A Look at Why We’re All Confused About What to Eat

Part of my job as the primary blogger for Be Food Smart is to stay up to date on what’s new in the food and nutrition world. For the most part I love it, but inevitably, there comes a point in my week where I throw my hands up in frustration. It seems that every type of food I thought I knew somehow becomes a subject of debate. Need some examples?

Sugar – The stuff that comes from the lush sugarcane plant is now suddenly associated with the “T” word. Remember when toxic was primarily used to describe a pile of nuclear waste oil drums with skull & crossbones? Robert Lustig’s YouTube video has only been viewed 1.16 million times.

Wheat – Between whole, unbleached, enriched, stone ground, and bleached, wheat is downright confusing. And all this before I even mentioned the almighty power word: gluten.

Salt – Sodium is bad, right? Or wait, is the regular stuff bad and sea salt good? What about rock, kosher, or unrefined pink Himalayan salt? Do I need the iodine (especially since the Japanese nuclear reactor is leaking)? I predict a future blog post on salt…

Meat- Highly controversial. One only needs to visit a vegan blog and then the Weston A. Price Foundation websites to get a good look at the warring sides. But wait, I’m an animal lover…does that mean I shouldn’t eat it? Cavemen hunted and ate meat, so I must too.  Hold up, I’m an environmentalist, haven’t you heard about all the dangers of CAFOs to our planet? Ellen DeGeneres and Natalie Portman are cool and they’re vegan. No meat = protein, vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies. If it’s hormone, antibiotic, pesticide and GMO free, and is pastured, grass fed and finished, is that okay? Should we eat the good stuff on the weekends and then go Meatless Monday?

Eggs -Cage-free, vegetarian fed, pastured, beak-clipped, male-chick genocide, GMO fed, organic, and free-range. Fun stuff. Ten years ago eggs were bad for us and we could only have a few week. Got high cholesteroland kiss that frittata goodbye! What about the research that says that high cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease and that high cholesterol foods might actually be good for us? Just junk science or is there some validity to this growing voice of dissent? After consuming the lion’s share of delicious deviled eggs this week, I’m hoping it’s the latter.

Saturated Fat – It’s bad. Lean is always better. Bacon, butter, lard, tallow is evil. It will clog our arteries and cause heart attacks. I grew up with butter; Mom always said it was good even when everyone else switched to margarine. Turns out, butter IS better (hooray for mom). But what about saturated fat in general? Recent research seems to question our long-standing belief.

Dairy – The US government requires every school lunch to have a carton of milk. Why? Because milk does a body good. We need the calcium and vitamin D. Non-fat is better than whole milk, raw milk is just insane, cheese should be eaten in moderation. On a diet? Skip the sour cream, ice cream, and whipped cream (or in other words, all the good stuff). Got Milk? Is it homogenized, pasteurized, organic, or ultra-pasteurized? Are the dairy cows suffering from mastitis while pumped with rbST hormones and antibiotics? For the record, I don’t think I’m ever giving up ice cream.

Water – Why does the simplest thing have to be so damn complicated? Distilled, reverse osmosis, filtered, spring, bottled, artisan, tap, kangen, alkaline, pH, fluoride, parts-per-million, chlorine; even water has to be on this list! I know I should drink lots of H2O, but what type is best? We use an under-sink reverse osmosis system, but now I’m worried we’re not getting enough of the natural minerals.

Okay, ENOUGH!! I realize that many of you come to Be Food Smart to get information, not to get more confused. But I’m posting this to assure you that you’re not the only one who is confused. I don’t care how many letters you have behind your name or how long you’ve been in the field, food is complicated. The scientific data is constantly contradictory, biased, mysteriously funded, over or under reported, over-reaching and debunked. So who do you trust? Our advice: go with your gut (pun intended), eat what feels best for your beliefs and body, and keep yourself informed because things change every day.

In an attempt to end this post on a positive note, let’s talk about a few things that are straight up good for us (for now):

  • Avocados – If it’s discovered that avocados are bad for me, I don’t want to live anymore. It really is that simple.
  • Michelle’s salsa – My good friend Michelle makes killer salsa. It’s full of fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapenos. Yes, I eat it with tortilla chips and tacos, but that’s not the point. Salsa makes everything better. Make it fresh with awesome ingredients and try it on scrambled eggs or baked potatoes.
  • Fresh herbs – It’s amazing what a little fresh sage, rosemary and thyme will do (are you singing yet?). The next time you make anything, be it a salad, sandwich, soup or baked dish, throw in some complimentary fresh herbs. The difference is staggering. Basil in your salad or eggs, rosemary on potatoes, thyme in soup…yum. Try growing your own too. There is nothing like eating dinner with herbs picked an hour earlier.
  • Berries – I have yet to stumble upon a study that says berries are bad for me. Are they heavily sprayed? Yes, so buy organic. Too expensive? Try the frozen variety. There are endless possibilities of what you can do with these bite-sized antioxidant powerhouses.
  • Dark Leafy Greens – Kale, chard, collard, arugula, spinach. Just ate gorgeous rainbow chard this weekend - olive oil, garlic, braised chard, lemon juice, S+P, parmesan cheese. Thanks Tiffany! Popeye was no dummy. Need more proof? Check out this previous blog post on all the glories of this leafy green veggie The God of Greens: Spinach. Take note that spinach is #8 on the EWG Dirty Dozen list, so go organic.

Image: Erich Ferdinand via Flickr