If you haven’t yet read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food, An Eaters Manifesto” – I highly recommend it. In my opinion it is one of the most important books written on diet and nutrition.
- Nutritionism is an ideology that maintains that the value of food is in its nutrients and not in the food itself. In other words, food is seen as a delivery system for nutrients – rather than as a whole.
- Nutritionism needs an enemy – a specific enemy… specific enough that it does not ruffle the feathers of major food industries. Henceforth, in a monumental 1977 congressional session, it was determined that saturated fat was the enemy. Although studies had concluded that cutting back on dairy and meat might be a good recommendation, lobbyists representing beef and dairy industries would never allow it.
- Nutritionism is reductionism – it organizes giant pieces of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions. As an example, fruits and vegetables are protective, but it’s framed as though it’s the vitamin C in foods responsible for the protection.
- Some of the most telling results of nutritionism are; formula and margarine.
- Nutritionism is dualist: We seem to need a nutritional “good guy” and “bad guy”. With fats, omega-3’s seem to fit the role of the former, with trans fats occupying the role of the latter.
- Nutritionism’s 3 main culprits: Nutritional science, big food companies and media. Nutritional science is in a constant scramble in trying to isolate protective nutrients from foods. Big food is trying desperately to turn junk food into health food by adding nutrients, eliminating trans fats and performing other such tinkering. The media sniffs out potentially eye-catching stories while spinning many uneventful findings into shocking new developments.
- Governments and other health organizations are also culpable in the age of nutritionism as they allow questionably healthy products to bear health labels. Witness the irony of cereals such as Cocoa Puffs screaming of whole grain goodness while the vegetables sit as silent as stroke victims.
- Food manufacturers who made “like products” used to have to label their products as “imitation”.
- The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition is it takes the nutrient out of the context of the food, the food out of the context of the diet and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle (Marion Nestle).
Food is a bevy of compounds that exist in an intricate and dynamic and symbiotic relationship to one another. It is therefore futile to try and ferret out healthy compounds and appears not to benefit the health of the public. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
Try not to stress out over the minutiae of diet and enjoy the food you eat.