Whole Foods, Whole Planet

“An Enviga website says that the drink’s blend of green tea and caffeine burns more calories than it contains and can help drinkers maintain an ideal weight. According to a Nestle study, young people who drank three of the 12-ounce drinks a day burned an average of 106 calories.” link

I thought it was a joke when I heard about this new soft drink on NPR tonight. Targeted at overweight teenagers, it burns calories, they say. But wait a minute: you have to drink 36 ounces of the stuff, including the artificial sweeteners, caffeine and theophylline plus lord only knows what else–to burn a hundred calories?

This especially striking example of “nutritionism” loomed large after recently reading Michael Pollan’s piece, Unhappy Meals in the NY Times. How have we become so far removed from WHOLE FOODS and so wrapped up in their reductionist dissection into “nutrients” about which we still understand so little? Whatever our modern western notions are about eating, they’re not working. They’re killing us and the planet.

“The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science,” points out Marion Nestle, the New York University nutritionist, “is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.”

In the end, Pollan’s simple but well-reasoned advice (in the long NYT article–clip and save it): Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Consider avoiding anything that wasn’t around when your great grand-parents were having their meals. Eat as few industrialized, refined food-like substances as possible. And don’t listen to food labels, or most food or diet fads.

Why are we in America the most “well-fed” while our diet is killing us? I highly recommend you read this piece, and like me, send it to your kids. They need to hear it again: eat your vegetables! Our health future–and the world’s–may depend on it.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Good post. When I read Pollan’s article I had to save it for later.

    I always considered myself a modern and forward thinking person but the older I get the more I am forced toward a more conservative viewpoint (in everything but my politics). The one law that we seem to always overlook is the law of unintended consequences.

    I suppose it’s our manufacturing outlook toward everything. Reduce everything to it’s lowest common denominator so we can manufacture it at the lowest cost. In the last century we seem to have, as a culture, lost that husbandry lifestyle of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    I think back on my grandparents lifestyle and see what carried them into their 80’s…They lived on deer meat as their primary protein, taken from their own place. Grandpa raised his own vegetables. Breakfast was bacon and eggs everyday. The eggs were local and free range. Milk was at every meal, raw from the neighbors milk cow out of a wide mouth gallon jar. Lunch was the big meal of the day. Supper, like as not, would be a bowl of whole grain cereal with nuts and fruit. Moderation was the key to every meal…Seems like they may have had it right even back then.

  2. In this region, which happens to be in the South and a 100% tourist based economy, it’s very difficult to find an old-fashioned true country cooking restaurant that prepares food the way my grandparents did. The one restaurant that does always has long lines. I think there is a huge demand for old fashioned cooking but today’s lifestyles don’t allow for it at home and it’s very hard to find when dining out. It seems such a simple act of cooking vegetables properly (tha is, the way grandma did) is now a lost art.

  3. at the risk of sounding elitist and modern: DUH!!!!

    ever since diving headfirst into living history in 1989, it became our mantra to say, “oh, so that’s how they did it back then –why do we think WE are so smart? we’ve forgotten this!!” the food was one of the first discoveries.

    delicious. wholesome. nutritious. oh, and it keeps, too. i have come to believe that we in their future have distilled, perhaps, and not so much evolved.

    eating simply and historically is very good advice –we are living testimonials to that. natural, local foods in season, in moderation is part of why we are still here –hubby with his congenital gastro-intestinal disorder and me with my lupus. and not a daily pharmaceutical ingested between us.