Monday, February 11, 2008

Food for the Mind as well as the Body

In recent years I have taken up marathon running and in trying to optimize my limited performance at the back of the pack I have focused on the Nutrition component of the training. One of my recent reads was by Brian Wansink: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. It only took a nanosecond for my 20-year-old son to point out the other interpretation of the sub-title. The book is a very readable chronicle of many of the author’s experiments and the results of his research including useful information such as: If you want to reduce the amount of wine that your guests drink at your next dinner party, pour each refill into a clean glass and leave the used glasses on the table. The accumulating glasses will send a message.

Then, through an article in The Week magazine (thank you, Diane), I ordered Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease by Gary Taubes from my local library. I don’t think that the article mentioned that it is 640 pages. I did read a few pages but the rest will have to wait for another time (or illness). But what I did read is very thought-provoking. His thesis seems to be that the original research regarding the damage of fat in our diets was grossly misinterpreted and the wrong messages have been perpetuated. It’s really the carbs that do most of the damage – and make us hungry besides. That also confirms what I recently heard in a nutrition lecture by Max Utter that there is no way that a fat calorie can be converted into fat in your body unless you are really starving and your body has no alternative. There’s a lot of science here which somehow was left out of my liberal education – but an interesting and vitally important topic.

On a more accessible note, I recently spent a rainy weekend (we have had several of late) with In Defense of Food An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. Michael Pollan is the author of the popular The Omnivore’s Dilemma which I didn’t read. Pollan’s newest book is another argument for “you are what you eat” and it has some great practical suggestions. I have no trouble getting excited about eating well – it’s just with the shopping and cooking that I get bogged down. I did however sign up for the summer season of veggies/fruit/eggs/bread/cheese from Canvas Ranch, a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm that delivers weekly. All of this is making me hungry – I had better go for a long run!
(Max Utter)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting - Taubes's theory sounds a lot like the much maligned Atkins diet - fat good; carbs bad. But if I ever go to a dinner party where my sanctimonious host lines up my empty wine glasses you can bet there will be no return engagement for me!