Don't eat cereals that change the colour of the milk:
Unlikely but brilliantly simple rules that will transform the way you eat
By Michael Pollan
Last updated at 8:09 AM on 13th January 2010
After consulting dietitians, nutritionists, anthropologists, folklorists, doctors and nurses - as well as a large number of mothers and grandmothers - author MICHAEL POLLAN has come up with a fascinating list of so-called 'Food Rules' that could help change your eating habits for ever...
The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead
This blunt bit of grandmotherly advice is a reminder of the health risks of white flour.
As far as the body is concerned, white flour is not much different from sugar. Recent research indicates that the grandmothers who lived by this rule were right: people who eat lots of whole grains tend to be healthier and to live longer.
Goes without saying: cereals that change the colour of your milk are highly processed and full of chemical additives
Repeat:Goes without saying: cereals that change the colour of your milk are highly processed and full of chemical additives
Don't eat cereals that change the colour of milk
This should go without saying. Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.
Avoid foods Grandma wouldn't recognise
There are now thousands of food products in the supermarket that our ancestors simple wouldn't recognise.
They are processed in ways specifically designed to get us to buy and eat more by pushing our evolutionary buttons (such as our inborn preferences for sweetness, fat and salt).
These tastes are difficult to find in nature, but cheap and easy for the food scientists to deploy, with the result that food processing induces us to consume more of these products than is good for us.
The taste sensory (sweet, salty, bitter, sour ) spread on your tongue is actually designed to prepare the digestion juice in the stomach prior entry.
If it came from a plant, eat it;
if it was made in a plant, don't.
You know it makes sense.
Eat when you're hungry, not when you're bored.
For many, eating has surprisingly little to do with hunger. We eat out of boredom, for entertainment, to comfort or reward ourselves.
One old wives' test: if you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're not hungry.
Old wives' tale: A healthy plate of food really will feature several different colours
Repeat:Old wives' tale: A healthy plate of food really will feature several different colours
Eat your colours
Rainbow colours your life : red, orange, yellow, green , blue, indigo, purple.
The idea that a healthy plate of food will feature several different colours is a good example of an old wives' tale about food that turns out to be good science, too.
The colours of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals
they contain. Many of these chemicals help to protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible.
Avoid long lists of ingredients.
The more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is. (A long list of ingredients in a recipe is not the same thing; that's fine.)
Avoid ingredients you don't recognise
Enhoxylated diglycerides? Cellulose? Xanthan gum? Calcium propionate? Ammonium sulfate? If you wouldn't cook with these additives yourself, why let others use these ingredients to cook for you?
The food scientists' chemistry set is designed to extend shelf life and make old food look fresher and more appetising than it really is. This only make them richer , while making you poorer in health and wealth, overtime.
Whether or not any of these additives pose a proven hazard to your health, many of them haven't been eaten by humans for very long, so they are best avoided.
Shop at the edges of the supermarket.
Most stores are laid out the same way: processed foods dominate the centre aisles, while fresh foods - meat, fish and dairy - line the walls.
Include some pre-digested foods
Eat foods that have been pre-digested by bacteria or fungi, such as yoghurt or soy sauce.
Don't overlook oily fish: Eat your mackerel and sardines
Repeat:Don't overlook oily fish: Eat your mackerel and sardines
Don't overlook oily fish
Mackerel, sardines and anchovies are particularly good choices. According to a Dutch proverb: 'A land with lots of herring can get along with few doctors.'
Only eat foods that eventually rot
The more processed a food is, the longer the shelf life, and the less nutritious it typically is. Real food is alive - and therefore it should eventually die. (One of the few exceptions is honey, which has a shelf life measured in centuries.)
Avoid foods that are labelled 'low-fat'
Removing fat from foods doesn't necessarily make them non-fattening. Carbohydrates can also make you fat, and many low-fat and non-fat foods are more sugary to make up for the loss of flavour. You're better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on 'lite' food products packed with sugars and salt.
Eat slowly enough to savour your food: you'll need less of it to feel satisfied. One strategy, encoded in a table manner that's been all but forgotten: 'Put down your fork between bites.'
IT'S NOT FOOD IF IT ARRIVED THROUGH THE WINDOW OF YOUR CAR
Forget the drive-through - drive on!
Drink the spinach water
Another bit of traditional wisdom with good science behind it: the water in which vegetables are cooked is rich in vitamins. Save it for soup or add it to sauces.
Only eat foods cooked by humans
In general, mass-produced food is cooked with too much salt, fat and sugar, as well as with preservatives, colourings and other biological novelties.
Buy smaller plates and glasses
The bigger the portion, the more we will eat. Supermarkets supersize portions to get us to buy more. But we don't have to do this at home.
One researcher found that simply switching from a 12in to a 10in dinner plate caused people to reduce their consumption by 22 per cent.
Eat like the French, Japanese, Italians or Greeks
People who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than those who eat a modern Western diet of processed foods.
Pay attention to how a culture eats as well as to what it eats: small portions eaten at leisurely communal meals; no second helpings or snacking.
Stop eating BEFORE you're full: Leave the table a little bit hungry
Stop eating BEFORE you're full: Leave the table a little bit hungry
Stop eating before you're full
We think it is normal to eat until you are full, but many cultures specifically advise stopping well before that point is reached. The Japanese say you should stop eating when you are 80 per cent full, while the Chinese specify 70 per cent. Thus the traditional advice: 'Leave the table a little bit hungry.'
Don't refuel at the petrol station
Food sold at petrol stations (except perhaps for the milk and water) is all highly processed - imperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened drinks.
Try not to eat on your own
When we eat alone, we eat more. The shared meal elevates eating from a biological process of fuelling the body to a ritual of family and community.
It's not food if it has the same name in all languages
Think Big Mac or Pringles.
Treat treats as treats
There's nothing wrong with special occasion foods, as long as every day is not a special occasion.
Chips, pastries and ice-cream offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn't deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored.
One way is to start making these foods yourself; you won't go to that much trouble every day. Another is to limit your consumption to weekends or social occasions.
Some people follow a so-called 'S policy': 'No snacks, no seconds, no sweets - except on days that begin with the letter S.'
Finally, break the rules once in a while
Obsessing over food rules is bad for your happiness, and probably for your health, too.
There will be special occasions when you will want to throw these rules out the window. All will not be lost. What matters is not the special occasion, but the everyday practice - the default habits that govern your eating on a typical day.
'All things in moderation,' it is often said, but we should never forget the wise addendum, sometimes attributed to Oscar Wilde: 'Including moderation.'
Adapted by Claire Cohen from Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan, which will be published by Penguin in May priced at £5.99.
Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue .
"Only eat foods cooked by humans"
Damn. Skippy get away from the frying pan, I'll do it myself.
- Sarah, London, 14/1/2010 15:54
"only eat foods that eventually rot', there is a lady on the internet who has kept a burger she bought from Mc D's in 1996. It looks exactly the same as when she bought it, the 'bread' bun has not decomposed at all."
If you really believe that, I have several million dollars I'd like to share with you, if you would only help me get them out of Nigeria.
Unless the bread has been dehydrated, it will go mouldy with penicillin. Preservatives help bread stay fresh longer, but not for ever. The French used to be happy to buy bread twice a day, because it was baked twice a day. I bet that doesn't happen so often nowadays. If you are happy to buy bread that turns green in 24 hours, go ahead.
- Bert, Peterborough, 14/1/2010 14:16
"And avoid the poison aspartame at all costs. This could be difficult, as this evil and dangerous chemical is often illegally added with a warning label on the package. \Artificial sweeteners are all dangerous," said BK.
If it's illegal, why does almost every soft fizzy drink contain it, and why are the authorities not doing anything about it? Have you heard of Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers. Artificial sweeteners have been thoroughly tested and, despite ignorant campiaigns, are still legal. If the campaigners had any real evidence to back up their nonsense (a) governments would be forced into banning them and, even if that didn't happen quickly enough, (b) manufacturers would be forced to stop using them because of the drop in sales.
- Bert, Peterborough, 14/1/2010 14:06
Anna also says:
Bert, refined white flour has minerals added to it to make it legally sellable as a foodstuff, as it's natural minerals and nutrition are removed in the processing. That's why wholemeal is better for you, it still has these minerals naturally.
But there is no difference between minerals and vitamins that are still there naturally, and ones that have been added to replace what has been lost in processing the flour. White flour is just as good for you, from a vitamins and minerals point of view, as wholemeal. Wholemeal will have more fibre (bran), but the benefits of that are debateable, and you can always buy bran and eat it if you think you are going short.
- Bert, Peterborough, 14/1/2010 13:49
It's not the food police's business what I eat..
That's your way of saying, I know i'm fat, leave me alone and let me stuff my face in peace.
- Steve, Oxford, 13/1/2010 23:42
Another good one would be 'don't serve your meal standing up' - because you'll always accidentally overfill your plate.
- Philip, Bankrupted Britain, 13/1/2010 23:13
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