Sunday, June 22, 2008

Real Food, by Nina Planck

Anyone who dabbles in so much scientific theory is bound to end up with a confusing and somewhat contradictory book. My eyes glazed over at all the acronyms Nina Planck liked to use.

I simply could not keep up with all of this sophisticated foodie nomenclature or be bothered referring back to the glossary of terms. (Here’s a few: ALA, DHA, DPA, CRP, CLA, HDL, LDL, CHD, GLA.)

In the end, after trawling though so many scientific ‘findings’, the author had to admit that she really could not give a clear answer to what causes heart attacks, a modern epidemic.

Which is all well and good, because we want to know that experts don't really know the answer to that question. Planck suggests that we don't smoke, eat in moderation, avoid processed, artificial foods, and exercise plenty. All common sense advice that everyone knows. More controversially, Planck says that animal fats - butter, eggs, cheese, milk - don't cause heart problems. In fact, a lot of Real Food is a defense of fats. Planck believes they're actually good for you.

I got a bit frustrated with Planck’s peppy, know all style. Sometimes she’d quote one latest study on some vitamin or food component, claiming some kind of health benefit. It's almost like putting in a throwaway comment quoting these latest studies. I thought why bother with some drop in-the-ocean scientific finding. It could mean nothing tomorrow, superseded by some new finding.

Nor did I entirely trust her complaint that a vegetarian diet she embarked upon in her early twenties caused her all manner of health ailments. We are told that once the author went back to a meat diet, she felt one hundred percent better. This sounded a bit fishy to me (no pun intended).

Planck also talks a lot about what she likes to eat, as if whatever she eats is good for all of us. As if we're even interested. What do I care how much lettuce she eats per day, or how much salt she keeps in storage?

That aside, the basic thrust of this book is: avoid industrial foods and only eat a traditional diet.

If you follow that simple, common sense advice, you don’t really need to read this book.
The old adage, eat anything you want, but in moderation, is perfectly useful here.

The most fascinating part of the book is Planck’s defence of traditional fats as being good for you.
Her argument that babies are raised on mother’s milk, full of fat and cholesterol, made complete sense to me.

Michael Pollan’s book, In Defence of Food made a similar point about real fats (as opposed to artificial, industrial fats, like margarine).

I would have to do more research on this topic to attain my own understanding of the subject, but it appears that full fat butter, cheese, milk, yogurt are all good for you. There’s good stuff in the fats.

Our bodies need fats to function properly. Our brains are in fact 60 percent fat.

Why aren’t we learning more about this in the media? Vested interests, embarrassment that official government health guidelines have been wrong for so long.

Both Pollan and Planck lay the blame for high levels heart attack at the feet of processed, artificial foods.

Both Pollan and Planck say this: eat real, whole foods, plucked from the earth, and be happy!
You can check out Nina's nifty website at

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