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Tagged with “diet” (10)

  1. The Basement Tapes

    Listen to “The Basement Tapes” Season 2 Episode 10 of The Revisionist History Podcast with Malcolm Gladwell.

    A cardiologist in Minnesota searches through the basement of his childhood home for a missing box of data from a long-ago experiment. What he discovers changes our understanding of the modern American diet — but also teaches us something profound about what really matters when we honor our parents’ legacy.

    http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/20-the-basement-tapes

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  2. Michael Pollan Explains What’s Wrong With the Paleo Diet

    The paleo diet is hot. Those who follow it are attempting, they say, to mimic our ancient ancestors—minus the animal-skin fashions and the total lack of technology, of course. The adherents eschew what they believe comes from modern agriculture (wheat, dairy, legumes, for instance) and rely instead on meals full of meat, nuts, and vegetables—foods they claim are closer to what hunter-gatherers ate.

    The trouble with that view, however, is that what they’re eating is probably nothing like the diet of hunter-gatherers, says Michael Pollan, author of a number of best-selling books on food and agriculture, including Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. "I don’t think we really understand…well the proportions in the ancient diet," argues Pollan on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). "Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate—I think they’re kind of blowing smoke."

    The wide-ranging interview with Pollan covered the science and history of cooking, the importance of microbes—tiny organisms such as bacteria—in our diet, and surprising new research on the intelligence of plants. Here are five suggestions he offered about cooking and eating well.

    1: Meat: It’s not always for dinner. Cooking meat transforms it: Roasting it or braising it for hours in liquid unlocks complex smells and flavors that are hard to resist. In addition to converting it into something we crave, intense heat also breaks down the meat into nutrients that we can more easily access. Our ancient ancestors likely loved the smell of meat on an open fire as much as we do.

    But human populations in different regions of the world ate a variety of diets. Some ate more; some ate less. They likely ate meat only when they could get it, and then they gorged. Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, says diets from around the world ranged greatly in the percentage of calories from meat. It’s not cooked meat that made us human, he says, but rather cooked food.

    In any case, says Pollan, today’s meat is nothing like that of the hunter-gatherer.

    One problem with the paleo diet is that "they’re assuming that the options available to our caveman ancestors are still there," he argues. But "unless you’re willing to hunt your food, they’re not."

    As Pollan explains, the animals bred by modern agriculture—which are fed artificial diets of corn and grains, and beefed up with hormones and antibiotics—have nutritional profiles far from wild game.

    Pastured animals, raised on diets of grass and grubs, are closer to their wild relatives; even these, however, are nothing like the lean animals our ancestors ate.

    So, basically, enjoy meat in moderation, and choose pastured meat if possible.

    2: Humans can live on bread alone. Paleo obsessives might shun bread, but bread, as it has been traditionally made, is a healthy way to access a wide array of nutrients from grains.

    In Cooked, Pollan describes how bread might have been first created: Thousands of years ago, someone probably in ancient Egypt discovered a bubbling mash of grains and water, the microbes busily fermenting what would become dough. And unbeknownst to those ancient Egyptians, the fluffy, delicious new substance had been transformed by those microbes. Suddenly the grains provided even more bang for the bite.

    As University of California-Davis food chemist Bruce German told Pollan in an interview, "You could not survive on wheat flour. But you can survive on bread." Microbes start to digest the grains, breaking them down in ways that free up more of the healthful parts. If bread is compared to another method of cooking flour—basically making it into porridge—"bread is dramatically more nutritious," says Pollan.

    Still, common bread made from white flour and commercial yeast doesn’t have the same nutritional content as the slowly fermented and healthier sourdough bread you might find at a local baker. Overall, though, bread can certainly be part of a nutritious diet. (At least, for those who don’t suffer from celiac disease.)

    3: Eat more microbes. Microbes play a key role not just in bread, but in all sorts of fermented foods: beer, cheese, yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles. Thousands—even hundreds—of years ago, before electricity made refrigeration widely available, fermentation was one of the best means of preserving foods.

    And now we know that microbes, such as those in our gut, play a key role in our health, as well. The microbes we eat in foods like pickles may not take up a permanent home in our innards; rather, they seem to be more akin to transient visitors, says Pollan. Still, "fermented foods provide a lot of compounds that gut microbes like," and he says he makes sure to eat some fermented vegetables every day. 

    4: Raw food is for the birds (too much of it, anyway). There’s paleo, and then there’s the raw diet. Folks who eat raw tout the health benefits of the approach, saying that they’re accessing the full, complete nutrients available because they’re not heating, and thus destroying, their dinner. But that’s simply wrong. We cook to get our hands on more nutrients, not fewer. According to Wrangham, the one thing absolutely all cultures have in common is that they cook their food. He points out that women who move towards 100 percent raw diets often stop ovulating, because even if in theory they’re tossing sufficient food into the blender to fulfill their caloric needs, they simply can’t absorb enough from the uncooked food.

    Our hefty cousins, the apes, spend half their waking hours gnawing on raw sustenance, about six hours per day. In contrast, we spend only one hour. "So in a sense, cooking opens up this space for other activities," says Pollan. "It’s very hard to have culture, it’s very hard to have science, it’s very hard to have all the things we count as important parts of civilization if you’re spending half of all your waking hours chewing." Cooked food: It gave us civilization.

    5: Want to be healthy? Cook. Pollan says the food industry has done a great job of convincing eaters that corporations can cook better than we can. The problem is, it’s not true. And the food that others cook is nearly always less healthful than that which we cook ourselves.

    "Part of the problem is that we’ve been isolated as cooks for too long," says Pollan. "I found that to the extent you can make cooking itself a social experience, it can be a lot more fun."

    But how can we convince folks to give it a try? "I think we have to lead with pleasure," he says. Aside from the many health benefits, cooking is also "one of the most interesting things humans know how to do and have done for a very long time. And we get that, or we wouldn’t be watching so much cooking on TV. There is something fascinating about it. But it’s even more fascinating when you do it yourself."

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/01/michael-pollan-paleo-diet-inquiring-minds

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  3. On Point: In Conversation with Mark Bittman

    Food writer, food thinker Mark Bittman is one of the big voices relentlessly pushing, cajoling, inviting, instructing to change the way America eats. For our health, for the big world.

    He’s done it himself. Vegan ‘til six is his new mantra. Basically, eat plants all day, enjoy what you like in the evening. Your heart and health will thank you, he says. And so will an environment not asked to carry the groaning load of the way we eat now.

    He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s a good cook. He’s thinking about your plate and the planet.

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  4. Is It Time For You To Go On An ‘Information Diet’? : NPR

    We’re used to thinking of "obesity" in physical terms — unhealthful weight that clogs our arteries and strains our hearts. But there’s also an obesity of information that clogs our eyes and our minds and our inboxes: unhealthful information deep-fried in our own preconceptions.

    In The Information Diet, open-source-Internet activist Clay Johnson makes the case for more "conscious consumption" of news and information. Johnson, the founder of Blue State Digital, which provided the online strategy for the 2008 Obama campaign, talks with NPR’s Scott Simon about ways to slim and stretch our minds.

    http://www.npr.org/2012/01/14/145101748/is-it-time-for-you-to-go-on-an-information-diet

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  5. The Past, Present, and Future of Food

    Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, continue their year-long public conversation about the future of organic food and agricultural sustainability. In front of a sold-out crowd at UC Berkeley on February 27, 2007, they cover some of the inconvenient truths about the world’s food systems. Mackey begins with a 45-minute presentation about unsustainable agricultural and food distribution practices, as well as Whole Foods’ efforts to improve them. (A note of caution: The audio lecture includes brief descriptions of animal cruelty and harsh human working conditions, and so may not be work- or family-safe.) He and Pollan then continue the discussion they started shortly after the publication of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and which continues on their respective Web logs.

    http://sic.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail3234.html

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  6. The Things We Eat…

    Today we’re going to take a collective look at all the conflicting warnings and exhortations we hear about what we should and shouldn’t eat. It seems everyone has some pet theory that you shouldn’t drink milk, or you have to eat organic, or you shouldn’t eat "processed" foods, or you must only eat raw. There are always explanations for why this is: We didn’t "evolve" to eat this or that; it isn’t "natural" to eat something; our digestive systems weren’t meant to handle a certain thing. I know what you’re thinking: How is it possible to cover all those possible claims in a single Skeptoid episode? We’re going to do it by stepping back from all of the specific claims and specific foods, way back. We’re going to look at food as a whole, and study what it’s made of, what those bits are, see what we need and what we don’t. And then, with this as a foundation, we’ll have the tools to effectively examine any given eating philosophy.

    http://skeptoid.com/mobile/4216

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  7. Mark Adams from Vitsœ talks to Dieter Rams

    As head of design at Braun, the German consumer electronics manufacturer, Dieter Rams emerged as one of the most influential industrial designers of the late 20th century by defining an elegant, legible, yet rigorous visual language for its products. The exhibition showcases Rams’ landmark designs for Braun and furniture manufacturer Vitsœ, examines how Rams’ design ethos inspired Braun’s entire product range for over 40 years and assess his lasting influence on today’s design landscape.

    From: http://designmuseum.org/podcasts

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  8. Conversations With History: The Politics of Food

    Host Harry Kreisler welcomes writer Michael Pollan for a discussion of the agricultural industrial complex that dominates consumer choices about what to eat. He explores the origins, evolution and consequences of this system for the nation’s health and environment. He highlights the role of science, journalism, and politics in the development of a diet that emphasizes nutrition over food. Pollan also sketches a reform agenda and speculates on how a movement might change America’s eating habits. He also talks about science writing, the rewards of gardening, and how students might prepare for the future.

    http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=15882

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  9. Michael Pollan, “Deep Agriculture”

    The benefit of a reformed food system, besides better food, better environment and less climate shock, is better health and the savings of trillions of dollars. Four out of five chronic diseases are diet-related. Three quarters of medical spending goes to preventable chronic disease. Pollan says we cannot have a healthy population, without a healthy diet. The news is that we are learning that we cannot have a healthy diet without a healthy agriculture. And right now, farming is sick…

    http://blog.longnow.org/2009/05/06/michael-pollan-deep-agriculture/

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