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Food fight! Eat real food, part 1. June 30, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I was absolutely outraged to read an article in the July/August 2013 issue of The Atlantic called “The Cure for Obesity: How Science Is Engineering Healthy Junk Food.”

The author, David H. Freedman, basically says that no one will ever eat real, healthy food, and that the only solution is to eat reduced-calorie junk and fast food that’s been engineered to be better for you than the hi-cal, hi-trans-fat junk we’re all (supposedly) stuffing ourselves with now. As an example, he suggests that manufacturers put somewhat healthy ingredients in the middle of their candy bars and assume no one will notice.

He also demonizes the people who suggest that we try to cut down on processed foods and eat more whole, fresh foods, such as veggies, fruits, and carbs like brown (as opposed to white) rice. And he especially hates proponents of organic and locally grown produce. Using author Michael Pollan as an example, he has a section called “Michael Pollan Has No Clothes,” and refers throughout the article to those who try to promote a healthy whole-foods diet as “pollanites.”

This article is such a tangle of ignorance and pretzel logic that it’s challenging to even know where to begin. So I’ll begin where he does: with three smoothies. Smoothies are an easy target because they’re trendy among health-obsessed stars and athletes, sort of a pretentious excuse for a milkshake. They can also contain stomach-churning combinations of ingredients.

In fact, one of the three smoothies the author tried was made from green vegetables, and despite being super-healthful and low-cal, he couldn’t finish it, noting that it “smelled like lawn clippings and tasted like liquid celery.” Besides, it was… green.

I have to agree with him there. Drinks just shouldn’t be green, unless they’re limeade, margaritas, or mojitos. I don’t care how healthy it is, it’s just wrong. (I felt the same way when I was served a margarita once that was the precise color of blue mouthwash. It tasted fine, but still. “Blue agave” doesn’t bring that color to mind, and I know my agaves.)

The author also tried a smoothie made fresh tableside at another restaurant using organic produce, including an apple, blueberries, carrots, and kale. Despite the presence of kale (which I love, but would prefer to eat, not drink), he found this one “tasty,” but decided all on his own that it contained 300 calories per 16-ounce cup.

How could the produce that he mentions, without added fat or sugar, add up to 300 calories? Let’s do the math: apple, 95 calories; 1/2 cup blueberries, 42; 1/2 cup chopped raw carrot, 26; 1 cup raw kale, 33 calories. I don’t know how your calculator’s working, but mine says that’s 196 calories, 239 if you use a whole cup of blueberries.

Finally, he tells us, he strikes gold on the third try, “with a delicious blueberry-pomegranate smoothie that rang in at a relatively modest 220 calories.” He bought it at McDonald’s. He may have bought it, but I’m not buying his argument. I looked up the ingredients in a McDonald’s smoothie, and here’s what I found:

True, they have 210-220 calories for a small (12-ounce) smoothie, about the same number as a small order of fries or a medium Coke, according to Martha Edwards on the blog That’s Fit (www.thatsfit.com, “McDonald’s Smoothies: More Calories Than a Cheeseburger?”). It’s cheating to compare a 12-ounce drink to one with 16 ounces, but even so, the 16-ounce, fresh, organic, actually healthy smoothie only had 19 more calories.

Large (22-ounce) McDonald’s smoothies have 330 calories (more than a cheeseburger), and 70 grams of sugar, derived from pureed fruit, fruit juice, added sugar, and of course, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in that low-fat yogurt, which also—vegetarian spoiler alert!—contains gelatin. And needless to say, it’s not organic.

How much sugar is 70 grams, exactly, for those of us metrically challenged types? A teaspoon of sugar weighs about 4 grams. Ten teaspoons of sugar would then weigh 40 grams, and 70 grams of sugar is more than 18 teaspoons of sugar, more than a third of a cup. Forget the obesity epidemic, Mr. Freedman, ever heard of the diabetes epidemic? Sugar is a cause of inflammation, the underlying cause of chronic disease, from diabetes and heart disease to non-genetically induced cancer. Bring it on!!! As he says in the article, “Thanks, McDonald’s!”

This is enough droning on for one day, but, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”

‘Til next time,