Join 3,500 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The impact of food on mental health
March 16, 2006 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Feeding Minds - the impact of food on mental health. 3Mb PDF, Google cache. Only 3% of men and 5% of women now eat five portions of fruit and veg per day. This report lays out the evidence linking trends in food consumption with mental ill-health.
See also: Myths About Food and Low Income (PDF 168Kb)
posted by Lanark (86 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm crazy for Cocoa Puffs.
posted by mischief at 11:53 AM on March 16, 2006


You're crazy for them?
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2006


Insert joke about mischief's mental health meds here.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2006


A typical day's meals for me:

Breakfast - Bran flakes with berries and 2% milk, 2 cups coffee
Lunch - Green salad with chick peas, roasted chicken breast or albacore tuna, salsa and assorted dressings
Supper - Bean based meal (chili, bean soup, red beans and rice) with roughly equal portions of beans, meat and onions/peppers sauted in olive oil
Snack - Beano
posted by mischief at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2006


Pardon me if this is condescending but I've been saying this for years and years.

As someone who struggles a fair amount with various grades of wildly swinging depression, eating well always makes me feel better.

This doesn't mean you have to be a Mormon and abstain from all coffee, alcohol, medicinal herbs, tobacco, or whatever.

But, for fuck's sake, don't try and subsist on junk food. Avoid heavily processed foods, trans fats, artificial flavors and sweetners, high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar.

Eating a simple, hearty diet of whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies and a smidgen of good fats and oils, along with even a marginal amount of exercise does me and my mental health a huge amount of good. And the effects are noticable almost immediately, as in over a period of a few days, if not hours.

And, frankly, poverty isn't an excuse. Ignorance and a lack of education may be, but not poverty. I've lived below the poverty threshold almost all of my life. It's actually much cheaper - at least for now - to eat well then it is to live on brand name packaged junk food if you know what to buy and where to buy it.


It also probably helps to keep a sense of perspective, and to accept that our society is often collectively mad, as well as unsatisfying, and unfulfilling. Seeking out intellectually or spiritually rewarding activities or groups also does wonders.

I don't mean to trivialize depression at all. It is indeed a scourge and an epidemic. I'm very, very intimately aware of the blackness and despair of depression and what it feels like to be trapped and hopeless. (I could show my street cred by relating numerous tales of experiences and ideations, but for the sake of some brevity I ask that you take my word for it.)

But there is hope, and there is light, and it is within you, yourself, whether you believe it or not. Feed your body, mind, and soul. Give it a shot, and see how you feel.
posted by loquacious at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2006


mischief is a healthy dude.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2006


Not to derail, but - Loquacious - as a person of "modest income" in general endeavoring to eat and live healthier, can you share some meal ideas, shopping tips, and general staple foods?

I'm from a mostly norwegian background, so if it doesn't involve dead animals, bread, buttery pastries, or some sort of starcheriffic tuber, I may not know about it... =)

in fact, I'd open this up to everyone: Share your cheap and nutritious recipes/meal plans
posted by stenseng at 12:19 PM on March 16, 2006


I don't know if it works that way for everyone, loquacious. I've never noticed any difference to how I feel based on what I eat, unless what I eat has actually made me sick. The only thing I've noticed is that I gain a little in endurance and in general health when I take vitamins consistantly, but it's not dramatic. Exercise is different, however. I feel a great deal better if I exercise consistantly.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2006


Not to be a party pooper, because it was a good link then too, but this is a double post.
posted by OmieWise at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2006


http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/47567
posted by bashos_frog at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2006


that was for stenseng
posted by bashos_frog at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2006


loquacious,

You couldn't be more correct. All the Prozac in the world couldn't substitute a balanced diet, with periodic hikes in the wilderness.

I've posted a list on a wall in my home of comments from a forum on depression, where the individuals discuss the adverse effects of various anti-depression drugs. Every time I think it might be too much work to go out and excercise, I read the comments, only to realize how much harder it'd be to deal with all the bullshit side effects brought about by those drugs.

There's no negative side effect to eating and living healty.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2006


healthy... heh.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2006


There's no negative side effect to eating and living healty.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 12:26 PM PST on March 16 [!]


You get to be around longer so you can become outraged more often.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2006


mr.curmudgeon : "There's no negative side effect to eating and living healty."

That's a tautology. Problem is, knowing what "living healthy" constitutes, if it's possible.
posted by Gyan at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2006


I've lived in many lifestyles over the years. I was born a hippie living off the land and "off the grid." I grew up in a small town eating a combination of healthy co-op food and McD's, Sizzler, etc. I then spent several years eating almost exclusively school cafeteria (junk) food, and drive-thru junk food. Then in high school I went on a healthy food kick, and ate almost exclusively health food store fare. In college I fell back on dorm (ultra junk) food and drive-thrus again.

Now I can afford to shop at fancy grocery stores, buy mostly organic vegatables and "free range" meats. I cook most of my own food, and when I eat out (in San Francisco, where I live) I have a variety of healthy restaurant choices.

With my varied experience, here's what I've found: you crave what you eat. I mean it. When I ate lots of junk food, I would crave junk food, and healthy food seemed unappetizing. Now, I can't imagine eating McD's. The last time I ate there I became physically ill. 10 years ago I'd eat two big macs for lunch.

Your body gets used to something, and then continues to want it. Start down a path of healthy eating, and you'll crave healthy food.

I don't crave candy, I don't crave grease, and I especailly don't crave salty food. During my years at college, I got so used to eating things like Del Taco, that I started to really like it. A few years of not eating it and that interest faded away.

I almost always crave the same thing now: lean meat and fresh vegetables. It's what my body wants, and it's what I want. It's what I eat, too. If I'm surrounded by junk food, and start eating it, I will get used to it, and will start to crave it.

Maybe I'm a freak, but I think the same would be true for most people. You just need to put a little effort into eating healthy things, and your body will start to crave them. When I eat healthy food now, it tastes good, it feels good going down, and I feel good for hours afterward. When I eat nasty food now, I feel sick afterwards, get depressed and irritable, and I don't feel good until I poop it out. Boy do I feel good after I poop that stuff out. It's like expelling demons. Literally. I can feel the edge of depression and irritibility subside within minutes of purging unhealthy foods.

Food is a drug. You just need to get addicted to the right stuff.
posted by bigtex at 12:36 PM on March 16, 2006


You get to be around longer so you can become outraged more often.

I'd like to be around longer. For example, I want to outlive Cheney and Bush Jr., just so I can dance on their graves.

I'm practicing my soft-shoe right now. I'm really the most positive Curmudgeon you could ever meet.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 12:36 PM on March 16, 2006


That's a tautology. Problem is, knowing what "living healthy" constitutes, if it's possible.

Eat healthy foods and excercise. It's pretty easy, actually.

I think, in this day and age, we all have a pretty good idea of what things are healthy and not. Seriously. Artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, etc, are not healthy. Fresh, whole ingredients like whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fresh meats, cooked in a sensible way (i.e. don't completely drown stuff in butter, oil, salt, and sugar) is healthy.

Even walking around the block a few times is better than nothing. I walk to work every day. It's only a mile each way, but I lost 20 pounds in the 6 months I've been doing it.

Simple stuff, folks.
posted by bigtex at 12:41 PM on March 16, 2006


Gyan,

Problem is, knowing what "living healthy" constitutes, if it's possible.

Well, I'm going to stick with not smoking, not ingesting massive amounts of addictive substances, and avoiding a completely sedentary lifestyle. Somehow, I think that'll help a bit.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 12:43 PM on March 16, 2006


From the poverty article (by the way, these are summary marks ;-P ):

"Richer families consume more low-fat milk and non-white bread." However, 2% and skim milk costs the same as whole milk, and store-brand wheat bread costs the same as white bread.

"Low income families eat more salt (because more of their food is processed)." In my experience, processed food is more expensive than basic ingredients.

"Lean meat gives way to economy sausages." When the amount of fat in sausage is taken into account (most of which is drained off and discarded), the price of the lean portion is often more expensive than the price of lean meat to begin with.

"Fruit juice gives way to economy colas." Water, 8 oz * 8 times a day.

"Per calorie, chocolate is cheaper than carrots." 80% of everybody is overweight.

"It's not easy living on cabbage soup in convenience, take-away society" Do they have any clue how many gallons of cabbage soup one can make for the price of one take-out meal??? OK, maybe not the greatest example in the world strictly speaking, but for the price of one take-out meal, I can make one hell of a cabbage-based dish with enough ham to satisfy anyone's cravings for fat and salt.

"Sausage and chips, packet puddings, cakes and soft drinks ... Not only are they cheap..." WHAT?! Cheap???

At this point, I stopped reading.
posted by mischief at 12:44 PM on March 16, 2006


mischief is a healthy dude.

Well now he is. Ask him if he can stand near a microwave when it's running.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:44 PM on March 16, 2006


All the Prozac in the world couldn't substitute a balanced diet, with periodic hikes in the wilderness.

And vice versa.
posted by transona5 at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2006


PST: LOL

I'm healthier now than the previous 20 years, but that ain't saying much.
posted by mischief at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2006


>All the Prozac in the world couldn't substitute a balanced diet,

Right, major depression is just bad diet. Maybe those slackers just need a kick in the pants.

sigh

I hate when these studies bring out all the health food/alt med/homepathy nutters out of the closet. Diet may help with your simple mood problem, or whatever but as a cure all for all things controversial and modern (this time its prozac), well, lets not get too crazy.

Is there no room for the old cause vs correlation argument here either? This webpage claims a change over fifty years. FIFTY years in a modern world is a whole lot more change than just diet. Maybe its the Subway talking but color me skeptical. But I guess if you got a long standing loquacious-like axe to grind then go for it, now is your time to shine, even if you're 100% completely incorrect.

Next week we'll see a few "studies" over the changing methodologies of astrologers and the token mefites will come out of the closet with their 'I knew this shit was true' anecdotes. Or something about how television is literally rotting minds. etc etc. Its an old game. Its almost a modern ritual to pull some study then generalize about it based on your anecdotal evidence and come to many feel good conclusions.
posted by skallas at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2006


in fact, I'd open this up to everyone: Share your cheap and nutritious recipes/meal plans

I'm not going to take the time to detail a month's worth of meals like that hillbilly housewife post (see above, great post, too). I will tell you about one thing, though: a good pasta sauce.

Meat or no, pasta sauce is one of the easiest and most satisfying things to make. There are lots of ways to do it, too.

You can just sautee a bunch of vegetables and dump them on some pasta, or you can get a stick blender and make a rich, creamy sauce, with nothing more than tomatoes and mushrooms.

Either way, put a pan on low and put a little bit of olive oil in it (not extra virgin, that's stuff's for eating raw, like on salads). Chop up vegetables to whatever size you like. I use tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, etc. Some things need to cook longer than others, like mushrooms, onions, eggplant and zucchini. Put those in first. Add in the other vegetables like tomatoes and peppers near the end so they don't get cooked too much. I like them nearly raw.

Optionally, in a small pot, cook some tomatoes, mushrooms, and maybe some other vegetables down to be soft. Use the stick blender to make a sauce. I recommend removing the seeds, water, and skin from the tomatoes so your sauce can stay thick. Throw the other sauteed vegetables into this, or have it plain.

There are so many ways to make this stuff. I've learned it all by experimentation. Pasta sauce is hard to ruin, because you're just taking a bunch of stuff you already like and warming it up, basically. Try it, you'll like it! Plus, with enough variation on the ingredients and pasta type, you can eat it over and over and not get sick of it. Of course, I like to mix things up a bit. It's all about experimentation.
posted by bigtex at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2006


You just need to put a little effort into eating healthy things, and your body will start to crave them.

It's true. I'm experiencing this phenomenon right now. I'm currently in the process of weening myself off of "convenient" foods; pre-packaged shit loaded with sodium, sugars and fat.

I NEVER in my life have craved a salad. I was always a meat and potatos kinda' guy. A fucking SALAD? Ha! I used to see that as nothing more than rabbit food. Now I find myself looking forward to it. I actually enjoy the various flavors present in a creatively prepared salad. What's the world coming to?

Best thing, I feel FULL without feeling HEAVY. I feel energized as well.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2006


bigtex: I agree. I have developed an aversion to fat meat (actually any kind of greasy stuff, only exception is ice cream), and at some random times I will crave broccoli.

Only one thing:

I don't eat sugar, neither artificial sweetener (unless it's something canned, then I'll get it diet). I don't sweeten at all my coffee, my juice, my milk. Yet, in random moments, I will crave sweet cookies. The most sweet I can get, like, the ones that almost glow in the dark, and their artificial fruit smell can be felt from miles. I will go to the supermarket, buy one packet, and eat it at once. Then my head will start aching from hyperglicemia. Then insulin will kick in and I'll be drowsy. About one week later, there I go again.

Just for the record: There was a time I'd eat 40 packs of cookies a month. Then I stopped eating them at all for about six months, and then I established the rule of only buying when craving, no stocks allowed, and now I've relaxed even this, but I will rarely eat more than 5 packs a month (still I never leave a pack half eaten -- I always eat it at once like described above).
posted by qvantamon at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2006


Basically, skallas, I think you are correct.
OTOH, indigestion makes me grumpy.
posted by mischief at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2006


bigtex: I think, in this day and age, we all have a pretty good idea of what things are healthy and not. Seriously. Artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, etc, are not healthy.

Actually, I'd say we didn't have a good idea of what was healthy. Look at all the various diet plans; carbs are good in some plans, bad in others. Some people advocate low fat, others don't limit it. We know what vitamins and minerals are necessary, but aside from the basic knowledge of calorie throughput, we're lacking a lot of knowledge with regard to what causes weight gain and what affects overall health. Even nutritionists can't agree.

Furthermore, I don't think you can just go out and assume artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are bad. First of all, they're not the same compounds, so they can't be judged as a group. Secondly, we test the hell out of them. Third, plants are full of pigments, natural preservatives, and all kinds of natural pesticides and herbacides. You can't just assume the plant's versions are safe and our synthetics are bad.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2006


That last link is kind of funny, inasmuch as it embodies the ugly liberal trend to not recognize personal accountability.

From the pdf:
This wide variety of foods on the shelves is not, of course, eaten by everyone. There are significant differences in shopping patterns between different income groups, as official data from the government’s own national surveys show. Higher income families tend to consume healthier versions of most foods compared with lower income families: for example, they purchase more low-fat milk and less full-fat milk, more wholemeal bread and less white bread compared with low income families.

Of course, those examples have no cost difference. Whole milk is actually more expensive than skim (if there's a difference) and cheap whole wheat bread isn't much different in price from cheap white bread.

Then the study goes on to talk about how chocolate is a better deal than carrots per calorie as if poor people in Britain or the US really want for total calories.

(Yes, yes. Your local market in a bad neighborhood only carries Crisco, whole milk, Wonder bread, asbestos packaged as snack crackers and containers of mercury.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2006


Right, major depression is just bad diet. Maybe those slackers just need a kick in the pants.

That's not the point.

There are many people out there who are born with real chemical imbalances. These will (likely) never be solved by diet alone.

However, there are also many, MANY, people out there who are perfectly fine, and are just eating terrible foods. Some people can eat anything and be fine, while others (like me) absolutely have to eat healthy foods. If I eat crap, I feel like crap. I'm especially sensitive to what I consume. But, like I said, not everyone is like this. I wasn't built to last, I suppose.

After the apocolypse (y'know, Mad Max style), I'll go crazy and die because I won't be able to eat right. The people who can eat potatoes and rice, or McD's and Taco Bell all day and feel fine, well they will live on and inherit the earth. Until then, the weak among us need to watch what they eat.
posted by bigtex at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2006


All this is making me hungry for chinese.
posted by mischief at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2006


Right, major depression is just bad diet. Maybe those slackers just need a kick in the pants.

Dude..I've suffered major depression throughout most of my life, and given what I've been through, I feel completely comfortable saying, yes, for a VAST majority of people, their depression is a testiment to a complete lack of self-discipline in diet and lifestyle. Myself included. There was a catalyst that started the cycle of melancholy, but I perpetuated it myself. I can, almost scientifically, re-create deep depression by falling back into olds ways. Staying up late, getting little sleep, eating like shit, etc.

I don't want to write off the idea that some depression is in fact, derived from a chemical imbalance that could best be treated with medicine. But damn, you have to admit that it's way too easy for people to just give into the idea that a pill will solve all their problems.

I believe that therapy, along with a conscious effort at living a "mindful" life, ie: paying attention to how one treats themselves...can do just as much, if not more to help lift one out of the muck.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2006


The people who can eat potatoes and rice, or McD's and Taco Bell all day and feel fine, well they will live on and inherit the earth.

I call those folks "people who haven't turned 30 yet."
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2006


(Yes, yes. Your local market in a bad neighborhood only carries Crisco, whole milk, Wonder bread, asbestos packaged as snack crackers and containers of mercury.)

And that IS the point. It's not like fresh foods are out of people's price range all the time. There are farmer's markets and food co-ops and such (at least where I live). But people who are stuck in a shitty neighborhood, have no car to go grocery shopping elsewhere at a real grocery store that has a real produce section or can't afford to take the bus every time they want to buy food, or just don't know any better, will end up buying crap at local markets.

Some people just don't know how to cook, and rely on pre-made foods. The cheapest of pre-made foods are quite craptacular and are loaded with chemicals and are lacking in nutrients. If you want to buy a microwave dinner that is remotely healthy, it's going to cost upwards of four dollars, where the same quantity of frozen dinner (i.e. same quantity of food and calories) that is going to cost a buck is also going to have more preservatives, oil, salt, pesticides in the vegetables, and hormones in the meat.
posted by bigtex at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2006


in fact, I'd open this up to everyone: Share your cheap and nutritious recipes/meal plans

One of the cheapest ways to eat better and healthier is a 20-30$ slowcooker, bags of beans and some Beano or Gas-x. You can replace the slowcooker with a pressure cooker for ~50$ more. Buy cheap meat with bones to make stock.

Any cheap bunch of greens are great simmered for a couple of hours with a smoked hamhock.

Tomatoes, canned (from season) or seasonal, will make either of those better.
posted by stavrogin at 1:03 PM on March 16, 2006


The people who can eat potatoes and rice, or McD's and Taco Bell all day and feel fine, well they will live on and inherit the earth.

I call those folks "people who haven't turned 30 yet."


Quite true. I think that as I approach 30, I'm becoming even more sensitive to diet. Oh boy, I just can't wait. I hear tell of (past-30) people who literally can't eat more than a couple of peices of bread with a meal, and who can't eat very big meals, either. I'm not looking forward to that.
posted by bigtex at 1:05 PM on March 16, 2006


I think this all can be summarized by: People are depressed about being overweight and irritable from heartburn.

I call those folks "people who haven't turned 30 yet." : I call those folks (under 30) mommies and daddies. Evolution stops once you've had your last kid.
posted by mischief at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2006


"Low income families eat more salt (because more of their food is processed)." In my experience, processed food is more expensive than basic ingredients. . . . etc.

Poverty isn't just about money, though. For a lot of people, especially those (majority of poverty-stricken) we refer to as the "working poor", it's about time and energy as much as money.

Just for example, say you've got a single mother with two kids who is working two jobs to keep things together.

This isn't the type of person who is likely to relish the idea of coming home and cooking a nice dinner from scratch. She's more likely to grab something she can pop in the microwave.

In my experience, processed food is more expensive than basic ingredients.

It takes time, energy, and most of all, thought and planning, to economize. Our "working poor" mother is undoubtedly tired all the time and gets a lot of things done the easy way just to get by.

In short I'm not disagreeing with you that there is more going on than just saving money--it's a whole cycle of interrelated causes.

But one of the deepest roots of it is that the working poor are not making a living wage.
posted by flug at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2006


"You crave what you eat" -- bigtex

Bigtex, you deserve to be immortalized in Bartlett's for this. A whole philosophy of living could be derived from this concept -- if not a whole series of self-help books.

I hope everyone reading this thread is checking out the last link, about poverty. as Mayorcurley says, "it embodies the ugly liberal trend to not recognize personal accountability."

In fact, it is almost a textbook example of denial of personal responsibility, placing the blame on everyone from supermarkets to television for poor personal diets.

I think the problem is that if you have the confidence and self-discipline required to commit yourself to the effort of eating a healthy diet, you probably have it together enough to get a job that pays better than poverty level, and you probably have it together in most other areas of your life as well.

People who lead disorderly lives are going to eat disorderly diets.
posted by Faze at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2006


mr.curmudgeon : "I'm going to stick with not smoking, not ingesting massive amounts of addictive substances, and avoiding a completely sedentary lifestyle."

It seems like you are changing goals here. Your original statement was "There's no negative side effect to eating and living healty". Depending on how anal one wants to be, in defining "negative side effects"*, one can argue that the notion of "healthy living" doesn't exist.

*assume that a double-blind study shows that cucumber eaters, after controlling for other factors, on average, show a 8% decrease on Psychological Instrument XYZ©, say memory recall of visual color detail, is that a negative side-effect?
posted by Gyan at 1:18 PM on March 16, 2006


I, too have been saying this for years. And so was my mom. And my Grandma (although my grandfather firmly believed that margarine would make your babies be born blind).
Basically it boils down to common sense:

"Eat your vegetables."
posted by tkchrist at 1:25 PM on March 16, 2006


it's about time and energy as much as money.

Many basic meals made in bulk and warmed up over a couple nights require little more time than microwaving. Even semi-processed foods like pre-chopped onions and other veggies are cheaper than microwave meals nor do they contain the salt and preservatives.

How do I know? I was a single father working my way through college.
posted by mischief at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2006


Water, 8 oz * 8 times a day

Wasn't this proven to be a bit of an old wives tale by a couple of doctors a few years back that, having looked into it, couldn't find any source or study that led to it's common usage?
posted by jikel_morten at 1:29 PM on March 16, 2006


Which is healthier, jm, water or cola? Now, which is cheaper?
posted by mischief at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2006


I need my meds.

But I also need my exercise.
I also need my 8 hours of sleep.

And I need my healthy eating.

For me all of the above-plus looking after my spiritual health.

All the meds in the world cannot overcome a diet high in junk. Some of us need the meds in addition, but eating your fruits and veggies really is important.

Of course a little chocolate is important, too. ;-)
posted by konolia at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2006


I eat healthy because I'm cheap which forces me to cook my own meals.
posted by iamck at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2006


Snopes

So yeah, a bit of a wives' tale, however I disagree with this concluding statement, "If you feel thirsty, drink; if you don't feel thirsty, don't drink unless you want to."

In some of us, the effects of dehydration (in my case, exhaustion and sluggishness) begin long before thirst sets in.
posted by mischief at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2006


All this is making me hungry, period. *eats an organic banana he picked up at the local co-op for about 15 cents*

I hate when these studies bring out all the health food/alt med/homepathy nutters out of the closet.

Who mentioned homeopathy? How is there not a direct correlation between diet and health, mental or otherwise? Why is that so nutty?

Is there no room for the old cause vs correlation argument here either? This webpage claims a change over fifty years. FIFTY years in a modern world is a whole lot more change than just diet. Maybe its the Subway talking but color me skeptical. But I guess if you got a long standing loquacious-like axe to grind then go for it, now is your time to shine, even if you're 100% completely incorrect.

Of course there's room. 100%? Completely incorrect? So, are you arguing diet has absolutely no influence on mental health?

I wholeheartedly agree that some chemical imbalances may not be cureable with diet alone. I'm not arguing that a trip to ye olde hippy food grotto is going to immediately provide miraculous cures for critical cases. I don't believe in black and white choices for almost everything. Nearly everything is a gradient.

But exactly how much of this mental health epidemic is self inflicted? How much of it is directly related to diet? Exposure to chemicals or related to the poor diet of parents or children, pre-natal or otherwise?

How much depression is linked to the stress of modern life? How much of it is due to unsatisfying lives? How much of it is due to sitting on one's fat ass on the couch watching TV displaying endless streams of either hideously bad news or completely unattainable heights of entirely fictional perfection?

Hell, even rats get 'depressed' - and even violent - if kept in too small of a cage, or with too many other rats, or if antagonized with noise pollution and stress, or otherwise lead unrewarding, miserable lives.

Seriously, how much is this epidemic related to how much of modern life just fucking sucks?

Granted, this isn't SCIENCE that I use to argue my point. I'm neither a dietician nor a psychologist. But just because I'm not a specialist doesn't mean I can't talk plain sense.

But the anecdotal, real world evidence I've personally experienced is strong. Diet does influence health, mental or otherwise, and it influences it directly. So does the environment.

This isn't crystal-waving, mantra chanting, feel-good aphorisms shoved up your ass along side a yogurt enema. This isn't a new concept. It's not radical. It's not fringe. This isn't Kellog's masturbatorium. You are what you eat. Duh.

For anyone who suffers from depression or bi-polar disorders, I strongly suggest trying diet and exercise before schlepping off to your insurance (and drug) company-sanctioned pill-scripter for the latest (experimental) happy pill.

In special, extreme cases, neurochemistry modulating drugs may be prudent. But get better, start eating healthy, and get off them quick.

Anyways, you want to talk quackery? Tell me how Wellbutrin actually works. In detail. Show me papers. What? They don't really know how it works, yet? There's conflicting reports about an approved drug? It breaks down into three metabolites which then effect your dopamine and norepinephrine levels? What about that fourth metabolite? Does it do anything or do you just eliminate it? They don't have any studies on the long term effects? Color me surprised. And fucking wary.

Hasn't Prozac taught us anything? How about Ritalyn and the ongoing scourge of methamphetamine?

I think I'll stick to trying to let my body do it's well-evolved thing with the raw materials I give it, as much as possible.
posted by loquacious at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2006


"how much is this epidemic related to how much of modern life just fucking sucks?"

Modern life? Was life any better when the whole tribe was involved in the hunter-gatherer thing? ;-P
posted by mischief at 1:46 PM on March 16, 2006


I'm with you and Jonathan Richman, mischief. Modern life is great.
posted by Faze at 1:57 PM on March 16, 2006


Allow me to second flug's observation:
For a lot of people, especially those (majority of poverty-stricken) we refer to as the "working poor", it's about time and energy as much as money.
Now, my wife and I and our kid, we are far, far, far from the poverty line. We don't have much discretionary income, but we have enough.

What we don't have is time and energy. My wife works full-time, and the rest of the time is parenting our kid and keeping our household on the rails.

She's doing that because I work full-time and attend paramedic school, and, when I'm not doing those things, help parent the kid. When I can, I help my wife out with the house.

So, okay, we're busy. Tough darts, it's voluntary, etcetera. My point was not to complain: it was that the hour or so it seems to take to cook a meal from scratch (we actually have timed it: between kid-interruptions and the like, that's what it works out to) seems a hell of a lot more expensive in terms of inconvenience than just that hour. I'd be willing to bet a lot of MeFites are in the same boat.

We tried this after reading an article in the local weekly paper. We figured what the hell, we were spending that much anyway on crap, either via fast food or junk at Trader Joe's.

It worked. Incredibly well. It's healthy food, and far more varied than we'd have achieved on our own. It costs us a minimal amount to buy side greens and "around the edges" stuff from Trader Joe's, and (bonus!) the Chef Dane's people define "portion" American-style, which means we've been getting (with a little portion control) eight servings out of every meal instead of the advertised "10 fresh entrees of four portions each".

So, for $290, what we get is basically, for both of us, dinner and the next day's lunch every day for nearly a month. And we stopped eating crap.

There are lots of these kinds of places popping up: if you live in a relatively large urbanity (we're in the San Francisco Bay Area), and you have the money, there's probably one near you. The most widely-known of them is Dream Dinners, but the American Personal Chef Association is also a good place to start.
posted by scrump at 1:59 PM on March 16, 2006


Modern life? Was life any better when the whole tribe was involved in the hunter-gatherer thing? ;-P

When was the last time a hunter-gatherer tribe spent 4 hours waiting in line at the DMV, only to be told they waited in the wrong line, and that they have to go wait in that other line first before returning to the 4 hour line? :)

When was the last time a hunter-gatherer had to endure 5 hours of non-stop crap-ass wannabe MTV hip-hop blasting through the thin walls on a shitty 50 dollar WalMart boombox in their neighbors apartment? For fuck's sake, you idiots, get some crunk or miami bass or something already. MTV is not ghetto, it's not street, it's not hip-hop. Your music sucks so bad it hurts.

Or when did that hunter-gatherer tribe have approximately half of their income taxed, only to have it spent on a war of aggression on foreign soil that they didn't agree with, only to have their social progams and educational programs gutted while their civil rights and freedoms of expression were being eroded on all fronts, all while corporate interests basically took over the world and tainted anything pure and valuable?

I'm not arguing for a return to primativism, but all be a god damned oyster in the desert if modern life isn't a serious pain in the ass sometimes.

But speaking as someone who has been a full-time urban outdoorsman more than once - which is quite similar to being a tribal hunter and gatherer - sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it or not.
posted by loquacious at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2006


all = I'll
posted by loquacious at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2006


But speaking as someone who has been a full-time urban outdoorsman more than once - which is quite similar to being a tribal hunter and gatherer - sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it or not.
A what? In the where?

/baffledhat
posted by scrump at 2:13 PM on March 16, 2006


Homeless, old bean. Without a pot to piss in. As in, eating from dumpsters and sleeping behind them and so forth. I could never bring myself to panhandle, though. But free food or odd jobs for food were just fine.
posted by loquacious at 2:16 PM on March 16, 2006


I highly recommend this book to anyone that would like to learn more about nutrition. It tought me a lot about what nutrients your body needs & ways to obtain it through foods (and that was just the first section of the book).
posted by Alpenglow at 2:25 PM on March 16, 2006


taught
posted by Alpenglow at 2:26 PM on March 16, 2006


About 10 years back I was sent to a nutritionist in hopes of putting an end to an already longer-than-would-be-considered-normal bout of insomnia. She had told me about how many stresses and basic ill states were heavily influenced by diet, and after giving her my basic menu [consisting mostly of restaurant food, fried foods, and salads but rarely... no uncooked vegetables] told me to snack on sunflower seeds and peanuts between lunch and dinner, and to have either broccoli, cauliflower or corn once a day.

I did it for a few weeks and was surprised to feel much more alert -- the site here links a zinc and magnesium deficiency to both insomnia and lethargy -- and actually able to sleep without a handful of pills. Diet does matter, surely.

It's also important to point out that supplements, for whatever reason, don't seem to work as well as a simple change in diet.
posted by phylum sinter at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]




While in a wealthy suburb--- hummus, a great variety of vegetables, and lean meats are predominant; finding the good stuff takes a lot more work for those in working poor communities, big cities and rural areas.

Even money-saving coupons are limited to the highly processed heavy on the sugar and fat food, that those who care about healthy eating never would touch.

Poorer people also usually dont have fully stocked kitchens with huge soup pots, stick blenders, and food processers. They dont have transportation to take trips all over town to go where they have the decent stuff.

The cheaper a food, almost without exception {cabbage and beans} the more unhealthy it is !

I have time to make home made soup and bread but many working people who arrive home from the office ready to drop do not--especially the working poor. I have time to travel around town to scrounge up cheaper vegetables sold at the nursery here, health food store, farms, veggie and fruit stands, cook soup and make bread but cant even imagine how a working person with kids would find this time. Even I find it tough and an endless challenge to keep a healthy diet on a limited income.

I have farmer friends too who have told me through the depletion of the soil, that nutrients in food is actually far less. I found a study the other day, that backed this up...will look for it.
posted by Budge at 2:33 PM on March 16, 2006


Alpenglow -- that book is great! In fact it was a free gift for joining the local health food store. Think i'm going to crack it open again today, it's been awhile...
posted by phylum sinter at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2006


About easy recipes: picking up a copy of Julia Child's The Way To Cook did wonders for my diet. The recipes themselves vary when it comes to difficulty and nutrition, but the techniques it teaches are invaluable, and build on each other. For example...

Earlier this week I bought a whole chicken, a few onions, a bunch of celery, a few carrots, and fresh parsley. Total cost: about $12. The chicken was roasted, plain, so the only other ingredients needed were salt, pepper, and some butter and olive oil to baste. It took about an hour and a half. I got two meals out of the breast meat, along with a simple salad and homemade vinaigrette. Half of the leg and thigh meat were saved for soup, and the rest used for chicken salad. Last night the chicken carcass, one of the onions, and a few celery ribs and carrots were simmered to make stock. (If it's started when you get home from work, it's ready by 7. Really.) The stock was strained directly into the soup pot, along with the reserved chicken and a half cup of rice. Ten minutes later, handfuls of carrot/onion/celery. Ten minutes after that, the soup was done. None of it was very difficult, but I wouldn't have thought to do it before using that book.

(Even the "lazy meals" I make are better than they used to be. Poaching a filet of salmon takes eight minutes. Omelettes might take 5-10, depending on how much prep the filling takes.)

Unfortunately, flug is quite right about efficient cooking taking time and planning. If you're already overworked or depressed and don't have a base of kitchen skills and/or a basis of comparison (say, a childhood eating meticulously prepared healthy meals), it'd be easy to let the issue slide completely. I know far too many people who do, simply because they don't realize what a useful skill it is and how easily it can be picked up.

In special, extreme cases, neurochemistry modulating drugs may be prudent. But get better, start eating healthy, and get off them quick.

Given your upthread admissions of dealing with depression, loquacious, I'm a little surprised at this. I agree with your general point about balancing one's life, but this tiptoes just a little too close to the "suck it up" attitude that (in my experience) often keeps a person from getting help in the first place. Eating well, exercising and fish oil supplements make me feel much better, but all the lifestyle changes in the world can't compensate for the role that antidepressants play. Sometimes it just isn't a choice; or rather, it's a choice between a) staying alive, and b) not.
posted by Vervain at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Seriously, how much is this epidemic related to how much of modern life just fucking sucks?

It's not at all obvious either that (a) there's an 'epidemic' of any sort or (b) that modern life sucks. Subjective well being is much higher throughout the developed world than in the developing world. And most of the major mental disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, etc.) have very similar incidences throughout the world. What's improved in 'modern life' is the ability to diagnose and treat these disorders. And the natural tendency, given the ability to treat, is for some mission creep to exist, so that people who are marginally mentally unhealthy but could probably function reasonably well are put on medication because it improves the quality of their lives. Now you may personally disagree with this trend, but most people don't.

Anyways, you want to talk quackery? Tell me how Wellbutrin actually works. In detail.

It's not like we understand the pathways underlying the beneficial effects of exercise or vegetables all that well either (in some cases worse). So it's not clear what your point is here. Demonstrating that something works has little to do with understanding why it works.

Hasn't Prozac taught us anything? How about Ritalyn and the ongoing scourge of methamphetamine?

Yes, Prozac and Ritalin have taught us that many people who led completely dysfunctional and delinquent lives prior to the development of modern drugs can now be productive members of society.

And it's pretty disingenuous to mention meth in the same sentence. One could just as soon level the charge that tobacco shows consuming vegetables is bad, because tobacco'ss harmful and it's also a 'natural' plant, just like carrots and lettuce!
posted by heavy water at 2:40 PM on March 16, 2006


"Poorer people also usually dont have fully stocked kitchens with huge soup pots, stick blenders, and food processers."

Right now my kitchen is a 6" frying pan, an 8" cake pan, 3 wooden spoons, a spatula, a sharp knife and a large mixing bowl. Yet, I can think of very few meals that I can't make to serve four. That's right, four.

Where did I get my cooking skills? Watching "The Frugal Gourmet" on PBS once a week for a couple months.

Eating is THE basic human need; not learning how to feed oneself has no excuse.
posted by mischief at 2:53 PM on March 16, 2006


Eating is THE basic human need; not learning how to feed oneself has no excuse.

absolutely.
posted by Miles Long at 3:17 PM on March 16, 2006


Another angle on this from Reason.com - The Poor May Not Be Getting Richer But they are living longer, eating better, and learning to read
"Even though some of the world's poorest people are not earning much more than they were two generations ago, they're still living much better than they were. In fact, many quality of life indicators are converging toward levels found in the richer countries."
posted by Lanark at 3:19 PM on March 16, 2006


mischief, you have a kitchen though. Check out Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" - many poor people don't have the money to buy a decent house or rent a decent apartment. The deposit's just too damn much, so they're stuck in flophouses and motels - no kitchens there, and yes, it's more expensive in the end, but they never have enough money all at once to pay for the stuff that'd be better in the long run. For that matter, what if something breaks? What if the refrigerator dies, or the stove's broken, or something? Do they have enough money left over from their paycheck to replace it? These things take money, man. Yes, eating things like fast food might be more expensive in the long run than buying in bulk and making your own bread and stew, but hungry kids can't necessarily wait weeks and weeks while their parents save money.

Added to that is the fact that stores with decent selections of produce and such are often not very accessible to people who're in the poorest neighborhoods. Limited transporation [due to lack of public transportation or inability to pay to get the car fixed or whatever] and limited time [possibly due to working multiple jobs and/or odd hours] make it even harder.

Sure, there are some people who're just lazy, and there are more people who aren't well-educated with regards to health. However, you're educated about healthy eating, and you've apparently got access to a kitchen and also a decent grocery store. That puts you ahead of many of the poor, and what's easy for you isn't necessarily easy for them.
posted by ubersturm at 3:36 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks that, if given the chance, very poor people would opt for quinoa, hummus, Evian and broccoli over Oreos, Quarter Pounders, Pepsi and Camels is kidding themselves. Access to the food isn't the only problem. It's not even the primary problem.

Overly noble poor people who are 100% victims only exist in Pete Seeger songs. It's not their fault that they're poor, but it's their fault that they eat the way they do. I've seen about 10,000 PSAs telling me pretty accurately what's healthy to eat. And they watch more TV than I do anyway.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:50 PM on March 16, 2006


"Poorer people also usually don't have fully stocked kitchens with huge soup pots, stick blenders, and food processers."

Whoa. Have you been to restaurants in the thirdword? These people are incredibly resourceful and make amazing meals with anything from rusted hot plates to old engine blocks.

When I was totally broke I cooked for nearly three months on a hibachi grill. And when the electricity wasn't cut off, a crock pot and a microwave. I got powdered milk, powdered eggs, flower, and government cheese from a food bank. Fished for trout. And bought rice and beans. I wouldn't want to repeat the experience but it is amazing what you can make that is fairly healthy with limited resources.

The key is time, however.
posted by tkchrist at 3:54 PM on March 16, 2006


I'd agree with the common sense here in this thread, and I'm currently on a sort of yo-yo where it comes to diet. At times I'll go for a few days eating healthy food, especially when my girlfriend cooks. She's an amazing cook and it's always very healthy stuff (she's Japanese, so she's got some healthy-food cred). But I fall off the wagon sometimes and crave junk food frequently, especially sweets.

This post has motivated me to eat healthy, at least for today. No sweets, no doughnuts (I have a real sweet tooth), no fucking McDonald's.

Something I've noticed that makes me feel absolutely great after I've eaten a lot is sushi. If I go to the kaitenzushi (the conveyer-belt places where it's pretty cheap), and polish off 7 or 8 plates, I feel really energetic afterwards. Maybe that should be my lunch...
posted by zardoz at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2006


But I fall off the wagon sometimes and crave junk food frequently, especially sweets.

No biggie. Don't make eating punishment, man. In fact do it right.

A good pastry is a delight on this earth gifted to you by the gods. So if you cheat. Cheat with the good stuff. Go to a bakery. Make it a date night. Spend a bit more on that stuff so you don't get too much of it. And really enjoy it.

When you eat good food - you crave crappy processed stuff less and less.

Look at the French, man. Those people eat good food.
But food not typically what we are programed to think of as "Health Food". No, it's good quality food. Quality ingredients well prepared. And they are not nearly as obese as Americans.
posted by tkchrist at 4:21 PM on March 16, 2006


Personal experience: I once dated someone who was working his way through college. He worked in a fast food restaurant and lived in _the_ cheapest apartment complex in town.

You could *not* get rid of the roaches in that apartment, for love or money. We bombed the place with alarming frequency, and dead bugs would be everywhere, but within hours they would scurry back from the neighbors' places. They were everywhere. The vacuum cleaner stopped working because, I kid you not, it clogged with roaches. They were behind posters on the wall and on the table and under the fridge and in the microwave.

It was possible to cook in that apartment, but not to keep food, at all, and he was meticulously clean. He cadged a lot of meals from work, which was technically not allowed, and a firing offense if you got busted by the wrong manager.
posted by digitalis at 4:22 PM on March 16, 2006


ubersturm, baby, sweetheart, I'm on disability and I pay 20% of that for child support despite that my weekend visitations invariably begin Friday morning and end Monday evening. When my kid stays with his mom, he sleeps on the couch; he only sleeps in a bed at my place and that's cuz I take the couch. I don't have a car and I can only afford a bus pass every other month. I owe the IRS $3500 and I haven't made a student loan payment in five years. I think I know a little bit about stretching thin resources.

The reason I eat so much fiber is because it is filling and keeps hunger down longer. Talk about bang for the buck! heheh
posted by mischief at 5:35 PM on March 16, 2006


don't have a base of kitchen skills and/or a basis of comparison (say, a childhood eating meticulously prepared healthy meals)

I'm not really sure if you're slamming that lady or not, but my mother was a stay-at-home-mom for the first twelve years of my life (although I grew up in Saudi Arabia, so it's not like she really had a fucking choice...)

If I could do my life over again, I'd go the sous chef route every time. I'd do that because my youth was filled with watching the creation of all these great things to eat that my mother would whip up. And her technique to this day isn't perfect (she doesn't do the "slice, plank, chop" to dice onions thing, for example,) but it still comes out All Good by any measure.

So I reeeaaally hope you're not implying that being shown what you can do with a bunch on disparate ingredients at and early age is somehow going to have an adverse affect on your appreciation of food later in life.
posted by Cyrano at 5:43 PM on March 16, 2006


Hmm, my comment came out whinier than I intended.
Sheesh!
posted by mischief at 5:57 PM on March 16, 2006


I think it's a matter of incomplete education. Anyone who's been in grade school knows that you're suppposed to eat many portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but how many kids are taught to plan groceries for a week? How many kids are taught to learn/master different recipes? I've got at least a dozen recipes that I know off the top of my head that are inexpensive, nutritious, and take anywhere from 15 minutes to 60 minutes for prep and cooking. I've got a dozen more that take longer but no more work since the oven does all the work. If kids spent shifts in the kitchen starting in junior high, I bet you'd see a big difference. Home Economics today is a farce.
posted by furtive at 5:58 PM on March 16, 2006


qvantamon: Just for the record: There was a time I'd eat 40 packs of cookies a month. Then I stopped eating them at all for about six months, and then I established the rule of only buying when craving, no stocks allowed, and now I've relaxed even this, but I will rarely eat more than 5 packs a month (still I never leave a pack half eaten -- I always eat it at once like described above).

Totally. I didn't mean to imply that I'm perfect in any way. Hell, I've got a tub of cookies sitting right next to me and I ate two of them 5 minutes ago. Generally, when there are sweet things around me, I eat it ALL. I've just learned to (mostly) control what I'm surrounded with.


mischeif: Right now my kitchen is a 6" frying pan, an 8" cake pan, 3 wooden spoons, a spatula, a sharp knife and a large mixing bowl. Yet, I can think of very few meals that I can't make to serve four. That's right, four.

Where did I get my cooking skills? Watching "The Frugal Gourmet" on PBS once a week for a couple months.

Eating is THE basic human need; not learning how to feed oneself has no excuse.


Amen.

I don't have a lot of expensive kitchen stuff either. The stick blender is my fanciest thing, and it was $10. I have two pans (cast iron and stainless steel) and two pots (a small sauce pot and a big pasta pot). They were all under $10 each. I don't spend a lot of money on fancy kitchen gadgets because, well, I spend almost all of my money on food. I have an insane appetite (thyroid problem) and it is really expensive to keep me fed. I probably eat twice what most people do and I'm losing weight. ...not complaining about the eating alot part, though... :)

Anyway, you don't need fancy stuff to make great food. You just need a little patience and a little practice. All hail the Frugal Gourmet, too. I'm sure just about all of America can get PBS on free-to-air antenna, so cooking shows are free.

Go get a copy of The Joy of Cooking at a used book store for a few bucks. Best investment ever.

I also understand that fat, salt, sugar, etc, taste great. But, they must be used in moderation. In fact, it tastes better when used in moderation. Overly suagary or salty things make one thirsty and mask flavors. Overly greasy things are really actually quite unpleasant to eat.

Mitrovarr: Actually, I'd say we didn't have a good idea of what was healthy. Look at all the various diet plans; carbs are good in some plans, bad in others. Some people advocate low fat, others don't limit it. We know what vitamins and minerals are necessary, but aside from the basic knowledge of calorie throughput, we're lacking a lot of knowledge with regard to what causes weight gain and what affects overall health. Even nutritionists can't agree.

We don't have to be super specific about this stuff. It's not about counting "carbs" (ugh) or calories. Use wholesome, fresh ingredients, and eat in moderation. This is not rocket science. Sure, nutritionists can custom-tailer diets to people and make it perfect, but who cares? Just eat fresh food. Trendy diets should almost always be ignored. Incredibly drastic changes to diet are almost totally unecessary, unless people have incredibly drastically bad diets. If you're eating a microwave chicken dinner that comes with two puny green beans and a pile of reconstituted mashed potatoes, go buy some real chicken, a real potato and some real beans.

I agree that modern "diet advice" can be confusing, but only if you pay attention to it. I don't care how many calories are in what I eat, how many vitamins it contains, or how high it is on the glycemic index. Whatever. I want it to taste good and make me feel good. The longer I eat high quality foods, the more I crave them and the more I want to continue to buy and prepare them.

I'm not saying this works for people who are strapped for time and/or money, but it works for me. I have no experience raising a family on minimum wage. I know that US minimum wage is nowhere NEAR a living wage, but I haven't been really "poor" since my college years. I would buy a $2, 100-pack of tortillas and a $10, 4 pound brick of cheese and live on that until it ran out. It takes about two to three weeks, if you bum food off of friends. But..... you feel like shit ALL THE TIME.

Furthermore, I don't think you can just go out and assume artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are bad. First of all, they're not the same compounds, so they can't be judged as a group. Secondly, we test the hell out of them. Third, plants are full of pigments, natural preservatives, and all kinds of natural pesticides and herbacides. You can't just assume the plant's versions are safe and our synthetics are bad.

Sure. We test lots of chemicals and approve them. WD-40 is approved for incidental food exposure so it is used in food processing factories. It's okay if a little gets in the food because it won't kill you. The FDA has acceptable levels for all kinds of nasty things like lead, mercury and arsenic. It's okay for this stuff to be in food because if it is below a certain level is shouldn't have any adverse effects on us. Well... over a lifetime of consumption, these heavy metals build up in our bodies. Some of these compounds, like teflon, never break down. Teflon has been found in the umbilical cord blood of 99% of babies born in the US. These compounds are inside us. Maybe you don't care, because maybe low levels of this stuff will never harm us, but IS IT WORTH THE RISK? Why would I consume synthetically produced coloring agents? Have you noticed how abnormally red the beef in most grocer's meat departments is? Have you ever seen a cow slaughtered or been to a real butcher? It isn't that red naturally. Well, enough of that tangent. I just see no point in using such chemicals when they aren't actually necessary (and really, they're not).
posted by bigtex at 6:27 PM on March 16, 2006


tkchrist: No biggie. Don't make eating punishment, man. In fact do it right.

Yes! That's the spirit! ENJOY EATING, PEOPLE. PLEASE!! Food is wonderful and you're supposed to like it. Eating is not supposed to be punishment, painful, a chore, etc. You really should want to eat. It is good for you!

A good pastry is a delight on this earth gifted to you by the gods. So if you cheat. Cheat with the good stuff. Go to a bakery. Make it a date night. Spend a bit more on that stuff so you don't get too much of it. And really enjoy it.

Yes. We all have our sinful pleasures, and it's really not sinful if taken in moderation. If you stick to high quality stuff, you'll enjoy it more because it tastes better, and you'll feel better for it because of the lack of crap inside. Also, if you really like something, learn how to make it. Nothin says lovin' like a homemade pie in the oven. The way to anyone's heart is throught the stomach. It's not just for guys.

When you eat good food - you crave crappy processed stuff less and less.

My point exactly. I'm glad there are some sane people here. FOOD IS GOOD! Good food is, well, gooder.
posted by bigtex at 6:36 PM on March 16, 2006


bigtex: We don't have to be super specific about this stuff. It's not about counting "carbs" (ugh) or calories. Use wholesome, fresh ingredients, and eat in moderation. This is not rocket science.

No, it's worse than rocket science, because we understand exactly how rockets work and have only partial knowledge of nutrition. Seriously, how do you know fresh ingredients are better than frozen, canned, or dried? Yeah, you might lose a few nutrients, but you'd get them back ten times over with a vitamin. Why's the fresh food supposedly better than prepared+vitamins?

Also, plants have toxins in them too; lots of plants will accumulate heavy metals in them if they're in the soil, and some make their own (oxalates, for example.) How can you guarantee that those aren't worse for you than, say, BHT?

I'm just trying to say that you shouldn't assume that natural=good and synthetic=bad. There are no doubt totally safe and healthy prepared foods, and dangerous natural ones. You can't just get by on simple rules with no rational basis.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:05 PM on March 16, 2006


So I reeeaaally hope you're not implying that being shown what you can do with a bunch on disparate ingredients at and early age is somehow going to have an adverse affect on your appreciation of food later in life.

I'm not; quite the opposite. I admire the intent of Vegan Mom, and I bet the kid will grow up to appreciate the pleasure of cooking and eating well. Should the time come, I'd like to be that kind of mom/auntie. But as for the execution--well, I'm an omnivore who loves food, and have a really hard time wrapping my mind around veganism.

Kids raised without the hands-on approach to cooking...I have friends like that, and talking with them can be disheartening. None of them believe me when I say it's something they, too, can do, if they're willing to screw up until they get it right.

Why's the fresh food supposedly better than prepared+vitamins?

Objectively, I guess they could be the same. Experience tells me that chicken I've roasted myself tastes better than the $5 rotisserie chickens hanging out under warming lamps. Real mashed potatoes beat instant by a country mile. Vinaigrette I've whipped up in two minutes tastes better than bottled, can be made in a dozen variations, and never goes bad (because I've made just as much as I need). I can't get a loaf of cinnamon bread that matches my family's recipe--which only takes an hour to make, and I can eat it while it's still warm. Fruit from the farmers' market is in an entirely different league than that of the best shop in town. But most importantly, I know exactly what goes into everything I make--within reason--and I can adjust it to my needs or tastes. The time and effort I spend cooking is well worth what I get in return, because it's something that just can't be bought.

And amen, bigtex! Good food is very good indeed! In fact, I'm making some lemon-almond-anise biscotti right now.
posted by Vervain at 7:26 PM on March 16, 2006


Whole milk is actually more expensive than skim (if there's a difference)

I've never understood this. It's not as though they add fat to whole milk. If anything, the lower-fat milks should be more expensive.
posted by kindall at 8:05 PM on March 16, 2006


I think skim milk is usually, maybe always, reconstituted from powder.
posted by stavrogin at 9:46 PM on March 16, 2006


here's what I've found: you crave what you eat.

Damn straight.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 PM on March 16, 2006


Have you noticed how abnormally red the beef in most grocer's meat departments is?

Packaged in carbon monoxide, reduces oxidation.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:39 PM on March 16, 2006


The ones who don't die, will help evolve the human species. With a little help from Monsanto, perhaps we'll all learn to thrive upon a wholly artificial diet! Mmmm-Mmmm! Kraft dinner, with roundup-ready wheat and corn (starch), rbGH dairy product, never-rott tomatoes, yet more corn (sugars), and manufactured vinegar!

A taste treat sensation and a nutritious artificial meal!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on March 16, 2006


"Low income families eat more salt (because more of their food is processed)." In my experience, processed food is more expensive than basic ingredients.

I'm sorry you didn't keep reading the article - they actually went around shopping and showed that healthy food (including basic ingrediants, especially fresh fruit and vegetables) was more expensive than processed food. And worse, healthy food (whole wheat bread, low fat mince, etc) was more expensive in the poor London neighbourhood than in the affluent neighbourhood.

Now, this study was done in urban Britain. Things may be different elsewhere. Where I lived in Toronto, we had a wonderful farmer's market a half an hour walk away, and my mother had a 3x5 ft chest freezer and electricity included in her rent. Where I now live in Britain, we have a vegetable market, but it is not populated by farmers, does not sell vegetables in bulk, and few cheap rental houses would even fit a chest freezer. Heck, most only have a half-size fridge, even in a family sized home. (This is a notable cultural difference - we have a full sized fridge, but we are renting from an American and this is his summer home.)

Vegetables are more expensive here - we pay 1L or about $1.60 USD for three peppers, or a head of lettuce. Don't even get me started on speciality vegetables like snowpeas. (I love them, but sausages are cheaper). Cheap sausages are 2L for a kg; even ground meat is 3L or more a kg. (I really wish my North American keyboard had a pound sign). We've been living off carrots and onions, with canned tomatoes (too much salt), along with a lot of beans and chick peas, but I won't say I'm not craving better things like chicken breasts (L5.99 for 4, or about $10 USD - in New Haven I got about twice as many for that price).

But even in the US, not all grocery stores are created equal. Where I lived in downtown New Haven, fresh produce was expensive and not very good. Had I lived in one of the affluent suburbs or had a car, I would have had access to cheaper and/or better quality vegetables. There were a lot of canned goods, and almost no fresh herbs (except for cilantro, a benefit of living in a hispanic neigbourhood).

I completely agree that education and knowledge of cooking and nutrition are the best ways to improve nutrition among poor people. But we also have to recognise that healthy food can be and often is more expensive. The cheapest basic ingrediants (flour, potatoes, bread, etc) are all very starchy and are most easily put with fatty foods (cheese, margerine, butter - which is cheaper in the UK, yum), as opposed to fresh vegetables, fruits, etc.

There is also the very real and important point that fats, salts and sugars are pleasures - they will always be more desirable. If I had the choice between a cheap fatty treat and fresh stawberries, I would take strawberries evey time, but frankly that's not a realistic choice for most people, let along poor people.

I've actually wanted to get involved in helping people eat better on a low budget - heck, to help in budgetting of any kind. I've watching intelligent, educated graduate students suffer because they didn't know how to stretch their budgets. But it's also very important to understand why people buy what they buy - you have to understand people before you try to convince them to change. Just telling them "You're foolish, do this instead" won't work, no one reacts well to that.

-----------------

(from another comment - 15 cents for one banana? I never buy when the bunch is more than 50 cents :) Actually, I'm mildly allergic now, but I used to love them so much.)
posted by jb at 8:58 AM on March 17, 2006


« Older Bluegrass Talk Radio...  |  The National Security Strategy... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments