With another week of fear mongering nutritional frenzy behind us let’s take a deep breath and think rationally about the headline. If you happened to miss the latest news fury, I’m talking about the recent World Health Organization (WHO) advice concerning processed and red meat and cancer.
Before tackling the issue I highly recommend you read Zoe Harcombe’s analysis of the news and what (if any) are the takeaways. For starters Think Critically when it comes to headline grabbing “studies” on nutrition.
In pure disclosure I’m a recovering vegetarian, thus a meat eater. That said my beef (pardon the pun) is with fear mongering, not whether or not you are a carnivore. Whatever diet serves your own personal needs it should not be held hostage by the latest headline or advertising gimmick.
Food for critical thinking:
- Observational studies are just that observing, not clinical trials or other highly controlled study on the subject matter
- Association does not equal causation
- Many studies involve people filling out a questionnaire about what they eat & drink (think about yourself do you always tell the truth?)
- Look at the difference between absolute and relative risk, (check out a graph here by Josh Hillis comparing risks of certain causes)
- There is a difference between fake food like substances and real food
- Apply a heavy dose of good common sense each and every day!
Those are just a few key points to remind you anytime something is all over the news. Use the old school rule if it is too good to be true (or false) it probably is. This applies to “this food will kill you” or “this food will save your life” both are unnecessarily dangerous to your health.
The sad part is something I hear frequently, what should I eat then? Here’s my take and many components overlap with varying types of diets, meat eater or vegetarian.
- Eat as much of your food from whole foods, not packaged and processed
- Cook as many of your own meals, to know and control the ingredients
- Sugars and carbohydrates raise insulin and promote fat storage, know your own tolerance (or lack of) and consume accordingly
- Sweetened beverages, soda, juice, smoothies, sports drinks are sugar bombs and provide few nutritional advantages
- Buy as much of your food from local sources, know where it comes from, do they use harmful antibiotics or other chemicals and treat animals humanely?
My last point is think of food for performance. What gives you the most bang for your buck, allows you to go the longest period of time without needing a snack? What makes you feel good not need a nap? You know this. Have confidence that we survived really well as a species until these last 40 or 50 years when so called “experts” started telling us what to eat.
For example humans existed for millennium eating meat, often it was salted or cured because of lack of refrigeration. Indigenous cultures across the globe survive on varying types of diets, dissecting them and implanting them into a modern lifestyle has risks and benefits. What works for you may not work for someone else and scaring individuals unnecessarily is not helpful, from either side of the diet spectrum.
Whether you have a desk job or work in construction, every day is a performance. You want to succeed both at work and home in a positive fashion. Food that gives you energy, sustains you and does not deplete limited sources needs to be your friend. Make it so!
Beating the odds of sensational headlines takes a team effort. Join one that will support you at home and work. Headlines sell newspapers not create healthy bodies.
“Make your diet work for you; don’t work for your diet.”
Denise Minger, author of Death by Food Pyramid