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Welcome to this site, all interested in resilient farming!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beliefs about food and diet (ideas from FoodWISE)

Why do we eat what we eat?

Clearly, food beliefs and food choices are emotionally laden, yet much of the nutritional and health maintenance information provided to people has typically been based on scientific arguments, which include rational, abstract and objective concepts, such as nutrients and probabilities.[1]  These arguments and concepts typically are not what people listen to. Interestingly, researchers show that nutritional information (especially, scientific) and food choice are only moderately connected to each other (Wardle 1993, 72), suggesting that feelings may be just as important, if not more so.[2]

Finding Balance was certainly an attempt to find an easy, universal theory of food. Instead, I found rather conventional ideas for the time, which seemed completely common-sensical. Eat complex (whole grain and or slightly fibrous plants) and avoid fat.  Sugar was not yet verboten, although groups such as Center for Science in the Public Interest were valiantly trying. One of their most effective messages was in a film, Eat, Drink, and Be Wary, wherein 12 teaspoons of sugar were slowly dropped into an empty coke bottle, illustrating how much sugar was in 12 ounces of coca cola.

As I was writing, a colleague in my department of Biology at Loyola Marymount University, Steven Scheck (he’s now a dean at Oregon State University) read my nutrition chapter and admonished me to downplay eating carbs and make the avoid-sugar-message clearer. What could be more silly I thought? Eat less sugar? Sure, in liquid form, and sticky form, to avoid dental caries, but weight loss? (This was, of course, before the low-fat high-sugar convenience food market exploded).

I must admit that I loved the eat-complex-carbs message of the 1970s and 1980s for its simplicity and purity (no messy saturated fat). It was a diet echoed in Finding Balance.  

Clearly, ideas about diet are changing -- they change all the time.

[1]Aarnio and Lindeman Appetite 43 (2004) 65-74 Magical food and health beliefs: a portrait of believers and functions of the beliefs. Also see:

[2] Researcher Brian Wansink, too explores the affective domain, as being of prime importance in food choice.

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