Sunday, September 21, 2008

Eating Right for Health, Weight Loss or Moral Principles

The International Herald Tribune has an interesting article on nutraceuticals, broadly defined as ingredients that are derived from food, and added to other foods as fortifiers. The ever-increasing trend began in the 1990s with garlic pills and similar products which were taken as supplements.

Now Kraft, Dannon, General Mills and many other companies are adding nutraceuticals to existing foods: "fat-burning waffles" made from a newly developed corn flour, cheese that kills intestinal parasites, even ketchup that regulates digestion, are on the shelves or in the works. New technologies in food processing, and a landmark 1999 court decision giving the makers of supplements broad leeway to advertise their health benefits, have brought this new class of enhanced foods to supermarket shelves.

One problem is that along with this growing trend, there's an increasing awareness that some of these tricks just do not work. Studies have shown recently that some extracted supplements, long used for cardiovascular health such as vitamin E, beta-carotene and folate (all of which fall into the broad category of "antioxidants") surprised everyone by showing no benefits whatsoever. It seems clear that the body's way of benefiting from these substances is more complicated than we thought.

All of this is of particular interest to me since I'm a vegetarian. The reason for that is ethical. I object to the treatment of animals on the mass scale necessary to fill the supermarket shelves. I admit to eating some cheese and eggs, the production of which is guilty of the same abuses, but let's just say I'm not a fanatic about the whole thing, and I certainly don't question or criticize other people's eating habits.

My problem, I'm afraid, is achieving proper nutrition. Perhaps these super-foods are the answer.

What do you think?


  1. As a biologist Vegetarianism makes me just as nervous as those chumps on the Atkins Diet who eat nothing but meat and cheese all day.

    The human body just isn't built for that. We're designed to eat BOTH meat and Veggies. Of course we're also built to eat like a glutton when we have food, and live to the brink of starvation before the next big meal.

    Overall I think a Hybrid is the best solution. The traditional American eats far too much meat, I'd say ONE American-Sized meat portion a day is ideal for the human diet.

    Of course I don't follow it...I love meat WAYYY too much.

  2. I'm with ya. The idea that we weren't built to abstain from meat entirely makes sense to me. But the factory farming and mass production of meat is so awful. Did you ever see any of those videos from PETA? Some of the pig farms are so big and create such vast areas of environmental devastation you can see them from space. I can't bring myself to participate in that any more.

  3. I have seen the videos from PETA, and in just about every one they bend and twist context to better suit their radical ideals.

    I'm totally fine with you being against large-scale farms, but don't go to those assholes and expect "Information".

  4. i'm with weerd here, again. i'm an unrepentant omnivore who's not about to give up meat, but i'd love if i could be surer that the meat (and eggs, and dairy) i eat was produced with as little suffering and misery to the animals in question as is reasonably possible. to me, it's not the eating meat that's morally questionable, rather it's the things we do to enable us to eat lots and lots of really cheap meat.

    when you state it frankly in plain english, it makes you sound like a snobby elitist --- "i'd like to change our farming practices in ways that will make meat, eggs, and dairy a lot more expensive, forcing lots of people to change their diets noticeably because they wouldn't be able to afford eating the way they do now". but, let's face it, that is what i would like to do. sometimes doing the right thing does come with a price tag.

    and, besides, most of us (myself included) are eating a lot more meat than is healthy for us, even though we know it. maybe hitting us in the pocketbook is what it'll take to make us change that.

  5. Dear Sarah, Thanks for coming by. You're very welcome to read along or to comment any time you like.