The “bypass burger and flatliner fries”—nobody’s idea of good nutrition.
Every time I try to make sense of the news the world of nutritional science, I get a headache. I’m sure you have also noticed that advice that seems airtight today will be turned on its head next week. What is a person to do who wants to eat healthy?
For instance, in June 2013 a study published in JAMA, a Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters. Researchers followed more than 73,000 Seventh-day Adventists for six years. How annoying is that, to have researchers following you around and watching what you eat for six years. I bet they couldn’t wait to lose those pesky researchers on their tails. Anyway, the study found that vegetarians “experienced” 12% fewer deaths over the period, concluding that their mostly veggie diet kept heart disease at bay.
But don’t run out for the tofu and black beans just yet. A newer study, from March 2014 and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that saturated fat does not cause heart disease. Chew on that for a while. I mean, haven’t we been bludgeoned for decades with the mantra that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat are killing us? Haven’t we been trained that fish and skinless chicken is good, and eating sirloin steak is a dastardly sin?
This new study not only gives the thumbs up steak tartare and fried chicken, but even says that there never was solid evidence that saturated fats cause disease. In other words, we were hoodwinked by what a story in the Wall Street Journal says was “nutrition policy . . . derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.”
Now they tell us.
I wish these so-called experts could make up their minds, because changing my diet left and right to try to live longer and healthier is stressing me out, and if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that stress really bad news for your health.
Some nutritional news is less controversial. For example, dark tea drunk in great quantities is said to promote bone density. But does all that tea count against the eight glasses of water I’m supposed to drink each day? Honestly, I need to give my poor bladder a rest sometimes.
Pomegranate juice is also big these days, but if I were to start slugging down all this dark tea and dark pom juice, I’d need to get my teeth bleached every four months, and I can’t afford that. But then again, while some say that pomegranate juice may prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, others aren’t so sure. Naturally, more research is needed.
And what about fish? As of today at 3 p.m., the consensus is that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish help prevent heart attacks. On the other hand, fish from certain waters are filled with mercury. Eeewww. Mercury versus omega-3 fatty acids. How to choose?
The only unadulterated good news is that the more they research the benefits of coffee and chocolate, the healthier this combo proves itself. An article I just read on the blog of the Mayo Clinic admitted that drinking several cups of caffeinated coffee a day might protect against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease. I’ll drink to that! Similarly, people have given up trying to malign dark chocolate. It’s just so obvious that seriously dark chocolate not only improves mood (as my kids would say, “Duh!”), but also is loaded with antioxidants. White chocolate has no antioxidants, which is further proof, as if any were needed, that white chocolate is totally useless.
Now just sit back and tear off a nice dark chunk of chocolate to have with your dark Kona brew and remember: Reading too many articles about nutritional research has been associated with a 100% higher stress level.
Judy Gruen’s most recent book is “Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping.” Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other media outlets. Read more of her work at www.judygruen.com.