Monday, April 2, 2012

Committing Suicide in Increments

The great American biologist, E. O. Wilson, observed that, in nature, if it's beautiful and easy to capture, it's probably lethal.  He cited a number of examples including that of a lad in Florida who noticed an exotically colored snake which did not resist when he picked it up and put it in his shirt pocket.  When he reached to remove the coral snake, it bit him and killed him.

There seems to be something of a corollary to Wilson's theory in the science of human nutrition.  It would go something like this: if it looks good and tastes good, it's probably bad for you.

Sad, indeed, for those of us who used to enjoy eating. Worse yet, they keep changing the rules on us.

For example: they told me the average life span of residents in a village somewhere in the High Himalaya was nearly 110 years because they ate a lot of yogurt.  I decided to eat yogurt but its taste was unappealingly sour.  Then someone gave me yogurt with fruit on the bottom.  Ah! I've been eating yogurt with fruit on the bottom for decades, proud that this healthy food, at least, had found a permanent place in my diet. Now I'm told: All yogurt contains lactose, which is a naturally occurring carbohydrate; generally in a single serving it equals about 12-15 grams of carbs, which is fine, but when you add the jammy fruit you can nearly double that amount. You end up with nearly 30g of carbs, half of which is the processed, quick-burning kind. Stick to the creamy (and protein-packed) Greek variety, I'm told,  and add some cut-up fresh fruit.  Wonderful.  I went out looking for  Greek yogurt and by the time I found it the once-fresh fruit was old and moldy.

Another healthy food I was told about was bagels.  "Stop eating those Danish pastries, that sugary breakfast cereal, those awful donuts," I was told.  "Eat healthy, low-fat bagels."  Done.  Now, howewver, "they" tell me:  even if you opt for whole wheat, many deli bagels can have 250-300 calories and more than 50 grams of carbs each. That's OK if you plan to run three or four miles after breakfast.Otherwise . . .

For decades, I loved chocolate malted milk shakes.  Such an energy boost.  Then they told me about all the unhealthy fat even one such treat put into my belly.  I was tortured by withdrawal symptoms. But I discovered "smoothies" and other "healthy" fruit juice drinks.  Fantastic! Almost as good as "malts" and good for me!  Oops! Come the nutrition police:  these can seem like a healthy drink to get on the go. But a 16-ounce fruit-heavy juice can have as many as 75 grams of carbohydrates and 64 grams of sugar (ditto for smoothies). If you can't start the day without juice, they command, stick to about 4 ounces, which has a reasonable 15-20 grams  of carbs.

Damn! Damn! Damn!

My brother-in-law Ted, a fit specimen and wonderful tennis player, ate lots of popcorn.  "Air and healthy grain," he would say.  When we watched movies on the TV, or went to theaters, Ted always supplied the popcorn.  Air and healthy grains.

Wrong again.

The nutrition police: Popcorn is already about 1,200 calories, almost all from carbohydrates (and a whopping 580 milligrams of sodium) for a large-sized bag. That's before you add the butter. Don't waste an entire day's worth carbs and calories while you mindlessly munch your way through "The Hunger Games".

Hunger Games? I'm starving to death trying to stay healthy.  A health-food-store cracker maybe? With a touch of organic cheddar cheese?  Please?

Nope.  Processed flour and high-fat cheese can still be called "organic."

I'm headed off to Starbucks to think about this over coffee.

Not so fast, Thomas. "Their fancy coffees can have as many calories as a meal, (sometimes upwards of 400), and their carb count can be on par with a pre-marathon pasta binge. Some have 60-80 grams of carbs per serving. Add in sugars, saturated fats in whipped cream and chocolate flavorings, and you've got dessert in a very large plastic cup."

Pour me another drink, Sam.  Play it.  Play "As Time Goes By."  By, God, I'm gonna go out happy.


  1. Tom,

    I've been on the paleo diet for two months; the only thing I've lost is two months. Time to take a trip to my local patisserie!

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