What Foods are Good for Me This Week?

In today’s New York Times, there is one article discussing the benefits of drinking coffee and one article questioning the positive health impacts of high levels of good cholesterol. It was comical to observe that one of the studies made me cheer – yay, more coffee! – and one of the studies made me frown – boo, less guacamole!

I try to stay on top of the latest health research but it seems like there is a different study coming out every week touting the benefits of one food over another. I seem to be more willing to believe the studies that tell me that things that I like are good for me.

For example, when the studies came out saying that red wine and dark chocolate are good for you, I stood up and paid attention. And rushed to the food store!

Health advice seems to change at a rapid pace. One day researchers are telling us that something is good for us but it is likely that, within a year, that same food item will be on the cover of a weekly magazine reporting the hazards of eating that particular food.

Eggs are a perfect example. I can’t keep track of whether I am supposed to be eating more eggs or less eggs. All I know is that my grandmother ate a lot of eggs and died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 92.

Maybe that is the health advice we should really follow – we could look at what worked for our elders and emulate that. My grandmother ate some delicious foods, so that is a health plan I think I could follow!

What do you think? Do you follow the latest research on which foods are good for you and which are not? Are there certain authorities that you wait to hear from before you make a change in what you eat? What food advice did you learn from your elders?

I would love to hear your thoughts. And thanks for reading.

23 Comments

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23 responses to “What Foods are Good for Me This Week?

  1. Reblogged this on KafeMandela and commented:
    I Luv Coffee too! Especially Organic!

  2. Anonymous

    I think changing what you eat is probably the hardest thing for people to do, at least people with options. I watched my dad struggle with his weight most of my life, yoyo dieting, hopping on every new fad, until finally he simply went back to eating what he grew up eating and learned to live as a somewhat overweight old guy who can’t stand chicken. My mom, on the other hand, never struggled with her weight but became diabetic in her 40s. She struggles to this day to eat healthy foods that allow her to control her diabetes. Food holds such an essential place in our lives. Our relationship to food, how it shapes the way we approach the world and feel within it, how we connect with others and our earth through it, how we see ourselves in history and place because of it…this is the stuff of the soul. So while I think we all like to read the studies and we cheer the stuff we like (wine, coffee) and try the stuff we don’t (no avocados), in the end what moves us is much deeper and much more complex.

    • Hi Kathy!! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You are so right. Many of the women in my family have struggled with their weight and their relationships with food their whole lives. This is such a complex, emotional issue. I definitely use food to feel better when I am stressed, which I know is not right. But maybe if it is only occasionally, it’s OK? So complicated and fascinating to me. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathy! You’re the best!

  3. You make some good points. It’s true: conflicting diet advice abounds. And all the camps, it seems, from the vegetarians and vegans to the paleo meat and veggie ones, seem to have solid science supporting their perspective. I’ve been following this for years, and have concluded that everyone is different, and has different needs and motivations both physically, and (as the anonymous commenter above said) in those deeper and less tangible ways. I do think there is a lot of wisdom in learning from history, and since there’s a ton of bad science out there (often funded by groups interested in specific outcomes), our own intuition and finding our personal balance seems to be the most important thing to do.

    • Absolutely. And to a certain extent, we know what is generally good for us and what is generally bad for us. As long as we can use the age-old strategy of “everything in moderation” we will probably have done what we can do. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment!

  4. I agree completely. I’m reading “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre at the moment, and he talks about these ‘nutritionist’ fads a lot. It’s incredibly interesting, how many unsubstantiated claims (which have real affect on how people choose to eat, like your dad) are out there.

    • Absolutely. And you can’t help but feel that a pressure to conform to a certain size and shape – especially for women – contributes to this. But some of these fads can be dowright dangerous. Thanks so much for the comment! Glad I found your blog…

  5. As a health researcher who does some work with nutrition, I have often remarked on exactly the problem you point out, and I have asked myself who is at fault for our rapidly changing guidelines to healthy eating. I think there are largely 2 guilty parties. First is the media. They know that studies like this make good headlines, even when scientists view the results as tentative. They’ve got us jumping this way and that every time there is a new study, which is often.

    The second guilty party is researchers themselves (ourselves). We all know that correlation is not causation, and most of the analyses we do go to great lengths to take this into account. But often these lengths are not great enough, or fail to appreciate how complex the world is.

    Let’s say that I try to study the link between beta-carotene (a nutrient found in many fruits and veggies) and cancer risk. I conduct blood tests to measure beta-carotene and follow patients for years to see who gets cancer. Well, we all know that in modern western countries rich people eat more fruits and vegetables, and that being rich has lots of other intangible benefits which are likely to lower cancer risk. So we better control for socio-economic status (SES), to make sure we don’t find a link between beta-carotene and lower cancer risk that is just due to the additional benefits of being rich.

    Unfortunately, our measures of SES are imperfect (income and education don’t fully describe the cultural differences of class), so we are likely to only partially succeed in controlling for SES in the analysis. This problem is widely under-appreciated by researchers. At the same time, because rich people eat more fruits and veggies, when we control for SES we may inadvertently get rid of the statistical pattern we want to see – the link between consumption of fruits and veggies containing beta-carotene and cancer risk.

    So after our (long, expensive) study, we publish results in some fancy journal showing that there is (or isn’t) an effect of beta-carotene on cancer risk. The results are highly significant, and the media eats up the story. The readers eat up their fruits and veggies, boosting sales of blueberry juice and acai extract. But in the end, we don’t know anything: if we find an effect, it could be just due to bias, because we haven’t sufficiently controlled for SES. If we don’t find an effect, it could be because we controlled away the real effect when we included SES in the model. So a few years later, someone else will come along, find the opposite, and conventional wisdon will change again.

    My advice: read Michael Pollan, eat like our (ancient) ancestors, and ignore all health advice you hear in the news.

    • That makes so much sense. News articles are so frequently short sound bitey type pieces that do not really explore the methodologies and limitations on a study. It is helpful to hear that from a researcher that actually understands this field. Sometimes I can just feel whipped around from one fad food to another, just as you describe. Good thing I like blueberries! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and for adding to the conversation.

    • Why would FaceBook want to allow this integration if they do not see any of the fiaaicnnl returns? How does this help or improve the FaceBook user’s experience on the social network? Is this just another way that FaceBook users getting taken to the cleaners by losing their personal data and privacy, while agencies market products and services to them?

  6. Pingback: Why we shouldn’t trust news stories on scientific studies about what foods are healthy « maketheworldworkbetter

  7. Ooh! Thanks for the mention. I am new to this so I really appreciate the shout-out!

  8. Inspired by this post, I’m expanding my original post to include a series on why it’s so hard to know what to eat. Here’s the first (next) entry in the series:
    http://maketheworldworkbetter.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/more-on-why-science-and-the-media-dont-know-much-about-nutrition-part-1/

    Thanks for the push – it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but would not have written without this stimulus.

  9. Pingback: Let Them Eat Salt: Who Funds These Studies? | newsofthetimes

  10. Pingback: Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America | newsofthetimes

  11. Pingback: Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America | newsofthetimes

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