Today I want to chat about what he describes as the two facts of nutrition.
But first, let’s step back and listen to what he has to say about the nascent field of nutrition science.
Michael Pollan tells us: “I learned that in fact science knows a lot less about nutrition than you would expect—that in fact nutrition science is, to put it charitably, a very young science. It’s still trying to figure out exactly what happens in your body when you sip a soda, or what is going on deep in the soul of a carrot to make it so good for you, or why in the world you have so many neurons—brain cells!—in your stomach, of all places. It’s a fascinating subject, and someday the field may produce definitive answers to the nutritional questions that concern us, but—as nutritionists themselves will tell you—they’re not there yet. Not even close. Nutrition science, which after all only got started less than two hundred years ago, is today approximately where surgery was in the year 1650—very promising, and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate on you? I think I’ll wait awhile.”
Love that. Good to have that in mind as we navigate the world of nutrition and stay open to evolving wisdom in the midst of potentially premature/ungrounded dogma, eh?
He continues by saying: “But if I’ve learned volumes about all we don’t know about nutrition, I’ve also learned a small number of very important things we do know about food and health. This is what I meant when I said the picture got simpler the deeper I went.
There are basically two important things you need to know about the links between diet and health, two facts that are not in dispute. All the contending parties in the nutrition wars agree on them. And, even more important for our purposes, these facts are sturdy enough that we can build a sensible diet upon them.”
So… Two facts.
We’ll get to those in a moment.
For now, you’ve gotta kinda laugh imagining nutrition science as being about as developed as surgery was in 1650. Hah. And, d’oh!
Bottom line: There’s a lot we DON’T know about how our diets affect our health.
But, Pollan tells us, everyone agrees on these two facts:
Fact #1. Populations that eat a typical Western diet consisting of “lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables, fruits and whole grains” suffer from the typical Western diseases of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Fact #2. Populations that don’t eat that stuff don’t suffer from those chronic diseases. Their traditional diets vary TREMENDOUSLY—from the super high fat diets of the Inuit in Greenland who eat mostly seal blubber to the super high carbohydrate diets of Central American Indians who eat a ton of maize and beans to the super high protein diets of the Masai in Africa who eat mostly cattle meat, blood and milk. But, even with that extreme variety, they DO NOT suffer from the chronic diseases we suffer from.
Pollan tells us there “is no single ideal human diet” and that the human omnivore has evolved to handle a variety of different diets.
EXCEPT ONE: The Western diet that most of us now eat.
Most nutritionists argue about which particular component within the Western diet is the ultimate culprit. For our purposes, we simply need to step back and remove the primary staples of the Western diet.
As Pollan says, “People who get off the Western diet see dramatic improvements in their health. We have good research to suggest that the effects of the Western diet can be rolled back, and relatively quickly.”
What’s ONE (little!) thing you KNOW you could be doing to Optimize your nutrition just a bit?
Today the day to get on that?
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