Thursday, 8 October 2015

Eat Food

As you know - yes you do - in my spare time* I write. I write all sorts of things. In my head I am A Writer. But I never finish anything. Never satisfied with it. I'll get there.

But for once a book is actually being published. Not what I intended to be the first one, it's a cookbook. It's called Kitchenwitch. It's not just recipes, it's food trivia and weird stuff too.

It doesn't get controversial. When I touch on opinions about food rather than facts, I keep it light and humorous. I edited out a LOT of rants that were too controversial or preachy. So, here they are. The "outtakes" from Kitchenwitch.

First of all I have to tell you, I don't care what you eat. At all.

If there's one thing this world has way too much of it is fake care. 9 times out of 10 we don't care enough, and then we go and pretend to care when in fact we are just being busybodies. If you say you care about the health of total strangers based on their own choices, I don't think you are telling the truth. What you really want to do is be high and mighty about it.

Sure, it's a good idea to share information. If you happen to know something the rest of us don't. If you have insider stuff from the food industry. If you are actually a food scientist. But usually, we already know. Thanks. When you tell me that too much salt isn't good for me, this isn't news. Tell it to a child, they are still learning. Most adults are fully aware of what is and isn't the best food choices, and the exceptions to this will not be reading you anyway.

Not only that, food is subject to a lot of the misinformation we know as pseudoscience. I expect you've heard about "natural antibiotics". Well, by now you know my attitude to the word natural. Antibiotics are living things, so in at least one sense they are natural already. But let's consider what they are trying to tell us here. They are trying to say that some food kills bacteria. I hope not. The main problem with antibiotics is that they kill a wide range of bacteria, not just the one you are aiming for, so when you take them you also, inevitably, kill the useful bacteria that lives in our digestive system. And that is in a medicine that has been carefully tested and assessed for results, side-effects, etc. Imagine being given a completely untested drug, in random dosage, with no idea of what it will do to that "friendly" gut bacteria. Would you take it? I wouldn't. No, we don't want food being an antibiotic. Bad idea. Bad bad bad.

Then there's the fear porn about food that is "bad for you". Eat these items and you'll die. I hate to point this out but "bad for you" is about as unscientific as it gets. It's fine in an informal conversation, especially with a child. But what does "bad" mean? Define it. Does it mean that if you eat 500grams of food X daily for 20 years then your risk of kidney stones increases by 20%? Then say that. Be precise. The benefits may outweigh the risks.

A good example is fat. We know that too much fat in your diet can contribute to various diseases. We also know that too little fat in your diet can cause deficiencies that are detrimental. Depending on how old you are the risk/benefit here is dramatically different. With other issues thrown into the mix, the risk/benefit changes. It actually makes no sense to make statements such as "too much fat", because it tells us nothing.

But that's people. We talk rubbish a lot of the time.

The latest idea of course is that some food is better than some other food because it's "natural". So, let's look at that. If you eat non-hybrid, or wild food, raw, as is, straight from the garden, that's natural. But not that apple, it was from a grafted tree. Not that potato, that was selectively bred not to be poisonous. Not that broccoli, it was invented by the Romans, by crossing other brassicas. Believe me there are many things required to qualify as natural, and very few foods pass the test. There are a few berries that qualify, not many.

The concept of processed food is one of the sillier ones. Processed can simply mean cooked. People who rant against processed food ("I never buy ANYTHING processed") can often be found in late summer pickling and making jam so they can store their lovely organic harvest over winter. Somebody should tell them.....

Then there's "junk food". Meaning WHAT? A burger? What's the junk? Do you even know what you mean when you say that? Which part of that burger is junk? Why?

You are probably thinking of the additives in it. None of which are harmful, in sensible quantities. If you had a Big Mac 3 times a day with nothing else, you'd die. If you had organic wild blueberries 3 times a day and nothing else, you'd die. It's all about dosage, and deficiency.

Yes, I use terms like processed food and junk foods, in informal conversation. Usually the person I'm talking to knows what I mean, there is a context. But I don't talk complete bollocks. I don't tell people that "junk food is bad for you" because that is a completely meaningless thing to say. In one sense it's a "thank you Captain Obvious" thing to say, and in another sense, without any solid definitions of "junk" or "bad" you may just as well say "hubjiggypootlecombi". Makes as much sense.

And then there's "clean" food. Well, how high and mighty is THAT? "My food is clean, yours is dirty". I KNOW what they are trying to say, but it's bullshit. If your food was actually clean it would be bad for you................

So, let's just look at all of this. If something is digestible by a human without any major or lasting harm to the digestive tract (including the liver) and it provides calories as well as other nutrition, then it's food. Food is not a strictly scientific term, you see. It's a guideline. We have learned by trial and error ( = science) over millions of years what we can and can't eat and we feed our children accordingly. We don't feed them wood, even though it's natural, we know it isn't food. We don't feed them exclusively sugar, even though some of them would be happy with that, because we know better. We don't feed them grass, that's food, but not for humans.

Sometimes we have to be told that something is food.

I don't consider processed cheese product to be food, but it says it is on the label. And I'm only teasing anyway. Not everyone is. Read the comments here, some are spectacularly stupid:

I don't buy it because I don't like the taste. I don't like the way it looks like plastic melting when it melts, something to do with the polymers, they tell me, but I find it off-putting. I didn't give it to my children because it was cheaper to buy cheese in a bar, but I'm not a moron. ALL cheese is processed, or did you think there were cheese mines? To go with the spaghetti trees perhaps?

If you want to eat better, and we all can, it certainly helps to eat MORE raw and fresh foods, and LESS commercially pre-cooked. Everybody I have ever known who switches from the "bad" to the "good" there feels better, and that's what it's all about, But it isn't necessary to be a food saint. Extremism is never healthy.

Here are my tips:

If you weigh more than your body enjoys (if the lower bits complain about the weight above them) or if your doctor has said that your health issues can be remedied by weighing or eating less, then eat less. Yeah, that was a tip. Especially eat less late at night, and don't drink calories. The jury is still out on snacking. Correlation is not causality. However, people who snack a lot are fatter than those who don't, so draw your own conclusions.

If you are happy with your health and weight, carry on eating as you do. Don't mess with a good thing. It's working.

If you are just trying to be your best, and why not indeed, be sensible about it. Don't follow a fad. Just because your neighbour got thin (especially if she was already thin, and just got thinner) in the "Expensive Monthly Plan Drink All Your Food And It Tastes Like Chocolate" cult, doesn't mean you will. Individual results may vary (it's in the small print). And if you don't STAY on the plan ($$$$ for them) the weight goes back on. Plus a bit more. And the less said about that the better.

Given the choice of less food or more exercise, opt for a walk. Or a dance. You CAN lose weight sitting down all day, but that doesn't mean you are healthy. The healthiest people you will ever meet stuff their faces with anything they feel like, and wash it down with vodka. And they live to be 100, still working. And they are chubby too.

Health includes eating well, but what "well" means may not be what you think it means. And that's just your own body. Don't even start preaching to others about theirs.

And as Billy Connolly says, if it comes in a bucket, don't eat it.

*spare time is defined as time when you have nothing else to do. Which is why I write in my sleep.

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