Editor’s Letter: November 2010
By Laura Aiken
Recently, someone told me that pineapple is bad for you, even citing a
doctor as the source. I had to wince. Having just coming home from an
educational few days at the International Baking Industry Exposition
(IBIE) in Las Vegas, the words echoed what I fear is perhaps the largest
overarching challenge facing the entire food industry and its
Recently, someone told me that pineapple is bad for you, even citing a doctor as the source. I had to wince. Having just coming home from an educational few days at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas, the words echoed what I fear is perhaps the largest overarching challenge facing the entire food industry and its consumers. Just what does “bad for you” mean, anyway? So many health misconceptions are floating around out there, one doesn’t even know where to begin to explain the term, let alone define it in black and white. OK, smoking is bad for you. Drinking a case of beer in one sitting is bad for you. You could hardly equate eating pineapple with either of these ingestible activities. And “tastes bad” – well that’s a whole other story. Life’s too short for food that tastes bad.
At an IBIE seminar hosted by the Grain Foods Foundation, one of the panel experts mentioned seeing a doctor asked on television that very morning how people can make better choices in fast food restaurants. Should they go with the grilled chicken or the burger? The doctor replied, “Why not just cut out half the bun?” This is an obviously exasperating answer for the baking industry. It’s a poor answer in general.
I’m not meaning to pick on doctors, but the already confused public perceives them as a very credible source for diet information even if they are not registered dietitians. Food is highly complex and I’m sure every health professional that is looked to for information is trying to give the best guidance they can, based on what they know. But they are as human as anyone else, and not all are specialists in the area of nutrition. The big-picture nature of health (and its myriad factors) coupled with individual complexity can make cut-and-dried two-minute TV clips just plain damaging to an already confused consumer. And the Internet is a labyrinth of misinformation. You really have to separate the wheat from the chaff there.
I used to think food was a simple matter, and perhaps at a basic level it really is. Eat a variety of it, with most of it resembling the pictures on Canada’s Food Guide, and treats are surely OK in moderation. I prefer to think of different edible products as more or less healthy for me, and just try to strike a balance between nutrients and calories in versus calories out. Sure, if you overindulge in too many less-healthful items, it could contribute to illness, disease, or premature death. But a lot of other factors are at stake, such as activity level, genetics, metabolism … and sometimes, strange luck. Some people will always manage to defy the odds by abusing their bodies mercilessly, yet they continue to rock and roll into their golden years, seemingly unaffected. Sometimes health is just plain unexplainable, just like some trends.
Some people are taking up gluten-free diets as a method for weight loss. At the same IBIE grain foods seminar, Shelley Case, a leading expert on gluten-free diets who serves on the medical advisory boards of the Celiac Disease Foundation, Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, and the Canadian Celiac Association, told us that while progress has been made, many gluten-free foods are still high in fat and not as nutritious as their glutenous counterparts. This can lead to weight gain in people starting gluten-free diets. Basically, unless a person is celiac, wheat sensitive, or allergic, why partake in a gluten-free diet for nutritional or health reasons? Clearly, confusion reigns in the marketplace.
Food has become a staple of social conversation these days. Unfortunately, the litany of half-truths out there being discussed only leads to more propaganda. What’s “bad” is a slippery slope. Carbs were bad, thanks to the Atkins diet. It’s important to remember even good things can be bad in excess. Perhaps moderation needs to be the mantra of today’s masses.