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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Escape from the Western Diet

I take the title of today's post from Michael Pollan's title for one of the sections in his In Defense of FoodAnd it sort of is the crux of the problem that has created our health problems.

As we've seen, those who eat the Western diet are prone to all sorts of medical problems that could be avoided by eating differently--heart disease and diabetes being the most prominent.  I guess the question is why we don't eat more "real" food and less processed, Western diet food?

Part of it is today's food industry.  They continue to push low-fat and low-carb products.  They continue to add omega-3 and antioxidants to products.  Sounds good, but the bottom line is that this just further processes the things they want us to eat.  And draws them further and further from being
real food.

And it may seem cynical, but the health care industry benefits, too.  As I wrote last time, it's apparently easier to create treatments for these diseases than to change the way we eat and prevent them altogether.  Easier for us to get treated than to avoid it, too.

More from Pollan:
...[I]nstead of worrying about nutrients, we should simply avoid any food that has been processed to such an extent that it is more the product of industry than of nature. 
Sound sensible enough, writes Pollan:
...until you realize that the industrial processes have by now invaded many whole foods, too.  Is a steak from a feedlot steer that consumed a diet of corn, various industrial waste products, antibiotics, and hormones still a "whole food"?  I'm not so sure.  The steer has itself been raised on a Western diet, and that diet has rendered its meat substantially different--in the type and amount of fat in it as well as its vitamin content--from the beef our ancestors ate.  The steer's industrial upbringing has also rendered its meat so cheap that we're likely to eat more of it more often than our ancestors ever would have.  This suggests yet another sense in which this beef has become an industrial food: It is designed to be eaten industrially, too--as fast food.

It's a whole change of thinking that will allow us to escape the Western diet.  It will cost more--in money and time--but we end up paying for it eventually anyway in the form of prescriptions and doctor co-pays.  So why not pay for great, local, healthy foods now, take the time to prepare it in a way that will highlight the taste.  And sit down (as a family, is a good idea) and ENJOY our food.  SAVOR it. 

According to a study noted in the book, Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food.  (Italians and French spend 14.9%, Spanish spend 17.1%.)  They also spend less than half an hour a day preparing food and less than an hour a day enjoying it.  (Much less than 50-60 years ago.)  I recently saw a study that says that about 19% of American meals are eaten IN THE CAR!

This is ridiculous.  Family meals are known to bring families closer together.  Kids who eat a majority of their meals as a family do better in school, are less likely to mess around with alcohol and drugs and get along better with their parents.

Yes, it's hard.  So few of us have the time to prepare a meal, let alone time to sit down as a family to eat it.  That's a whole other culture change that needs to be made.  But there are healthy, delicious meals that can be made quickly.  Take time to make meals ahead of time, so they can be put on the table quicker.  Hire a personal chef (I know a good one!) to use fresh ingredients to make meals for your family that you can put on the table in a matter of minutes and clean up in even less time. 

There are ways to do this.  You just have to want to do it.

1 comment:

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