Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Old diet rules that still work

As part of my convalescence from heart bypass surgery in October last year, I've been working on losing weight. Some of that's through a fairly stringent diet, more will come from changing my eating habits. As part of the process, I keep an eye out for interesting articles on diet and exercise, and this one in the Daily Mail caught my eye. Here's an excerpt:

After consulting dietitians, nutritionists, anthropologists, folklorists, doctors and nurses - as well as a large number of mothers and grandmothers - author MICHAEL POLLAN has come up with a fascinating list of so-called 'Food Rules' that could help change your eating habits for ever...

The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead

This blunt bit of grandmotherly advice is a reminder of the health risks of white flour.

As far as the body is concerned, white flour is not much different from sugar. Recent research indicates that the grandmothers who lived by this rule were right: people who eat lots of whole grains tend to be healthier and to live longer.

Don't eat cereals that change the colour of milk

This should go without saying. Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.

Avoid foods Grandma wouldn't recognise

There are now thousands of food products in the supermarket that our ancestors simple wouldn't recognise.

They are processed in ways specifically designed to get us to buy and eat more by pushing our evolutionary buttons (such as our inborn preferences for sweetness, fat and salt).

These tastes are difficult to find in nature, but cheap and easy for the food scientists to deploy, with the result that food processing induces us to consume more of these products than is good for us.

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't

You know it makes sense.

Eat when you're hungry, not when you're bored

For many, eating has surprisingly little to do with hunger. We eat out of boredom, for entertainment, to comfort or reward ourselves. One old wives' test: if you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're not hungry.

Eat your colours

The idea that a healthy plate of food will feature several different colours is a good example of an old wives' tale about food that turns out to be good science, too.

The colours of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain. Many of these chemicals help to protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible.

(Adapted ... from [the book] Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan.)

There's more at the link.

Yep - I guess Grandma really did know best! The old rules still work. I think I must get a copy of Mr. Pollan's book, and re-learn the old ways.



John Peddie (Toronto) said...

My experience as a recovering cardiac patient over the last 21 months supports all this good advice.

Grandma was smarter than a whole lot of text books.

That old "apple a day keeps the doctor away" thing turns out to have a lot of scientific merit too.

Apples are also a good snack when you're bored, know you shouldn't eat, but feel compelled. In time, it becomes a matter of habit to reach for something healthy.

Thanks, Peter.

Andrew C said...

I took a nutrition class at school last semester, and found it very informative. There is so much that goes into the foods we eat every day, and most of us never think about it at all.

I was surprised at how poor my nutrition is when I'm not planning my meals. I was getting less than 25% of my recommended calcium!

I also found a useful site recently for planning meals and calculating nutrition - http://www.papayahead.com/. It's still under development, but looks like it will be useful.