If there is one book on nutrition that people should own it is New York Times best-selling author, Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. There are many things we do not know about nutrition, however, there is a small number of very important concepts that contending parties do agree on that link health and diet .
Fact 1: Populations that eat our so-called Western diet, which consists of processed meats and food, lots of added fats & sugar, tons of refined grains, and pretty much lots of everything besides vegetables, fruits, and whole grains inevitably we suffer from the Western diseases — obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of the cardiovascular disease, and more than a third of all cancers can be linked to this diet (pg. xii). Even 4 of the top 10 chronic diseases can be linked to this diet.
Fact 2: Populations that eat a wide range of traditional diets do not suffer from such diseases. The following examples Pollan illustrates to show that there is no single ideal diet but that the human omnivore is highly adaptable to various diets/foods.
- High fat diets – Inuit people of Greenland
- Very high carbohydrate diet – Central American Indians
- Very high protein diets – Masai tribesmen in Africa
Food is not complicated at all but because of all the tricky media play on food, we make in confusing. Pollan provides a 7 word sentence that sums up what we should eat and then provides 64 extremely short rules, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Let’s get on to the top 10 that I think could be applied effectively and easily to anyone.
- Eat food: This sounds stupid but it is the truth. Most items in the supermarket are what Pollan would call “edible food-like substance.” Most products now are derived from corn, soy, or chemical additives that our body has no become acquainted with (our Western diet is relatively new compared to the rest of the world).
- Avoid Food Products that contain High Fructose Corn-Syrup: Yes, most of us know how bad HFCS is but the main reason not to consume this is because it is a red-light marker that shows food with this in it is highly processed. Hundreds of foods now have this in it, even whole grain breads, condiments, and many snack foods. Cut down on this and you will cut down on your sugar intake.
- Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients: Ok, maybe it can be a little bit more but look at any packaged food and count. Do not be deceived, Tostitos (just one example) has advertised their three ingredient corn chips, but they are still corn chips. Not until recently, until the recommendations from the strength coaches at Endeavor, I was told to check the ingredients of peanut butter. If it has more than peanuts and salt in the ingredients, do not buy it.
- Avoid food products that make health claims: If a packaged product has a health claim on it, even then it is a processed food making it a edible foodlike substance. Most often, modern food science makes the boldest claims that are not based off of good science. If you think about it, the healthiest foods in a supermarket (fresh produce) never has promoted themselves because the growers do not have the budget to market it.
- If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t: Pretty simple.
- Eat animals that have themselves eaten well: The diet of animals strongly influences the nutritional quality. Animals diets now are often geared towards making them grow faster but as a result the quality of meat or eggs from chickens is lacking. Grass-fed animals are well-known to have healthier types of fats, vitamins, and minerals.
- Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk: Or even any cereals for that matter. If you cannot wake up a few minutes early to prepare something that is nutrient dense like an egg omelet, or some oatmeal (which takes a few minutes) then you need to start prioritizing better.
- Have a glass of wine or beer with dinner: There is considerable scientific evidence for the benefits of alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to reduce the risk of heart diseases because of the polyphenols. If your more of a beer person, the darker the beer, the better. For me that means, “Guinness..BRILLIANT!” Drinking a small amount (2 glasses for men and 1 glass for women) each day is better than waiting on the weekend to get absolutely sh**faced.
- Stop eating before you’re full: Unless you are an athlete in dire need of gaining weight, this principle applies. Next time you eat ask yourself “Is my hunger gone?” rather than “Am I full?”
- “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper”: Having a big breakfast in the morning may save you extra calories at night from the cravings you may have from skipping this meal. If your physically active after a meal, the energy in that meal will be burned thus allowing less fat storage.
These are just a few recommendations that the book provides. Each rule Pollan provides is only a few sentences long and the book only costs around 7$ on Amazon.com.