Archive for the ‘Diet’ Category

Quote of the day

Chef Michael Ruhlman talks with MD Roxanne Sukol about “stripped carbohydrates” and the important semantic difference between “healthy” and “nutritious.” Here’s a highlight:

We are a nation drowning in stripped carbs and it is a dangerous situation we can make right, in large measure with words and education. “I’m all about the words,” [Sukol] said, seated on our porch Monday with a glass of iced tea. “Words are the key to giving people the tools they need to figure out what to eat. Everyone’s just so confused.”

“‘Healthy’ is a bankrupt word,” she continued. “We talk about healthy bread and healthy this and healthy that. It’s wrong. We are healthy. Our food is nutritious.”

We need to begin talking about nutritious food or we will cease to be nutritious when the bonobos come to feast on our fat, diseased selves strewn across the scorched earth we leave behind. Dr. Sukol recommends that if you see anything actually labeled “healthy,” throw it into the next aisle of the grocery store, which I hope is near the cleaning fluids. Actually she just said to put it back, but I would urge you, as an act of protest, to throw it into the cleaning fluids lane. …

You don’t need to worry about eating healthy if you’re eating nutritious food.


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Current label on left, proposed label on right

I think the proposed changes to food labels and portion sizes are generally pretty good. Certainly from an info design perspective it makes sense to create at least a little contrast (e.g., by emphasizing the calories) as well as some proximity (putting the percent daily values closer to their respective nutrients. From a public health perspective, it should be much better for portions to be more realistic, as well as to have added sugars called out on the labels (though not sure why they didn’t go ahead and create an “Added Fat” call-out too).

All of this said, it’s not clear that kids are going to care that their sugar-sweetened beverage now explicitly says how much of both (calories & sugar) they are getting. And of course, the more food you eat without labels, the better. But perhaps it will cause business to respond with healthier options … either in the foods that would be re-labeled or as additional offerings.

NPR has a good write-up here. Not surprisingly, Marion Nestle approves.

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Quote of the day

Disease Proof author Dr. David Katz revisited a post from late last year, wondering: Should choosing a meal really require choosing a Messiah?

Couldn’t the proponents of low-carb eating acknowledge that jellybeans were part of the problem, but pinto beans- not so much? The vegans have important arguments about the treatment of our planetary cohabitants, sustainable eating for a population of 7 billion, and planetary stewardship- but if anything, these get lost when they fail to allow for the fact that game and fish figure in the diets of some of the world’s longest-lived, most vital peoples. We could have been right about reducing saturated fat intake, and wrong about what we ate instead. We could agree that eating real food, close to nature, rich in nutrients, and mostly whether or not exclusively plants would be far better than the typical American diet, and would occupy ground common to the disparate theologies of food. …

Whether about wheat or meat, sugar or starch, calories or carbohydrates, this fat or that fat, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for mere grains of truth about diet and health, rather than the complete recipe. Planting such seeds, we are reaping just what we are sowing: more heat than light, unending opportunities for food industry abuses, stunning lack of public health progress, and the very kind of trees that make the forest impossible to see.

Maybe Chris Masterjohn has the right idea:



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Quote of the day

I came across this 2009 interview with former bodybuilder turned fitness coach Scott Abel recently and thought his comments re carb cycling interesting:

Often this industry seeks to create consumer dependence. The more complicated we make something, the more “genius” or “expert” guidance required to unravel it. It’s a way of creating two things.

One as I said, is dependence, and the other is the illusion of control. If we give people more and more variables to pay attention to, they “think” they are controlling complex bodily processes that are not linear one-way causative relationships. Again, by seeking to complicate what is simple, the industry creates for itself “experts” to unravel its own creation: complexity. …

The simple truth is that complicating things in the short run usually burns people out in the long run to the point they just give up and move on. The industry relies on this turnstile nature of consumers within it. So carb cycling may “work” depending on how you define it, but is it sustainable and relevant?

Seems to me you could replace “carb cycling” with a whole lot of other diet & exercise approaches. YMMV.

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Sugar v fat

Across the pond, twin doctors Alexander and Chris Van Tulleken attempted to “answer the hottest question in nutrition” for the BBC documentary Sugar v Fat. In a piece for the Daily Mail, they share their take on the sugar vs fat question:

The most interesting thing we found was that we were asking the wrong question. It’s not which is worse for you, fat or sugar, but rather which foods are making so many of us gain weight and why? …

What we discovered is that the real reason we’re all getting fatter isn’t fat or sugar.

Furthermore, sugar alone isn’t very addictive – only horses snack on sugar cubes and very few people gorge on boiled sweets or dry toast.

And fat isn’t really addictive either: when did you last sneak a spoonful of butter from the fridge late at night?

The modern processed food industry knows this and that’s why you’re rarely sold the two separately – what is addictive is the combination.

As it turns out, the relatively short duration of the experiment — one month — meant that the low-carber had issues with adaptation (ref his comment that ketones aren’t “great brain food” or his performance problems in tests against his twin). OTOH, he had more weight loss thanks to the loss of his stored glycogen.

But it turns out that neither diet was palatable to either twin: “both of these diets were miserable.”

Their conclusion?

If you want to lose weight it will be much easier if you avoid processed foods made with sugar and fat. These foods affect your brain in a completely different way from natural foods and it’s hard for anyone to resist eating too much.

And any diet that eliminates fat or sugar will be unpalatable, hard to sustain and probably be bad for your health, too.

Their experiment has its flaws, but on the other hand, I think it does show that for the average person, either diet is too restrictive for the long term. That said, I suspect that the real truth is that any diet that has you minimizing hyperpalatable foods is a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping this program helps get that message across.

HT Stephan Guyenet

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Quote of the day

Left, Flanzraich after his #absperiment, right, one year later.

Left, Flanzraich after his #absperiment, right, one year later.

Greatist CEO Derek Flanzraich shared this past November how a short-term restrictive six-pack-abs #absperiment program had “scary” long-term effects. One year later, he struggles with (emphasis his):

Rule-Making. Making healthy choices has always been challenging for me, but it’s only become harder since the #absperiment did a number on my self-control. … I just can’t seem to convince myself to stick to anything, and it scares me a little. Maybe a lot-tle.

Food As Reward. Since the #absperiment, I’ve treated food as a reward to an extent I never have before. … After just six weeks of treating healthy food as punishment and indulgences as forbidden fruit, the way I look at food has been profoundly affected. Unfortunately, I’ve spent a year trying to snap out of that mind frame without much success.

Body Image. The third thing — and probably the worst of all — is how my post-#absperiment mindset has affected the way I view my body. … It’s been terrifically tough to stop judging my own body when I have such an extreme point of comparison.


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Quote of the day

On a related note to yesterday’s QOTD, here’s Dances With Fat’s Ragen Chastain on having a positive relationship with your body:

I’m privileged to be temporarily able-bodied and I learned more about that when I had a neck injury last year and lost the use of my right arm for almost three months. I learned that even if my body has limitations, that doesn’t make my body a limitation and that I worked best when it was me and my body against a problem, and not me against my body. I don’t know what is in the future for me and my body and like any relationship, my body and I have to keep up the communication and we have breakdowns, but we’ve come a long way since our days of giving each other the silent treatment, and I’m feel like our relationship is healthier than it’s ever been.

As someone who had a major-league back fail in 2011, the phrase “privileged to be temporarily able-bodied” really resonated with me.

My plan for 2014? Be kind to myself. It’s so much better than the alternative!

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