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I found Dr Lustig's talk enlightening because I always thought of it simply as input -> output (sucrose -> glucose). In retrospect, it's obvious that the bio-checmial process your body uses to convert that is pretty darn important.

However, as cool as it is to get re-introduced to things like ATP and Krebs Cycle, the driving message we get from experts has been a constant for a long time: avoid processed foods.

It's incredibly simple advice to understand and to follow. It's also an excessively easy lifestyle to adopt. There is no lack of unprocessed foods and it isn't more expensive. I just don't understand why people don't eat better. I'd be pretty depressed if I was a health-care professional...decades of messaging and things are only getting worse.

I just don't understand why people don't eat better.

I understand it perfectly. The brain rewards bad diet; sugar tastes better than fiber. Couple this with food companies that need to grow 10% a year to keep their investors happy, and you have the perfect recipe for making people eat more, cheaper calories. Processed food may be the same price as unprocessed food, but it's more calorie-rich, it's more advertised, and it gets more shelf space at the store. (It is really a lot cheaper, but sold at a higher markup. So that profit buys ads and shelf space.) Hence, the path of least resistance is to buy processed food.

For some of us who never got into the cooking habit, and can't do anything on a regular schedule (like food shopping), and can't plan in advance in general, and don't even have running water at work (old building), it's incredibly HARD advice to follow.

I live one block from a giant supermarket; I moved here FOR that supermarket. They have pretty good produce; if I walk 5 minutes there's a local food co-op and 10 minutes gives me Whole Foods.

But you know what's easier than going to the supermarket, picking out produce, planning or googling a meal, and [feeling like] + [remembering to actually] cook that meal before the produce goes bad?

Buying ten boxes of Amy's, congratulating myself on the fact that there are actual identifiable pieces of broccoli instead of green flecks, calling it "healthy", grabbing some ice cream and cookies to reward myself for that, and being all set for ten days, plus a buffer of whatever I actually had in the back of the freezer before.

Never heard of Amy's before...looked it up, doesn't look horrible to me. A little high in sodium and low in fiber, but that's typical of this kind of food.

Fruits and vegetables often don't require cooking, can keep for long enough to not need planning or require water @ work. Add nuts to this, and some water or tea, and you've taken care of snacks.

As for cooking, ya you need to learn. Its an investment, but the rewards are so significant, it really should be a top priority.

"can often keep long enough to not need planning": I don't think you quite get how bad ADD can be... I just threw out some (almost healthy!) unsweetened applesauce I bought and opened last winter. It was not hiding in the fridge; it was one of the only things in the fridge.

I used to go to the supermarket every week to "buy the groceries and change the spinach". (See, once I have fresh veggies, I want FRESH veggies. No water-logged baby spinach for me.)

And yeah, I actually used to cook Passover dinner for 30, built a gourmet kitchen, Calphalon pots, Wusthof knives, Matfer mandouline, Kenwood stainless-gear mixer with every attachment (did you know there's a potato scrubber?), properly seasoned wok, and a freaking pecan picker (http://ontheroadinthevw.blogspot.com/2007/12/catching-up.htm...).

Now I live in an apartment with a cheap electric stove and that stuff is in cabinets I never open and did I mention how easy it is to grab 10 frozen dinners? But yes, of course you're right.

What is considered "unprocessed" foods at the grocer? Raw beans, rice, whole grain wheat? Is the ground beef/deli meat "unprocessed" by your definition?

Serious question. My impression is that anything not cut from an animal myself is processed by some harmful additive, so I've given up.

>My impression is that anything not cut from an animal myself is processed by some harmful additive, so I've given up.

There is plenty of simple advice on what to eat, and it isn't the end of the world if you don't follow the guidelines 100%. "Giving up" makes it sound like you're prone to an extremist view, which life has shown me is rarely the most pragmatic view.

Fruit that looks like it is something that would come off a plant > "Fruit roll-ups" Whole-wheat bread > wonder bread strawberries > twinkies

> As Mr. Pollan puts it, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”


Nah, just try to use whole ingredients were possible, and read the label if you aren't sure.

Most pre-made foods have terrible ingredients. Manufactured foods are made of filler (water, flour, emulsifiers), a bit of "flavor" (preferably salt, cheap oil, sugar, and weird chemicals), and preservatives (some of which can be quite harmful).

The priorities of food manufacturers are shelf life, cost, marketing, and tastiness. Tastiness is usually their lowest priority. Unless they want to look healthy, health isn't even a priority.

Pan-frying some in-season vegetables with a bit of chilli and garlic is usually a lot healthier. A big ol' steak is less healthy, but tastier.

Try eating a tomato which was picked green (so it keeps better, and is easier to handle without bruising it), then had its skin artificially ripened. Then try a ripe tomato (you can generally tell just by how soft it is). There's a big difference.

> preservatives (some of which can be quite harmful).

Citation needed.

Specifically, I want you to support the assertion that preservatives used in modern, Western food are currently known to be potentially quite harmful in the usual amounts consumed.

Sodium nitrate is a raging carcinogen if you char grill it.

Sulfur dioxide can cause problems in some people. It's relatively safe (as in, as safe as you can get for a preservative), but can induce asthma in some people. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7426352.

> Sodium nitrate is a raging carcinogen if you char grill it.

I don't think that's unique to sodium nitrate.


> Sulfur dioxide can cause problems in some people.

Right, and gluten does a real number on the (relatively few) people with celiac disease; gluten is a naturally-occurring protein that is perfectly healthy for most people, so we can't judge a chemical entirely by what it does to some people.

Sodium benzoate in combination with vitamin C produces benzine - a known carcinogen.

For starters, everything that doesn't come in a box or a bag is likely unprocessed (which includes the meat you mention). The massive categories you are missing are fruits and vegetables (although excess fruit can also pose a sugar problem). Wheat is tricky because it is typically processed. Whole grains are better.

I understand that you could take this to an extreme: if it doesn't grow in my garden or die by my hand...

But let's just focus on low hanging stuff for now. There are food products that are more chemical than anything. Oreos, Poptarts, CheezWhiz, pops, frozen meals, Juices "now with 10% real juice"...The list is extensive. Then you have overly refined products (white bread, white pastas).

Fruits and vegetables (fresh, canned or frozen), lentiles and legumes, grains/careals (including breads and pastas), raw meat (fish/chicken/beef/pork/...) are all ok. I'm sure there's more.

I don't think there's much room for confusion between eating Captin' Crunch vs oatmeal, cheetos vs a bowl of plain yogurt with strawberries.

> There are food products that are more chemical than anything

The problem is that even this statement is ambiguous. All foods, processed or not, are almost all chemical by any proper definition of the word chemical I know of.

Of course the point your trying to make is that they contain large amount of "human added chemicals" some synthesized, some not. If you look at the ingredient list of a rockstar energy drink you'll find almost everything in it is "natural", that is a chemical that exists in nature and is part of a diet that would be considered healthy (in some amount / combination).

The argument should really be based on healthy amounts and combinations of chemicals and just because it exists in nature, doesn't make it healthy (see red meat and recent studies regarding it).

I find this discussion to be fascinating in regards to evolutionary development. Humans 'like' sugars and meats for strong evolutionary reasons. They were rare when the average age of death was like 30. Getting cheap calories was very beneficial to successful life and hence child bearing in the era.

Whats really interesting is that I don't see those traits going away. Evolution requires selective pressure. There would have to be a selective mechanism that resulted in those who "eat well" to contribute more to the gene pool than those who do not. While I have no studies at hand to back this up, my personal observation doesn't indicate that this pressure exists. As a result I don't think we'll see the enjoyment of such food disappear any time soon.

>They were rare when the average age of death was like 30.

When lots of people died before their first birthday‡, the average age being thirty meant that lots of people who made it past their first birthday would live longer than thirty.

‡Estimates vary from 30 to 50% rate, in the old world.

I really wasn't trying to throw a stick in the mud in terms of a hard scientific date which is why I phrased it how I did. That said my reference wasn't so much toward "the old world" which I take to mean in the last few thousand years but rather on more of an evolutionary scale, that is millions of years ago.

There is selective pressure beyond simply "Does this individual get to reproduce?" For example, if unhealthy people are less able to care for their kin, that can put their genes at a disadvantage.

Agreed, but that doesn't changes my stance / point so I didn't elaborate as it is mostly irrelevant in today's society unless there are some statistics that I am unaware of regarding reproductive success of children whom travel through orphanage systems or similar mechanisms that exist to support child who's parents can not support them.

> There are food products that are more chemical than anything.

Everything is 100% chemical.

Sorry, of course that's right. I meant the list of ingredients.

You're not quite getting it: Saying something is 'chemical' tells people nothing about it. Absolutely nothing. This is a form of the naturalistic fallacy.


Instead, mention specific chemicals and detail what in specific they do that's bad at the quantities people normally eat them.

Bear in mind that a lot of grains and beans are fairly toxic in themselves - plants don't want you to eat their seeds. So whole grain might actually be just as bad for you as the refined stuff, just in different ways.

Gluten is one aspect of this, but there are apparently a whole range of other things which can impact your digestion, prevent nutrient uptake, etc.

If it grows on a plant, or eats plants, or eats things which eat plants, it's not processed food.

If it didn't exist 150 years ago, or you cannot find it in nature, it's processed food.

This doesn't seem all that useful. I can't find salads in nature. I can't find bread in nature. I can't find smoothies in nature. I can't find noodles in nature. Are those all bad, processed foods?

> If it didn't exist 150 years ago, or you cannot find it in nature, it's processed food.

Is the corollary true as well? Lead sugar existed a few thousand year ago - so is that processed food?

> If it grows on a plant, or eats plants, or eats things which eat plants, it's not processed food.

Tell that to people who go bugnuts about GMO foods.

> If it didn't exist 150 years ago, or you cannot find it in nature

Start checking on when your favorite variety of apples was first created.

Newer varieties of fruit actually have much more sugar than many heritage breeds. I wouldn't go as far as to say you should avoid them, but that's probably not a valid argument against the rule.

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