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it’s not ALL nutritional bad news

I just read this:

“Food is cheaper now by a long way, more abundantly available, more highly refined and more pressingly sold to us by very clever advertising companies and techniques.   The remarkable thing is how anybody stays thin.”

–Dr. Andrew Prentice, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

True and false.   Everybody talks about how screwed we are because of the refined-food explosion of the past  50 years.   I agree that the low cost of refined foods, and the addictive qualities of sugar- and MSG-added foods create an enormous problem.   But you can study many periods of history when the upper class had serious weight problems.   They had two huge liability factors we don’t have.   Here’s why we shouldn’t use the above reasoning as an excuse:

1.   First, we live in an age of great enlightenment  about nutrition.    Even in the past 10 years, we’ve experienced a quantum leap in what we know about food and how it can heal us (or hurt us).   A person in 17th century England encountered as much information in a lifetime as you can read in a weekday edition of the New York Times.    Throughout most of history, people have thought lard is a nutritious food.   Even many of the least educated among us know better than that.

2.   For the first time in history,  those of us in the First World can  spend a few minutes in a car, drive to a market, and walk in to choose from an abundance of produce from all over the world.   Fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables are available to us 12 months of the year.   My ancestors and yours were lucky to get 3-4 months a year with high-antioxidant foods.   That’s if they stayed put long enough to plant a garden.   My g-g-g-g-grandfather Benjamin Franklin Johnson had scurvy, malaria, and typhoid, partly as a result of months-long trips on a horse where the only food he had for  an entire season  was cornmeal!

We  really have no excuse because we have countervailing advantages, offsetting  the disadvantages of the time and space we live in.    At least OUR disadvantages can be overcome with good choices, unlike the disadvantages my Grandfather Benjamin lived with.    We’re best off if we shop the perimeter of the supermarket, especially the produce section,  and stay out of the junk-food middle; shop when we’re not hungry; and stay far away from foods with addictive chemicals (MSG, corn syrup,  sugar, and refined salt).   Oh, and stay away from that place with the big yellow M whose mascot is a clown named Ron.

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