Improve your life with 'Food Rules'
Kia Ora Friend,
In last week's newsletter, I briefly mentioned a book, Food Rules by Michael Pollan. In this newsletter, I want to go over it in more detail. This book definitely helped me change not only what I ate but how I ate my food as well.
Before we jump in, health has always been on a forefront of my mind. The same may apply to you. Youth is responsible for my lack of ailments, but thanks to time, we can only get older and having poor health habits is only going to magnify any problems as we mature.
Particularly evident in my job as an optometrist, we the see the whole spectrum of age groups. This is the case with other jobs as well.
As we know sadly, age comes a decline in health. It is a lot more confronting when see it on a daily basis. Poor health choices can accelerate this pathway; good choice can help slow this down.
Steered in taking better control over our health, it's probably a good idea to build healthy habits early rather than later when it becomes more difficult.
The first step we can take is by improving what we eat and how we eat it.
Am I talking about a diet? A diet sounds complex and restrictive. Micheal Pollan's book makes the concepts a whole lot easier.
Food Rules provides 64 rules to make the transition from unhealthy eating to life-giving meal planning simple and painless.
64 rules at glance seems like a diabolical number (5 more then we would need to apply an age restriction). On the other hand, The Holy Bible only has ten commandments. 64 seems like it would be hard to keep track.
Not to worry. The rules overlap. Repetition caters for memory. Different audiences resonate with different phrasing. You might remember: "Eat only food that have been cooked by humans." Thy neighbour might remember: "Don't ingest food made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap."
The rules are made to be simple. No complicated science. In fact, if you compare surgery to nutritional science. Surgery would be back in the 1650s. An important note is that anesthetics and antiseptic techniques were introduced a good two centuries later.
Pollan is not advocating anti-science. Because our understanding of nutrition is in its infancy, there are many opposing camps. The rules he devises are based on two truths — common ground in divided literature:
The western diet or American diet of processed foods with added fats, sugars and little vegetables contributes greatly to preventable, non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
Traditional diets such as seal blubber from the Inuits — as an extreme example — lead to its consumers remaining in good health, free of these chronic diseases.
It goes without saying that the Western diet is highly optimised for profit and not your health.
These rules can be divided into three broad categories:
Not too much.
Not just eat food, but eat real food. That being said we do not have to just have plants, we can have meats as long as it's not processed.
Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
A lot of processed foods lose nutrients and have many additives that do us no good.
Pollan makes a case to purchase foods from a farmer's market and so shop at the periphery of the supermarket since these foods are less likely to have packaged, processed foods.
Bulk buying can be considerable cheaper. With meats, consider buying a separate freezer to store long term. Counterintuitively, access to a separate freezer is much less than a fridge, so this can save power as there is less heat escape.
If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant don't
A humourous line and not too difficult to remember. The aim is to eat the leaves of most plants and to make the plant the main event of the meal.
We can eat meat but think of it as a flavor additive, rather than a significant portion of the dish.
This changed my mind on food. I no longer feel guilty getting more expensive cuts of meat. You do not need a lot, anyway. And the price I spend on high quality cuts is probably less than getting a large amount of low quality cut, thinking it would have to be the prime stomach-filler.
Not too much
Unlike most nutritional books that focus on what we eat, Pollan talks about how we eat. The French Paradox is a classic example, where members of this society eat foods rich in saturated fats yet have lower levels of cardiovascular disease. The French diet is more than the diet. It's a way of eating.
We should avoid eating mindlessly in front of the television and work desk. Food is about communion — think family dinner time —- rather than purely fueling your body. We tend to eat slower and savour the flavours when we are eating with others.
Chew the food down so its almost a liquid and let is swirl around your mouth. Observe the flavours and the feel of the food. The peak of enjoyment of food is at the start meal and diminishes from there. Eating more only adds to calories with less and less enjoyment with each bite.
It is also important to eat until you are 'not hungry' rather than until you are full. You eat with your eyes, until you see the plate empty. The feeling of fullness lags behind by about twenty minutes. So if you eat until you feel full means you have overate.
Smaller plates can help trick the brain into taking on less food because we are visual creatures.
Finally, with all the rules above. Feel happy breaking them some times. We must: "treat treats as treats". It's not healthy to be so strict on food. As long as we meet the majority, we can be flexible when the time comes.
These were my takeaways from the book. But it's always better to do some home cooking. If this peaked your interest and you are looking for an easy way to improve your health through food, then consider reading this book. It is only a just over an hour read.
Did you find this useful? If you did, please forward this on to family and friends so they can find it useful too.
Thanks for reading and all the best for the week ahead.
Mā te wā,
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Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Micheal Pollan — www.amazon.com
Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated. In this age of ever-more elaborate diets and conflicting health advice, Food Rules brings welcome simplicity to our daily decisions about food.
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