Monday, April 12, 2010

Nutritional Rules

I've been thinking a lot about Michael Pollan lately.

That famous line.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Were it that easy!

I know, I know, some of you are thinking, "Oh but it IS that easy, Arduous, it IS!"

And I admit it SHOULD be that easy.


I recently went to the doctor and was advised that I needed to lower my cholesterol. So I've embarked on a pretty serious diet in order to lower that number FAST.

What do I eat?

Well, plants mostly. Today I had an apple, three oranges, and a banana as snack. Most days I eat a nice big spinach salad or a vegetable stir-fry. Something with plenty of veggies and a little helping of nuts for taste, texture, and protein.

And a lot of whole grains. Cereal, whole grain bread, etc.

And for good measure, I take a fiber supplement.

Except that apparently if you eat a lot of fiber, some vitamins might go unabsorbed. So, since I eat all the fiber and the fiber supplement, I also need to take a multi-vitamin.

And the doctor also said I should take a calcium pill.

And then there are the supplements I take because well, I should be having fish daily, but I can't, because of the mercury. So instead I get my omega-3 in a fizzy drink.

So, I have fiber supplements. Multivitamins. Calcium. And fizzy drink with omega-3.

I tell you, it's pretty exhausting.

And I've realized, in the past few weeks, that really, we DON'T know how to eat any longer. Because, for the life of me, I'm not sure how I've ended up with all these supplements and why.

But I also want to follow my doctor's instructions.

So ... I guess I'm eating food. Not too much. Mostly plants. And a whole lotta supplements.


Anonymous said...

Omega-3 in a fizzy drink! Do tell more. I hate gulping down omega-3 capsules.


belinda said...

Yeah it's certainly can be a challenge and a lot less straightforward than the Pollan mantra.

It might be a good idea to actually ask your doctor why you "need" to take all those supplements. In some cases they assume you are eating the average diet, the one they normally see in their patients, and just hand out the same supplement advice to everyone. Personally if he truly knows how you eat and thinks there is a problem I would ask for a referral to a nutritionist or dietitian. This will give you the opportunity to really look at your diet in depth with someone knowledgeable so you will have an opportunity to fill the gaps he perceives with real foods.

Kind Regards

knutty knitter said...

What gets me is - just exactly where and what are these supplements made of?

And would it be better to eat the original food instead? After all, wasn't some of the info saying don't eat anything your grandma wouldn't recognize as food?

All very confusing really :)

viv in nz

Farmer's Daughter said...

Now that the baby's here, I'm done with vitamins. I could keep taking prenatals while I nurse, but I prefer to eat healthy. I've never bought into the whole vitamin thing.

So why the fiber supplement? Sounds like you get plenty.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Really? If you eat lots of fibre you need to take extra vitamins? I didn't know that... thanks for the tip!

Marino said...

maybe u should ask your doctor about dropping the fibre supplement since you obviously get plenty in your diet.

as for the calcium supplement, i find it hard to believe you can't get you're daily intake from yoghurt and milk, unless ofcourse you're lactose intolerant. Maybe soy milk??

Personally i think the most important supplements for women are iron, vitamin C and Omega 3.

Farmer's Daughter said...

OK... just wanted to add that my OB informed me women should take folic acid supplements for 6 months to a year before getting pregnant to reduce neural tube disorders by (some large percentage, maybe 75%? but I can't remember). Sounded to me like all women should take it then, just in case!

Donna said...

It's a jungle out there, isn't it! Hang in there and don't be afraid to ask you doctor lots of questions.

Oldnovice said...

I just ran across a TED presentation in which the speaker discussed science and science deniers. What came to mind, of course, were those who didn't believe in climate change.

That wasn't who he was talking about. He said (and my husband's read this also) that there's absolutely NO proof that supplements do ANYTHING.

I do both - eat healthily AND take supplements. I think I do this because my mom was big on supplements and she lived until 96. I wouldn't mind living so long.

I sneak things into my husband's food. I make what look like hamburger patties using half bulgur with lean beef and mix quinoa into his mac & cheese. I take fish oil tablets daily rather than take blood pressure pills.

I'm one of the 40 million without health insurance, so get blood tests, etc. at free testing facilities once/year and spend the other 364 days doing everything I can to keep myself healthy enough to survive. I don't mind shotgunning problems. If I have a symptom and know of 10 things that are thought to help that problem, I'll take all 10 things.

Just now reading Omnivore's Dilemma, but decided a while ago to cut back on our meat intake (just to keep our weight within normal range). So far, it's working.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just found your blog & adore it! Is there a contact email where I can reach you?

Buy Dissertation Proposal said...

Whenever i see the post like your's i feel that there are still helpful people who share information for the help of others, it must be helpful for other's. thanx and good job.

Lee said...

Hi. What's with the supplements?

Just between you and me, the people I know who take supplements are the sickest people I know.

I stopped taking supplements years ago, started following a 90/10% rule (which I talk about below), and lost 70 pounds, getting down to a healthy adult weight for the first time in my life. I've maintained a healthy weight since. So I'm an ex-fattie :-)

I think Pollan is on the right track. Just follow his advice, and skip the crappy supplements, which, AFAIK, have NEVER any of them been proven to do anyone any good at all in any double blind clinical trial. You may as well flush your money down the toilet.

Here's what I do: If you make sure your diet is vegan for 90% of your meals, and whole foods for those meals too (e.g. whole grains, whole fruit, whole veggies), and eat a bit of real meat or fish here and there (not sausages or processed rubbish) you'll be fine.

I stay vegetarian 100% of the time, but that's my choice. I don't think it's important, it's for environmental reasons in my case, and whether you go vego or not is up to you.

But I DO think dairy is really bad stuff, and is the cause of a lot of people's health problems. So I'd count that in the 10% of junk food. Dairy is mostly fat and there are heaps better calcium sources e.g. green veggies.

Calcium pills sound horrible to me. So do fizzy omega 3 drinks (who the hell invented them and where the hell are the in the "mostly plants" list of healthy whole foods?).

And multivitamins have NEVER been proven to do anything besides make your wee go yellow. That's the truth. There's no proof the do anything else at all, despite the huge numbers of companies selling them.

Toss them all in the bin, and eat a bit of healthy locally sourced fish once every couple of weeks for your healthy fats. Trust me, it will have fewer chemicals and toxins in it than any packaged processed fizzy drink does, and will be a lot less likely to cause cancer!

I also think Pollan's message is about the danger of reductionism. Forget the "I need omega 3 fatty acids" and "oh, I must get my ALAs" and "I also need my vitamin B and C" and "I gotta have my "calcium" and just eat real food, mostly plants! Then you'll get everything you need.

I use the 90/10% rule. Eat healthy whole plants 90% of the time, for 90% of your energy. Then you can eat whatever you want for the remaining 10% (like chocolate!).

No-one can be perfect all the time, and we live in a toxic society, but if you eat proper, whole foods 90% of the time, your cholesterol will drop like a stone.

Good luck! :-)

Mary said...

I hope you will continue to post to your blog. I really enoy your intelligent, entertaining and thought-provoking writing.

Robj98168 said...

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Easy for Michael Pollan to say!

He doesn't feel the need for a steak or Mickey D's.Or have a love affair with Beef Wellington.

But... he is right. Dammit.

Fix said...

Hi, Arduous -

My sis is struggling with the same thing. She swears by this, makes sense to me:

Hope all is well!

Rebecca said...

Just found your blog and I'm lovin' it...

I'm totally torn about the supplements thing. It seems that everything I read lately says they've done another study showing that they make everything worse...

What's a health nut to do?

BTW - I get my Omega 3's by having some freshly ground flax seed on my morning oatmeal. (Freshly ground is important - it has to be ground or your body can't get at the fatty acids, and it has to be fresh ground because it deteriorates quickly.) I use a coffee grinder.

Anonymous said...

Arduous--will you be returning to your blog? I hope you're just taking a break.