American consumers don’t understand food and human nutrition nearly as well as livestock producers understand feedstuffs and animal nutrition.
To be fair, cows, pigs and chickens don’t have supermarkets full of highly-marketed options competing for their attention. And yet, while I think most consumers should spend more time and energy understanding what they’re putting into their bodies and how food affects their weight and overall health, there is enough conflicting information available to us that it is no small wonder we get confused when it comes to what not to eat.
I’ve spent a good deal of time reading and writing about nutrition in recent years because of my own struggles with my weight and body image. I’m happy to say that my research has not been fruitless, as I’ve dropped 88 pounds in two years. The point of this post, however, isn’t my own quest for rock-hard abs, but rather to point out the broader issue of food and nutrition awareness.
In my column in Feedstuffs earlier this year, I suggested livestock producers should adopt a “food-centered paradigm,” and that by shifting our way of thinking away from production to consumption, we might better understand the consumer. I think this goes hand in hand with helping all consumers – ourselves included – better understand what food does and does not do to our bodies.
Frustratingly, research is seemingly conflicted on a number of issues, or at least so the media tells us. Take this assortment of headlines:
- “Got high cholesterol? Yes, you can eat eggs.” Everyday Health, Feb. 13, 2012
- “Scientists Say Red Meat Vital for a Healthy Diet.” Beef Producer, Jan. 13, 2012
- “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” New York Times, July 7, 2002
It is the last headline that actually tripped my trigger in writing this post. Written by noted author Gary Taubes nearly a decade ago, the article points out that research was beginning to bear out the claims of Robert Atkins, creator of the eponymous diet, despite decades of conventional wisdom to the contrary.
Taubes’ article made the rounds on Facebook earlier this month, and when it appeared on my newsfeed, I was so impressed that I ordered two of his books (Why We Get Fat; and Good Calories, Bad Calories) from Amazon the same day. Yes, Beef Producer editor Alan Newport had recommended the latter title to me months ago, and I had neglected to pick it up. That oversight on my part has, thankfully, been resolved.
Taubes is one of the few writers out there willing, apparently, to go out on the limb that red meat isn’t going to kill us all out of hand, and that fat isn’t all it’s been made out to be these past few decades. Given my own reading, I am convinced the carbohydrates, specifically sugar, are a much more culpable factor in the expansion of the American waistline than is fat of any stripe.
Now, at least, it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way. Bottom line (to parse a phrase from The Most Interesting Man In the World): read up, friends, and stay hungry.