By Laetitia Meyrueix and Kaylee Helfrich
In a recent article titled “The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right”, Mark Bittman and Dr. David Katz teamed up to answer important and common questions regarding food and nutrition. Mark Bittman is an acclaimed food writer who seeks to help everyone understand food and how to eat it. Dr. David Katz is a medical doctor who is well-respected in the fields of nutrition, public health, and chronic disease prevention. Together this pair covered a wide variety of common nutrition questions including the Paleo diet, juice cleanses, GMO food, and inflammation. They work on answering the age-old question: “How (and what) should I eat to stay healthy?”
There were a few things in this article that were great, a few things that were good, and a few things that are debatable.
- The “Best” diet. We LOVED that they admitted that people still aren’t sure what the best diet is. Although we believe that it may be possible in the future to conclude what a “best diet” contains, no current studies prove that any diet is the ruler of them all.
- The gluten-free controversy. Most people do not need to remove gluten from their diets unless they are gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease (and this diagnosis should be provided by a doctor). As the authors point out, it is more important to focus on the source of the gluten (white bread vs. whole wheat bread) rather than gluten itself.
- CARBS ARE GOOD. NOT EVIL. However, anything eaten in excess can be bad. The key to health is balance.
- “Good” versus “bad” fat. For a long time, saturated fat has been demonized as the “bad” fat. However, a recent study failed to find a link between SFA and increased risk of CVD. This finding has also been echoed in systematic reviews and meta-analyses of epidemiologic and dietary intervention studies.
- Juice cleanses. They clarified that juice cleanses do not detoxify. Our liver and kidneys detoxify our bodies very well. However, we wish that they had addressed the growing marketing campaigns that promote juice cleanses. Although juice cleanses are not inherently dangerous, people often use them without a doctor’s supervision, for a long time, and for the wrong reasons, which can all cause these cleanses to be harmful to one’s health.
- The GMO debate. The authors do a great job of mentioning that GMOs are not inherently bad. People should only consider avoiding GMOs because most GMOs are hidden in junk foods. However, the authors fail to mention other foods that have been altered using genetic methods and are widely available, including squash, zucchini, apples, and papaya, all of which can be part of a healthy diet.
- Artificial sugars. Although the authors mention the potential dangers of artificial sweeteners, we wish that they had been a little more firm in their statements about the health impacts of consuming these sugar substitutes.
- Everything in moderation. They point out the inherent flaw in the “everything in moderation” diet. A diet that includes unhealthy foods, such as bacon, cupcakes, Oreos, and hotdogs, each “in moderation” (for example, once per week of each) will not really be an optimal diet since much of the diet will still consist of nutrient-poor foods. This doesn’t mean that people can’t enjoy such foods; it simply means that people should pair them with nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables and consider the overall amount of unhealthy food a person is consuming.
- Intermittent fasting. Multiple studies do support the benefits of intermittent fasting for health. However, the authors are correct that intermittent fasting is not necessary to achieve health, and that a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can achieve similar results to any type of fasting program.
- Timing of meals. The authors state that the timing of the meals does not matter, and that the content of the meals is the most important. Although the content of meals is very important, the timing of meals is as well. Research shows that eating at certain times of the day is healthier, and that people who eat at night are at a greater risk for obesity.
- Organic over non-organic produce. Current research does show that organic farming is good for the environment because it reduces pesticide use. However, organic farming requires a larger land area and more energy to produce the same quantity of food produced by conventional farming. Given this, there is no clear winner between organic and conventionally grown food when considering greenhouse gas emissions.
- Julie Guthman, a Professor at UCSC, wrote a book called “Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California”. In this book she highlights the issues with organic farming, including that consumers must foot the bill.
And a bonus…our favorite quote!
“What happens if I eat too much yogurt? We have no idea. Probably you get full.”
If you are looking for a great summary of how to eat (and more tips than are included in this article), check out the full article. This article can also be summed up in 7 words by Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Peer edited by Moira Johnson