Nutrition Advice- Who Should We Believe?

I was having an interesting discussion with my husband yesterday about personal responsibility vs government regulation on the issue of advertising to children and food choices families make. His platform- it’s the first amendment, freedom of speech and all, so companies can advertise to who they want as much as they want. Parents need to responsible for what they buy and should just tell their children that certain things are bad for them.

Oh yeah, I had a field day.

We ended up in a loop of sorts with me explaining that not everyone knows or understand why certain additives or chemicals in our food system are unsafe, nor do they understand that the corn industry can basically pay a scientist enough to run a bogus study and skew the results to show that HFCS is perceived the same as table sugar in our bodies. His endless defense was “people should educate themselves, research that stuff, and figure it all out. You did it, and apparently there was enough commotion to cause them to change the name HFCS to corn sugar, so something is working.” Yes he’s very eloquent, and I love him.

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So my question is, who should the everyday people of America turn to when attempting to answer the question “What Should I Eat?”

My first reaction would be the government, since they are the group with the citizens best interest at heart, supposedly. However, with all the lobbying of Congress by Big Ag, you get recommendations tainted by money and business, such as the MyPlate diagram. Harvard scientists disagree so strongly that they created their own version, Healthy Plate. It also slows down or destroys campaigns and initiatives to improve our food system and policies, such as the voluntary guidelines for advertising to children that sparked our debate in the first place. In my opinion, government = Big Ag & large food corporations, all of which are definitely not out to protect our health.

Ok, so the next person you may look to for nutrition advice is your doctor right? Well most doctors get 1-2 nutrition classes in their post-baccalaureate program which usually isn’t enough to see through the smokescreen of the government regulations and recommendations. So you will most likely receive a hand out for the new MyPlate diagram and be sent on your way.

Children get confused as well when MyPlate is promoted but then schools are allowed to serve pizza as a vegetable. This policy has been allowed to continue when Congress blocked the USDA from improving it’s regulations due to pressure from ConAgra and Schwan, despite the Obama’s push for better school lunches.

So now I come to the professionals who just a year ago I would have touted as the key people to look towards, Registered Dietitians and the American Dietetic Association. However after seeing the sponsorships behind the ADA, I’ve come to question some of their recommendations. For example promoting diet soda over regular as an effective weight loss solution.

After a little thought and looking back at the whole discussion it dawned on me. The people bringing light to the fallacies of HFCS weren’t government backed groups. They were scientists plugging away at research in labs, as well as other concerned citizens with enough media pull to garner some attention, such as Jillian Michaels. But then you find out another big name in nutrition science such as Marion Nestle disagrees with the study (however the author was able to defend himself, and the whole ordeal is nicely summarized here).

So who does that leave us???

I’d have to agree with Michael Pollan, that we should look to our grandmothers, or possibly our great grandmothers. The people who used real raw ingredients to create beautiful nourishing food. The ingredients they used were usually seasonal and fresh since they didn’t have farms in Central America growing their foods year round, and preservation methods were limited. They did not have to worry about chemicals and pesticides in their food and water supply since such things were not widely used until after World War II. They appreciated the art of creating a meal with love and patience. They used traditions passed down through the generations because these traditions kept people alive and healthy, and were obviously delicious if they’d stuck around so long. They did not need modern day science to tell them these traditions and food combinations were good, they relied on the food and flavor to do that. He has said that our ancestors did not need to know that olive oil enhanced the bioavailibilty of nutrients available in tomatoes and dark leafy greens; they just knew it was a delectable combination. These generations also had to work harder for their food and therefore savored it more than we do today in our fast-paced convenience food culture. So get back to the basics of from-scratch cooking, and discover the beauty behind transforming raw ingredients into a beautiful meal.

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The more technology advances, the more we discover how complex food is. But does it have to be? Do we always have to know why something is good? Can’t we just accept that real foods will never be able to be replicated in nutritional value by chemicals from a factory engineered to trick our mind and body into thinking what it is eating is real? Shouldn’t we just resolve to eat a variety of real foods within reason and season?

 

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2 thoughts on “Nutrition Advice- Who Should We Believe?

  1. The government is definitely not the answer for nutrition, too intermingled with the food industry. As a nurse, I know what schooling offers those in the medical profession: if you have diabetes, eat less sugar, if you have high blood pressure, eat less salt, if you are obese, eat less…

    It is these simple and misleading principles that lead one to believe that all of certain foods are bad for you, such as the current craze of fat, sugar, and salt being the bad guys, while protein, the “good” guy, should be shoveled in by the load.

    As for associations such as the american Diabetes Association, their recommended values for what is safe is often way off base and this guarantees that most will suffer from the chronic effects.

    With disease constantly on the rise nowadays, medicine and “healthier” options relieve the mind and coverup the root causes. So yes, we should rely on what is naturally provided and not foods that require labeling and hidden ingredients that squander our taste buds into a life of addiction.

    Great post…

    LIVE Longer We WIll

    • Thank you!

      Great thoughts. I, too, can’t stand the overly generalized recommendations given in treating certain chronic diseases. If we just ate better, quality food in the first place, there would be a lower incidence of these chronic diseases. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment.

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