what to eat

If you pay attention to any news source, or to advertising, or to any nutrition-specific publication, chances are good that you’re very confused about what to eat.  Actually, it’s much stronger than just paying attention: if you’re walking through life with your eyes open, you are constantly being shouted at about what kind of food (and food-like substances) to put in your body.  Beyond the obvious (Soda! Chips! “Meat”!) onslaught of big business advertising, we have headlines like this one yesterday from NPR:

Billed as clarity, but only adds to general confusion–now we are supposed to incorporate the glycemic index into our daily lives? (Not to mention the language “may help keep weight off longer than other diets” that has failure built right in!)

The most recent confusing food news is the study on organic food from Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy. “Based on data from 237 previously conducted studies, the Stanford report concluded that when it comes to certain nutrients, there is not much difference between organic and conventionally grown food. ” (source)

But…of course that’s true! The wisdom of the plant remains through many layers of pesticides and human intervention.  (Though humans are trying to intervene with the wisdom of the plant, but I’ll save my thoughts on GMO and Monoculture for another day.)

However, the study also found that “organic foods have 31 percent lower levels of pesticides, fewer food-borne pathogens and more phenols, a substance believed to help fight cancer.” (source)

So what does this study mean/who is it for/why does it matter? I agree with Alice Waters that this study misses the point–conversations about the nutrient density of foods or the gylcemic index aren’t going to fuel a food revolution because they’re not exciting.  Those conversations don’t account for taste, or beauty, or sharing a meal with friends.  They don’t address the eater as an intelligent being capable of listening to his body, and they certainly don’t communicate that food is love.


To know what to eat, we need to change the conversation–to something that’s more palatable, accessible to anyone getting in touch with their taste buds. These are some great starting places for new conversation:


  • “Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” Wendell Berry


  • “In the pursuit of great flavor, you’re attached to great ecology by definition.  A delicious carrot, a delicious slice of lamb, has attached to it these decisions in the pasture/in the field that are both thoughtful and intensely ethical.” Dan Barber

image // my lunch


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