Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Rules Friday

The ninth installment of my weekly feature, "Food Rules Friday," featuring a rule from Michael Pollan's newest book, "Food Rules - An Eater's Manual."

Michael Pollan is an acclaimed author and whole food/heathy eating advocate. He is the author of the best selling "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dillemma."

Rule #9: "Avoid food products with the wordoid 'lite' or the terms 'low fat' or 'non-fat' in their names."

Personally, I don't take issue with certain low fat or non fat food items in moderation.  I use soy milk in my cereal and for other milk uses.  We keep non fat, or skim milk also.  My wife likes it, and uses it for cooking uses that require milk for a creamy soup or sauce. We also use some other reduced fat dairy products such as chesse, cottage cheese and yogurt.  Typically, these products are simply made from milk with lower fat content, and do not have other ingredients added to make up for the loss of fat.

I think Pollan's warning here has to be taken in context.  His point is that the vast majority of food items in this category have other added ingredients, mostly carbohydrates in the form of sugar.  Excess carbs are converted to fat by the body.  The term "low fat" gives people the impression that they can eat all they want.  Americans have actually been consuming an extra 500 calories per day since the low-fat campaign started.  Pollan suggests that "You're better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on 'lite' food products packed with sugars and salt."

The key, as I see it, is to know what you're eating.  Don't buy anything without reading the labels.  Learn which ingredients are healthy and which ingredients are not.  Be aware that the total of calories is just as important as the source of the calories.  


Jenny Enochsson said...

The topics you discuss are very important.

"The key, as I see it, is to know what you're eating."

I agree! A couple of years ago I started to read about what our food and hygien products really consist of. A shock! I never buy anything that contains artifical or chemical ingredients, today.

Vern said...

Yes, it is quite shocking to see the list of ingredients in many products. You are wise to read the labels and choose carefully!

Thanks, Jenny! I'm glad you enjoy the topics!

Don said...

Yes, I noticed years ago that the lite and no/low-fat products had a lot more sugar and salt in them (plus a lot more chemicals) than their full-fat counterparts. Without getting into specifics, we need some fat in our diets, and cutting it out completely can be as dangerous to your health as eating too much of it.

I drink 2% milk because I like the taste of it, but I've returned to using regular sour cream, cottage cheese, and mayonnaise because I like them better and the amount of fat per serving is too low to be concerned about.

Vern said...

Don, that is a very important point!

We do need a certain amount of fat in our diets. Some vitamins are water-soluble, but vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble. Eating a no-fat diet would block our absorption of these important nutrients.

There's absolutely nothing unheathy about the full fat varieties of any of the products you mentioned. The key is moderation!