Sounds like a simple question doesn’t it?
And yet, if it was, we’d probably have hardly any overweight people.
I remember reading a book called ‘In Defence Of Food’ by Michael Pollan (Link to In Defense of Food), and at the beginning he gives this statement; ‘eat food, not too much, mostly veg’, and then spends the rest of the book justifying (reasonably well, and certainly entertainingly) this statement.
But what does he mean, ‘eat food’?
That’s what I’d like to cover first, as I think it’s probably the most important single piece of food and diet knowledge that anyone can have.
I’ve got two ways that I’m going to talk about this issue. First I’m going to define what a food is (and therefore, is not) and then I’m going to refine it so that it becomes more useful, more practical, so that it becomes a solid, reliable method that will help you figure out for yourself what you should and shouldn’t eat.
Straight away, I want to borrow something from Michael Pollan; the distinction between a ‘food’, and a ‘food like product’.
A ‘food’ is something that gives you more energy than it takes away.
A ‘food like product’ is something that started off as a ‘food’ and has been processed to such an extent that it takes more energy to process than it gives you.
Simple. Or is it?
Permit me to give you my own version of Michael’s statement; ‘If you can’t pick it or kill it, you probably shouldn’t eat it’.
I imagine you can see the similarity between the implications of these two statements straight away.
So what I want you to do right now is go back over the food that you’ve had in the last 24 hours and judge each meal and food on that basis. Was it in the original state it would have come in when it was picked or killed?
Or had it been processed in some way?
And how much had it been processed?
Take your time and do that now. Take as long as you need…
Let’s have some examples of this in action:
How about bread?
I remember once reading an article on Joseph Mercola’s website (many years ago, I now can’t find it!) that looked at the processing commercial flour undergoes.
Do you know how many steps there are from the humble wheat grain to the bag of flour you get in the shops?
13 steps that take your potentially healthy and useful wheat grain from being rather good, to being almost useless. And that’s before it’s even been given over to the bread manufacturers (where if they make it anything like I do at home, will have another 3-6 steps of processing to get it to be that horrid plastic’y flaccid product that somehow passes as bread for many of us, not that it ends up like that when it comes out of my oven!).
Here’s a good way of understanding the effects of what goes on here; have you ever looked at the ‘best before’ date of your flour? Normally it’s a good few months away, sometimes years. How long do you think your flour would stay good for if you ground it yourself?
3 days, at best….
That’s not very long, and it’s certainly nowhere near the length of time you see on commercial bread (and yes, it’s one reason that I grind my own flour when I want some bread). I suspect it’s one of the reasons that many people have problems digesting bread, although it’s only 1 out of a few.
Back To You
So it’s ‘practical time’, time to make it useful to you. For the next week don’t bother trying to change anything, just ask yourself how much processing the food you are about to choose has gone through, and ask yourself if there’s another option that would provide you with a decrease in processed’ness…