eye, and that the scientists really haven’t figured out that much about food. Letting them tell us how to eat is probably not a very good idea, and indeed the culture — which is to say tradition and our ancestors — has more to teach us about how to eat well than science does. That was kind of surprising to me.
It really comes down to seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” What is food? How do you know whether you’re getting food or a food-like product? The interesting thing that I learned was that if you’re really concerned about your health, the best decisions for your health turn out to be the best decisions for the farmer and the best decisions for the environment — and that there is no contradiction there.
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It’s no wonder that obesity and diabetes are growing so fast in the US:
* 34% of All Food Ads Targeting Children or Teens Are for Candy and Snacks
* Half of All Ads Shown During Children’s Shows Are for Food
New Study Finds That Food Is the Top Product Seen Advertised by Children – Kaiser Family Foundation:
New Study Finds That Food Is the Top Product Seen Advertised by Children
As the fight against childhood obesity escalates, the issue of food advertising to children has come under increasing scrutiny. Policymakers in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and agencies such as the Institute of Medicine have called for changes in the advertising landscape, and U.S. food and media industries are developing their own voluntary initiatives related to advertising food to children. To help inform this debate, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the largest study ever conducted of TV food advertising to children.
The study, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, combines content analysis of TV ads with detailed data about childrenâ€™s viewing habits to provide an estimate of the number and type of TV ads seen by children of various ages.
When I was in college my co-op had a special junk food brunch. Among other things we ordered sugary cereal, Pop Tarts and Twinkies. The normally staid, academic bunch went temporarily insane (thankfully no one was killed!), breakdancing on top of tables and jamming Twinkies into the ceiling with forks. Those Twinkies stayed there for a whole semester without changing color or shape. Makes one wonder what’s in those darned things. Well, now we know. I’ll give you a hint: they are not baked. Read on…
Decoding the 39 Ingredients in a Twinkie – Newsweek Health – MSNBC.com:
At the heart of the book is the fundamental question: why is it you can bake a cake at home with as few as six ingredients, but Twinkies require 39? And why do many of them seem to bear so little resemblance to actual food? The answer: To stay fresh on a grocery-store shelf, Twinkies can’t contain anything that might spoil, like milk, cream or butter. Once you remove such real ingredients, something has to take their placeâ€”and cellulose gum, lecithin and sodium stearoyl lactylate are a good start. Add the fact that industrial quantities of batter have to pump easily through automated tubes into cake molds, and you begin to get the idea.
Even so, it can be unsettling to learn just how closely the basic ingredients in processed foods resemble industrial materials. Corn dextrin, a common thickener, is also the glue on postage stamps and envelopes. Ferrous sulfate, the iron supplement in enriched flour and vitamin pills, is used as a disinfectant and weedkiller. Is this cause for concern? Ettlinger says no, though you wouldn’t want a diet that consists solely of Twinkies. Ultimately, all food, natural and otherwise, is composed of chemical compoundsâ€”and normal ingredients like salt have industrial applications, too. Still, it gives you pause when he describes calcium sulfate, a dough conditioner, as “food-grade plaster of Paris.”
“Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats” (Steve Ettlinger)
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No fruit in this package
Fruit Shown on Label Often Not in the Box, Kids’ Food Study Says (Via commondreams.org):
Fruit is a big seller for parents who want to feed their children nutritious food. So it’s no surprise that manufacturers prominently display berries, cherries and oranges on boxes of breakfast cereals, drink cans and yogurt containers.
Berry Berry Kix contains no berries whatsoever.
Unfortunately, according to health advocates, many companies fail to put the fruit where it counts — inside the products.
The Prevention Institute and the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, an Oakland-based coalition of California’s leading public health, physical activity and nutrition organizations, say more than half of the most aggressively advertised children’s foods that show fruit on their packaging or even put the word “fruit” in their name contain no fruit.
Yoplait Go-Gurt Strawberry Splash yogurt, Fruity Cheerios and Berry Berry Kix are just a few of the products named in the organization’s study being released today, “Where’s the Fruit?”
You can thank the media literacy movement for this:
Advertising Age – FTC, HHS Call for Strict Standards in Children’s Food Marketing:
Two government agencies are calling on advertisers to market only healthier food products to children in the continuing clampdown on children’s obesity.