Monday, July 20, 2009

Nina Planck's "Real Food"

I recently came across a book called "Real Food: What to Eat and Why" by Nina Planck. As a fan of Michael Pollan, I noticed his positive comment of her book on the cover, and decided I'd take a look at what she had to say. Her main thing is that industrial food is the real culprit killing Americans. She explains that “real” food is “old” food --meaning foods we’ve been eating for a long time. She believes ancient foods like beef and butter have been falsely accused of wrong doings while industrial foods like corn syrup and soybean oil have created a triple epidemic of obesity, diabetics and heart disease.

Now, if you’ve done any no carbs or low carbs diets, you’ve probably heard all this before. However, Nina is not a no carb kind of girl. In fact her theory is that real meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes are all good for you as long as it’s not industrialized.

I’m pretty sure she raises eyebrows when she claims that all fats are also good for you, including the ones that most of us have been taught to believe are evil: Saturated and Monounsaturated. She claims that these fats are not responsible for the health problems that many associate with them (high cholesterol, heart disease). She has a long chapter on fats that’s actually worth a read and will at least get you thinking if not anything more.

As you can imagine Ms. Planck is not a big fan of the vegetarian and vegan diet (she was both at one point).
Here’s what she says are the vegetarian myths:

Myth: Our primate cousins are vegetarians
Truth: All Primate eat some animal fat and protein. We eat more to feed out big brains.

Myth: We are natural herbivores
Truth: We are omnivores with bodies designed to eat plant and animal foods

Myth: Historically we ate less meat.
Truth: Historically we were even more carnivorous than today.

Myth: Other cultures are vegan
Truth: There are no traditional vegan societies. Even vegetarian cultures use butter and eggs.

Myth: We don’t need animal protein.
Truth: Omnivores need complete protein every day. A small amount will do.

Myth: Plant Protein is as good as animal protein.
Truth: Plan protein, even when combined to provide all animal acids, is inferior to the protein in meat, fish dairy, and eggs.

Myth: Soybeans contain complete protein
Truth: Soybeans contain all the animal acids but not enough of one (methionine).

Of course if you’re a hardcore vegetarian or vegan, I’m pretty sure these are not the most convincing arguments you’ve ever heard. I’m not a vegetarian but as a person who has cut out about 80% of my meat intake, I’m more concerned about my vitamin B12 than protein.

Nina Planck’s book does not propose a specific regimen one most follow but the book is simply about what she thinks is real food and why. While I understand and appreciate that, I am afraid of the wrong person reading this book and deciding that they’re going to have a stick of butter for dinner. As a naturalist in progress I can understand how everything may be good for you if eaten in it’s natural state and with moderation for certain foods.

Overall, I thought the book was interesting, enlightening, funny and personal as she shared her life story with food. It’s an easy read and if you have the time, pick up the book. However, I would say to take the information with a grain of salt. It’s important to be as informed as possible but don’t be so willing to take every word from just one person. If you like what she is saying, keep up with the research so you can back up your beliefs. Remember, the goal is to become the expert yourself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not a vegetarian and do eat small amounts of animal based foods but generally eat a plant-based diet. I wholeheartedly agree that REAL, WHOLE, UNPROCESSED food is the best food whatever the source (animal vs plant) and that amounts of each type of food you eat will make all the difference in your health and well being.

I went over to Nina Planck's website and found no information which would leave to to believe the information she provides is based on proven, scientific knowledge. I simply can't ignore the research done by the likes of T. Colin Campbelle, Dr. MacDougall and Dr. Fuhrman when it comes to the effects of animal protein in the diet (i.e. turning the "cancer" genes ON when eaten in amounts greater than 20% of total calories).

That being said, we do use raw milk, chicken, fish, beef, etc. but we do so sparingly. We buy organic and local whenever possible and it is working for us.