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In praise of food

November 9th, 2007 · No Comments · Healthy eating, Research

No one has to persuade me that good food is critical to good health, but two studies announced this week reinforce the idea that eating well is worth it not only for pleasure but also for health. That most likely also means that cooking is good for you, too.

  • First, David Jacobs at the University of Minnesota, has written an article in which he notes that “food, as opposed to specific nutrients, may be key to having a healthy diet.” In the article cowritten with Linda Tapsell of Australia, Jacobs observes that lots of research supports the benefits of eating foods containing, for instance, B vitamins, but research on the benefits of B vitamin supplements isn’t so convincing.
  • Meanwhile, an article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reports that “Diets high in fat, especially trans and saturated fats, adversely affect cognition, while those high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, and fish are associated with better cognitive function and lower risk of dementia.” In other words, eating well is good for your brain. Authors Matthew Parrott and Carol Greenwood said that they can’t explain why exactly, although they surmise that “modulation of brain insulin activity and neuroinflammation likely contribute.”

You’ll note that the second study reinforces the first one. That is, it doesn’t mention a diet high in vitamins A, B and C but in fruits, vegetables, cereals and fish.

Which is why I see these studies as endorsing cooking. Try getting a diet low in fats (especially trans fat) and high in fruits, vegetables, cereals and fish without cooking. Maybe you can do it with commercially prepared foods, but you’re going to have to really work at it. Fruits and vegetables at restaurants? In frozen dinners? Fast food? Not so much. Even given all the bad press that trans fats have gotten in the last couple of years, it’s still hard to avoid if you buy cookies, crackers or other baked goods at the grocery store or a restaurant.

I’m going to keep cooking and eating foods—not pills and not prefab food—and hope to hang on to my brain function as long as I can.


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