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Back to Basics

Posted Jun 06 2009 12:00am
I am two weeks into the program at IIN and this past week, started the "meat" of the content with a lecture by Walter Willett, M.D. from the Harvard School of Public Health. I'm someone who likes to know what's ahead --I count the number of pages in a chapter before I read it, I ask my personal trainer to lay out the day's workout before we start so I know how many circuits we'll do -- so true to form, I paged through the slides for the lecture and laid eyes on what looked like more empirical evidence than we covered in AP chemistry. Coupled with the Harvard credentials, I figured I would be in for a boring 90 minutes of science talk.

I learned a quick lesson in keeping an open mind as I move through this program because I was captivated. Immediately. Dr. Willet picked apart the misconceptions accepted as truth by the American public which are ironically refelcted in the USDA food pyramid. A couple of examples.

Remember the low-fat frenzy? When it seemed like overnight a Snackwell's version of any junk food imaginable showed up on grocery store shelves? In high school I used to eat the chocolate sandwhich cookies as a snack before my step aerobics class at the gym. That was nutritious. For years we've believed that fat in a diet makes us fat and causes cardiovascular disease. Consider the food pyramid where fats are banished to the top wedge and labeled for use sparingly. This assumes that all fats are created equal. Sure, transfats are dangerous and can cause numerous health problems. Anything with the words 'partially hydrogenated' in the ingredients should be re-thought. But the healthy fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados are given a bad rap. I used to be afraid to snack on peanuts or walnuts because these were 'fattening' foods. Sadly, I wasnt alone with these sentiments.

What about the low carb craze? Seems it's here to stay. Dr.Willett quipped that the quality of carbohydrate is almost as important as the type of fat in a diet. Whole grain is where it's at. The fiber, vitamins and minerals in these foods have been found to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fiber has other health benefits including weight loss/maintenance.

As a society we are relying on fad diets to tell us how to eat. We've lost sight of the powerful effects of a diet rich in simple, whole foods. These are the 'fast foods' of tomorrow. Many can be eaten raw or prepared in minutes. With the right condiments they will taste and digest better than restaurant food and make you feel cleaner and lighter.

In an economy where we are scaling back to the basics out of necessity, isn't it time we do the same with our food?
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