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Pass the real food; hold the nutrition advice

July 24th, 2008 · 4 Comments · Books about food, Healthy eating, Research

I’ve about had it with science and nutrition, the combination that is. Those of you who follow such things may recall the publicity Michael Pollan gave the concept of nutritionism. I thought he had a point, but I thought there was still room for studying nutrition, diet and health, especially since so many health problems appear to be diet-related.

I’ve changed my mind for the most part. I suppose my resolve had been diminishing anyway, but then last month in Nutrition Action, I read the cover story, “Multi Complex: Picking a multivitamin gets tricky.” Say what? Amid the ebb and flow of the latest must-have vitamin or must-dodge foodstuff, one constant has been that taking a multivitamin is a good idea. Then the nutrition science people started putting supplements in more foods, and now we have to be careful with taking a multivitamin.

And then yesterday, Ali at the Cleaner Plate Club pointed to a Slate article from 1999 questioning whether calcium was the cure for or cause of osteoporosis. (Actually, I was relieved to see it was from 1999, because I do recall reading of a link between high protein intake, which for most Americans means meat, and osteoporosis, but still…)

So I’m done. The remaining multivitamins hit the trash can. Ditto the fish oil capsules. Hated them anyway. I’m still debating the Tums I take for calcium supplementation, but given my marginal bone mass, I’ll probably keep taking them.

I’m also taking Pollan’s recommendation (which I was mostly doing anyway) of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” and remembering “food” is something that great-great-Grandma would recognize. Nina Planck has a similar food definition in her book Real Food. (Although I do recall that my 19th-century-born Grandma and Grandpa had an affection for those nasty Guy’s green-onion-flavored potato chips. But that’s an aside. Grandma and Grandpa both lived into their 90s.)

So don’t look for me on the supplements aisle. I’ll be getting my nutrition in my unprocessed, old-fashioned food.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Meryl

    My favorite Pollan-ism is not to eat anything that won’t decompse naturally–it really gets rid of a lot of nasty stuff!

  • Laura

    I hear you. Someone that we had over for dinner challenged me on my liberal use of butter and cream in the pasta sauce. My point was that I know where the cows live, what they eat and what they don’t. How can that be worse for me than margarine?

    People survived for thousands of years without science and multivitamins. I think if you (we) are eating balanced diets full of healthful, seasonal produce and pastured meats, we’re getting exactly what we need.

  • Ali B.

    Hilarious that I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE it was a 9-year-old article. I found a (much newer) related article here:

    Yeah. Done with all that nutrition advice. You said it: “pass the real food.”

  • Janet Majure

    Meryl—Does that rule out pickles?

    Laura—Indeed. Take a look at margarine’s ill effects.

    Ali—Interesting. I wish the writer had explained Finland. Highest calcium intake, probably the lowest naturally occurring vitamin D, but bone fractures far lower than, say, the U.S. I wonder what that’s about? In any case, I won’t worry about whether I’m getting enough calcium any more, but I also won’t pitch my Tums!