The media misrepresents nutritional information. Yes, stop it, it’s true, shocking as that may be. People who receive most of their nutritional information from the media are misinformed. I’m surprised.
Yes, that’s sarcasm, hopefully well placed.
The truth is that food is one of the most volatile subjects we discuss. It ranks up there with politics and religion because, unlike these icons of conversation, we all actually must eat. Therefore, we all have a vested interest in what goes into our mouths. Yet, much of the information we follow is produced by soundbites and pod casts of various people with little or no knowledge of the entire scientific basis. We hear parts and pieces of stories, or information and data taken out of context and believe it to be the truth. Even our notions of “balanced diets” and “all four food groups” are made up from specious claims of lobbyists and media-doctors who hype their own brand of “truth.”
Why? I don’t know. I suspect that it’s all about furthering agendas and making the next big “fad” or “breakthrough.” When it comes down to it, I just want to put into my mouth those things that are necessary for me to live and live well. What my body needs is probably different from what your body needs and hence, I am eating differently. Arguing about it is fruitless and listening to the media is pointless.
Let’s take, for example, this group: Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine. Sounds good, doesn’t? Sounds like a bunch of doctors sitting around and pronouncing judgment on food and medicine specifically aimed at our (the common public) well-being. Hmm. Not many people dig deeper. Their website looks good as does their ABOUT section. Then, I read what the AMA has to say about them: “Our AMA registers strong objections to the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine for …misrepresenting the critical role animals play in research and teaching…”
Okay, so more to think about. Then there is the Center for Consumer Freedom. This site is dedicated to consumer knowledge and letting the consumer make the choice. They don’t like PCRM either. Do I believe them, because they are a non-profit without an obvious agenda? Heck, I don’t know. There’s another group to get information from, the American Council on Science and Health. Yet another non-profit group. I am sure they have their own agenda, too. Who to believe? No wonder it’s so easy to just believe whatever newspapers and TVs tell us – the truth is rarely easy to uncover.
It’s easy to get into discussions and arguments with friends and family alike about food. I’ve been slammed by many people for my “odd” ways of eating and thinking about food. And since I’m obviously not the picture of the perfect human body, I haven’t gotten it right. It seems we use people’s external appearance as the measuring stick of how much they know about food and eat properly. I’m sure that’s a whole other blog post. For now, let’s just leave it at the fact that none of us knows and that sometimes, it’s not even worth discussing amongst ourselves.
So, what is a 21st Century eater to do? Do I go to governmental agencies who provide me the synopsis of food research papers which are funded by special interest groups and lobbyists, food companies and big agra? Do I go straight to the reports themselves which may in and of themselves be tainted by unclear or specious assumptions about food? Do I read historical evidence about food, empirical studies, or Wikipedia? Can we ever break out of the idea that our ideas about food may be set in stone, without real foundation, and that we need to rethink the paradigm? Maybe we can take Omnivore’s Dilemma (and its huge sales) as hope that questioning should be our first priority.
I think the bottom line is that we should question. We should look at the data and ask what is behind it? What was the foundation for the assumptions? Then, we should take that data and apply it to ourselves. we should keep reading, and read with an open mind. What we might have assumed to be true really isn’t. For example, read this book (Good Calories, Bad Calories) and see if you find something that makes sense… to you. Because…
We are, in the end, what matters. How does that food make our body feel? How does it help our body perform, or not perform? Does it keep me healthy and strong? Does it promote the health of those around me and the health of the planet? It’s probably pretty good, then. Chomp down and chomp away. Live to your best, eat well, and enjoy.