Mark Bittman at the New York Times blogs about the issues with the USDA and it’s Food Pyramid. Essentially, the agency is at odds with itself because it is protecting the industry while attempting to protect the consumers at the same time. This makes for a precarious see-saw between both sides of the coin. What IS Real Food after all? Essentially, it is that which is genuinely grown from the soil and consumed while fresh. It is NOT a “food-like substance” as noted food author Michael Pollan refers. But what is a “food-like substance” and where can we get it from? That’s pretty much any highly refined food that is bought in a store shelf. By the time you buy a processed food product, it has likely had all the fats rendered out of it and replaced with a hydrogenated fat, which is temperature and shelf stable. So, you trade off the potential rancid aspect of normal fats when they sit for too long in favor of a synthetic alternative that can be on the shelf for two years waiting for you to purchase it and cook it up for your consumption.
The problem, as usual, is that the agency’s nutrition experts are at odds with its other mission: to promote our bounty in whatever form its processors make it. The U.S.D.A. can succeed at its conflicting goals only by convincing us that eating manufactured food lower in SOFAS is “healthy,” thus implicitly endorsing hyper-engineered junk food with added fiber, reduced and solid fats and so on, “food” that is often unimaginably far from its origins. When it comes to eating more “good” food, the report is clear, because that can’t harm producers. When it comes to eating less of what’s “bad,” the language turns to “science,” because telling us which products to avoid — like a 3,000-calorie fast-food “meal” or a box of low-fat but chemical-laden crackers — would play badly with industry. Instead we’re told to avoid SOFAS. Where’s that SOFAS aisle?
Where indeed are those SOFAS…
The truly healthy alternative to that chip is not a fake chip; it’s a carrot. Likewise, the alternative to sausage is not vegan sausage; it’s less sausage. This is really all pretty simple, and pretty clear. But the messages we’ve heard recently are as clear as . . . well, a SOFA.
You want an acronym? Let’s try ERF: Eat Real Food.
And here’s the truth of it. A healthy food is what is real food. In this case, a carrot. Yes, a simple carrot, which is often overlooked is genuine and real. It has a balance of several minerals and fiber in it’s nutritional makeup, along with a good punch of vitamins. Have you had any carrots lately?