November 6, 2010

Reality Check

This blog has developed something of a sweet tooth of late, it would seem. A quick look at my bookshelf might make that less noteworthy, as it reveals a decided interest in food and nutrition.

In short, I find the subject fascinating. I have read Gary Taubes' Good Calories/Bad Calories, as weighty a book on the subject as exists. In it, Taubes mechanically dissects studies and observations from the past 200 years, attempting to piece together the evidence in to some sort of coherent picture. He wants to know why we're so unhealthy, and what we can do about it. His answer is something Dr. Atkins would be proud of. Taubes ends up endorsing protein and fat, while damning carbohydrates. A dinner of steak and green salad, hold the potato, please.

But you will also find Michael Pollan on my shelf. His nutrition advice? "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Born to Run also has a spot. In it, Christopher McDougall profiles the Tarahumara of Mexico, likely the greatest endurance athletes the world has never seen. Scott Jurek and several other American distance athletes are also featured prominently. Although you will find very little to connect the cast of characters, there are two common threads: Running, and a diet high in carbs, even sugar. In fact, I cannot recall a scene in the book in which meat is consumed. There are eggs, on the rare occasion. But the Tarahumara are almost vegan, and Jurek is.

And so how, exactly, do I go about deciding what to eat in this context? Or, better yet, what on earth should one put in their coffee?

There is a clue in that sentence. What, on earth, indeed. Every bit of nutrition I've read comes back to one basic point: Eat stuff that exists in nature. On this point, Taubes and Jurek would agree.

This same truth holds true for coffee, I think. Honey is food. So is cream. If you like those things in your coffee, put them in. They are, in truth, not calorically significant. Beyond that, they are delicious. Honey has been a staple food for humans for as long as there have been humans. We have a sweet tooth, and will consume sugar, in the form of nectar, syrup, or fruit, whenever we can. Cream, though not as long consumed as honey, is a well established real food.

Non dairy creamer may not be bad for you. Maybe Splenda isn't either. But I'm not sure. There just isn't enough of a track record yet. And so, in the mean time, put real things in your coffee. Things that you do not need to be a biochemist or nutrition geek to understand.

So what on earth do you put in your coffee? In short: Things that come from the earth.

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