Perhaps the most memorable among the many quotable aphorisms by food writer Michael Pollan is: “Eat food; not too much; mostly plants.” Brilliantly simple, if rather vague, this is a fundamentally valid insight about diet and health. But instead of heeding such advice and applying it to good effect, our cultural proclivity for focusing on one food, nutrient, or ingredient as scapegoat or salvation has us explore every alternative means of eating badly. As a result, we have a massive, growing global burden of obesity and chronic disease to show for it.
Mounting evidence underscores the critical role inflammation plays in the development and continuation of diet and lifestyle-related diseases. In fact, besides obesity and type 2 diabetes, inflammation contributes to almost every modern chronic illness, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia as well as arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and digestive disorders. So, next time you have your blood work done, make sure that along with your lipid profile you request a C-reactive protein (CRP) test that measures the degree of hidden inflammation in your body.
When it comes to nutrition and the right ways to eat, the so-called experts keep bickering over what may be legitimately debatable at times. But many do so while failing to use what we already know. The fact is that we already know enough to prevent 80 percent of all diet and lifestyle-related diseases.
When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, there is only good news to report. Not only are Mediterranean foods tasty, they also rank among the healthiest. And you don’t need to be a world traveler to enjoy the benefits of this way of eating. Healthy recipes with the delightful flavors from the region can easily be copied almost anywhere.
The portion sizes of foods we commonly consume are too big. Look around and just about everything is available in jumbo sizes. Soft drinks, French fries, coffees, steaks, burgers, bagels, muffins, you name it, all have grown in size over time. Indeed, many food portions are now two to five times larger than they were 50 years ago. And the more food is placed in front of us, the more we eat.
Once upon a time, we were relatively secure in our knowledge that we ate too much salt. That didn’t mean we were inclined or likely to fix the problem any time soon, but at least we thought we knew what was broken. Unfortunately, that level of conviction about anything having to do with nutrition just won’t do in today’s culture.