I haven’t published a link love round up since before the holidays (I’ve been traveling and then moving, and still don’t have internet at my new home), so I included some great ones here that you might have missed over the past couple weeks. Below I’ve included some wonderful pieces on weight loss and willpower in the Times, a lamesauce ruling by the FDA on antibiotics use in factory farms and a thoughtful editorial on the state of organic farming.
Antibiotics in farm animals: FDA issues weak rule. <<Thanks to Marion Nestle for calling BS of the week on the FDA for being influenced by the beef, pork and chicken industries, allowing liberal use of antibiotics for non-disease purposes and endangering humanity. (Food Politics)
Eating Animals <<This is an incredibly thoughtful piece reminding why all animal food industries are not evil (and some are even necessary). (The Atlantic)
I had to restrain myself from including 20 articles in this week’s post, but for your sake I kept it to my usual top 10. Whatever you do don’t miss Bittman’s calculations on the price of broccoli versus McDonald’s, how easy it is to sell fruit to kids, how global warming is affecting the fishing industry, how the food industry is responding to the Real Food movement, and the other five articles.
Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? <<Though there have been some valid criticisms that this may not apply to those in extreme poverty, it certainly applies to a good chunk of the population (college students, I’m looking at you) who complain about the cost of healthy food. (New York Times)
When Chefs Move the Fruit <<Hey, guess what! When you make fruit look tasty by putting it in colorful bowls sales increase by 104% in schools. Why not try it in your kitchen? (ScienceDaily)
Food products described as artisan go mainstream <<While this kind of makes me want to vomit, it also kind of makes me really happy because it means there is a demand for quality again. I’m hoping consumers are smart enough to tell the difference between authenticity and marketing. (Los Angeles Times)
In this week’s Top 10 I found some cool new data supporting my claim that even non-brightly colored, white fleshed fruits and vegetables have superfood potential, some sad news about the anti-aging chemical in red wine resveratrol, and a whopping two BS stories of the week.
Kids may not be drinking enough low-fat milk, the CDC reports <<BS of the week #1. First of all, the article says kids are drinking too much full-fat milk, not lacking milk in general. Second, the claim that low-fat dairy (they only count 1% as low fat) is better than higher fat dairy is not at all supported by the scientific literature. Third, they are basing all of this on the fairly lame new USDA MyPlate. Safe to say, you can ignore it. (Los Angeles Times)
Bachmann says food industry overregulated <<BS of the week #2. I really don’t enjoy calling BS more than once. And I really really don’t enjoy politics and do my best to avoid them, especially here on Summer Tomato. But Michelle Bachmann stepped on my turf with these ridiculously pro-industry, anti-voter claims that the food industry, which has been responsible for dozens of fatal food poisoning outbreaks (lots of innocent people died because of greed and corner-cutting) in the past 2 years, is overregulated. Please. (Boston.com)
Fine Food and Fat: Are Chefs to Blame for Obesity? <<BS of the week. People are clearly confused about the causes and effects of obesity. If we have any chance of coming out of this health crisis, we’re going to have to embrace the food movement and reinstate a food culture based on quality over quantity. (Time)
This week I learned that cheese is associated with lower cancer rates, and it wasn’t even an April Fools’ joke. I’m also cautiously optimistic about Kroger’s new food scoring system that actually calls out junk food for what it is. Oh oh oh! And I can’t wait to try the canned unicorn meat I’ve heard so much about.
I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).
Links of the week
End the War on Fat <<A fabulous review of America’s upside down nutrition advice of the past several decades, especially as it pertains to fat and heart disease. Hats off to Slate for this one.
Higher vitamin K intake tied to lower cancer risks <<Read this article carefully and you’ll see they found a correlation between cheese consumption and less cancer. Correlation is not causation, but at least the trend wasn’t in the other direction! (Reuters)
Giant Greenhouses Mean Flavorful Tomatoes All Year <<BS of the week. This quote says it all: “They don’t make a tomato that my grandmother would have liked. They make a tomato that my son would like or my daughter would like.” Why does our society tolerate the watering down of our quality of life? And at exorbitant prices, no less. (New York Times)
Is it possible for healthy eating to become an unhealthy obsession?
Orthorexia is a word turning up frequently in the media to describe an excessive focus on healthy eating and dietary restriction. Though the term is not yet an official psychological diagnosis according to the DSM-IV, it is being used by some clinicians to describe patients with eating disorders that resemble obsessive compulsive.
Paradoxically, orthorexics obsessed with health are not healthy and often shun food to the point of emaciation and starvation. But unlike patients with anorexia nervosa, the goal of orthorexics is not to be thin but to be “pure, healthy and natural,” according to Dr. Steven Bratman who first described the disorder in 1997. Suffers are frequently associated with a particular eating regimen such as veganism or rawfoodism.
That orthorexia has only recently been identified and characterized may be the best argument yet for Michael Pollan’s assertion in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that over the past several decades America has undergone “a national eating disorder.” Americans spend tens of billions of dollars per year on weight loss and fitness products, with only growing obesity and chronic diseases to show for it. We’ve shunned fats, sugars, starches and everything in between, and embraced each new diet trend with open arms and wallets. And perhaps not surprisingly, it appears some people are now taking it too far.
The irony is that as a condition like orthorexia has emerged as clinically relevant, we’ve also seen a notable health food backlash. Google searches for the word “bacon” have increased significantly in the past year, and books are being written from websites like This Is Why You’re Fat.
Google Bacon 2004-2009
In other words, we have serious issues with food.
It is easy to be sympathetic toward all of these behaviors, even if their extreme forms make us a bit uneasy. For those interested in living healthy and being thin (the chronic dieters), the only guidance is offered by thousands of diet books and companies like Weight Watchers. Each of these systems has its own strict guidelines for success, while unfortunately few (if any) of them encourage us to behave in a way that we would naturally. Thus the dirty little secret of the diet industry is that the vast majority of them are ineffective for long-term weight loss.
This is why we now have a congregation of bacon worshipers. A growing segment of the population is tired of bland food and unsatisfying, ineffective diets. Bacon tastes good, and since we are all clearly dying of heart attacks anyway we may as well live it up. Right?
Even if this attitude is a bit fatalistic, at its core it reflects a desire to enjoy life. And anyone who counts themselves among the human race should acknowledge this as a sentiment that deserves respect.
But striking the perfect balance between health and gluttony is extremely difficult in a food culture where we are allowed to eat in our cars and in front of our televisions. The food industry has made sure that as far as food is concerned, there are no rules. So a bit of obsession seems like a necessity for someone that still holds the desire to eat whole, unprocessed foods from the bottom of the food chain. The healthiest foods, after all, cannot be found at your neighborhood supermarket. For taste, health and the environment, the best stuff is at your local farmers market.
But avoiding the supermarket, isn’t that orthorexic?
Not necessarily. Every day we take a little extra time to do things that are necessary and important, things like sleeping, doing laundry and brushing our teeth. We go out of our way to do these things because the alternative is simply unacceptable. Eating quality food isn’t an obsession so much as a life maintenance task that–like being clean–is not up for negotiation. Until we have farmers markets on every corner, a little extra effort will be necessary.
But delicious, high-quality food is not only about health. It is also about taste, enjoyment, community and life. Food is something that is worth building your days around, because when approached from this angle food improves your quality of life in every way. Eating like this is not a disorder, it is a culture. And it is something that we desperately need to rediscover.
When proposing the term orthorexia, Bratman suggested framing a diagnosis around two direct questions:
Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
Does your diet socially isolate you?
In other words, seeking healthy food only becomes unhealthy when it is devoid of enjoyment and social relationships.
Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a lecture at UC Berkeley given by Michael Pollan. Near the end of his talk Pollan proposed reestablishing food culture in America as “The Omnivore’s Solution,” the way to break our habits of both health food obsession and unbridled gluttony. He described health as “a set of relationships,” and encouraged his audience to think of food not as a product but as something we do.
Throughout history and around the globe food cultures are what have dictated when, where and how much we should eat, and countries that have worked to preserve their cultures have fared better against obesity and other diseases of civilization. For Americans though, food culture has been replaced by nutritionism and all-you-can-eat buffets.
This kind of thinking is often branded as elitist, but it shouldn’t be. Food culture does not cost money, it is a basic tenet of life that extends across class boundaries. It costs time, but this is a priority shift that is worth investing in. According to the latest Nielsen statistics, Americans are watching an average of 5 hours of television per day. Calculate in the cost of high-definition screens and monthly cable bills and your daily food investment will start to be put into perspective.
It is undeniable that food grown locally with care costs more than the subsidized, mass-produced products that fill your favorite supermarket. But despite our reputation, Americans have never been opposed to going out of our way for and spending a little extra money on food that tastes amazing and makes us happy. (If you don’t believe me I’ll redirect you once again to This Is Why You’re Fat.)
Is it such a stretch to say that we should be able to eat healthy and still enjoy our food?
Take some time out this weekend and read Michael Pollan’s latest article on the decline of cooking and the rise of food T.V. I also found a few articles that add to discussions from the previous two weeks, in particular the organic food controversy and eating healthy while fine dining. Some great recipes and food-related lifehacks are listed as well.
I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there.
I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips you’d like to share.
This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious meals of the week in the comments below.
For The Love of Food
Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch <<The must-read article of the week, and probably the month. Michael Pollan‘s latest commentary discusses the lost art of cooking, the role of television in food, what we’re losing because of it and what we can do to reclaim it. (New York Times Magazine)
To me this is perfectly natural, because few things are as important or bring as much pleasure to my life. I eat at least three times a day, and each meal is an opportunity to revel in the bounty of nature and ensure my health for (5? 6? 7?) decades. What confuses me is why more people aren’t so obsessed with food.
I admit that my personal history with food is long and intimate, but at this stage in my life what makes me passionate about eating well is what I know about the impact of my daily meal choices on myself and the world.
Food is the cause of almost every modern disease, and is in the midst of creating some new ones.
Food is destroying the planet faster than anything in human history.
Food threatens our national security and the health of the global economy.
But food is not all doom and gloom, nor should it be. Real food is a celebration of life and brings people together. Real food is an art. Real food is health.
My personal favorite reason to eat the way I do is that real food tastes amazing, nothing like the processed junk most of us grew up eating.
When it comes down to it, real food makes my life better.
If you are like most people I talk to, this all sounds wonderful but is a little too abstract to move you to action. Sure we would all love to make it to the farmers market this weekend, but when Saturday rolls around there are 1,001 excuses not to go. Right?
In my world though, the earth has to be collapsing for me to miss my market trip and even then I’ll probably find another one. I don’t see it as a choice. For me my weekly trip to the farmers market determines how well I will eat for the entire week. I know it is possible to eat healthy without going but it won’t taste nearly as good, is less exciting and more expensive. These things make it harder to eat healthy at all, and that is not okay.
My resolve comes from the knowledge that there is no more important decision I can make each week than where I buy my food.
If you aren’t convinced yet, you should definitely see the new film Food, Inc.
Food, Inc. will help you see food as a priority, a solution to and not the cause of our problems. It is a journey through our modern food system, how it works and the tremendous impact it has on our lives.
One of my favorite quotes comes early in the film as Michael Pollan, one of the film’s narrators and hero of the “real food” movement, describes the disappearance of seasonal produce at the grocery store. His quintessential example is the perfectly red, perfectly round tomatoes that can be found year-round in American supermarkets.
“Although it looks like a tomato, it is a notional tomato. It’s the idea of a tomato.”
This is because, as you all know by now, real tomatoes only exist in the summer.
Food, Inc. gives you an intimate look at where these artificial foods come from and the how they affect our lives. It also explores the government policies that have encouraged and protected these practices at the expense of good food and health.
If you have read (and you should) Michael Pollan’s landmark book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you will find many similarities in this film. However, Food, Inc. preferentially emphasizes the results of our food system and the toll it takes on our health and economy.
Central to Food, Inc. are the stories of people who were the honest victims of our toxic system. These stories are heartbreaking and will make you think twice the next time you are tempted to order a Quarter Pounder.
Importantly, Food, Inc. offers more than just criticism, it also gives us a solution: vote with your fork.
The message of the movie is almost entirely aligned with the philosophy of this blog: shop at farmers markets, cook your own meals, pass on the processed foods.
These simple acts are enough to change the way the system works, because ultimately consumers decide what is produced. If you stop buying it, they will stop selling it and find another way to satisfy your needs. We are the ones with the real power.
It is completely possible to opt out of our current food system by reducing and even eliminating processed, industrial foods from your diet. Amazingly, once you start on this journey you learn that you don’t actually give anything up in the process, but in fact regain a world of lost flavors and the joys of eating real food.
If you like Food, Inc. and want to know more there are numerous resources: