Further Reading - What Is "Healthy" Food?

Lauren Vogelbaum


I frequently wish that eating were optional - even as the daughter of a chef and a self-professed needer of a label better than "foodie," I have lots of days when eating seems overly complicated. Researching for our audio episodes last week, GMOs, Food, and FUD and The Most Expensive Burger in the World, only cemented that for me. Joe already covered the GMO debate in his show notes. For my part, I've got a lot on the nutritional, environmental and economic research being done on proteins.

Those last two - the environmental and economic impact of meat - are highly intertwined. The New York Times and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment have good primers on the issues. Both are a couple years old, but as information like this takes years to collect and analyze, I think they're worthwhile.

On the nutritional end, definitive research is impossible to come by given our current technology and understanding of the human body. Studies with differing - and downright contradictory - results are published all the time. The American Cancer Society has an overview of the conflicting data on soy products' varying links with cancer. And here's the Sydney Diet Heart Study analysis I mentioned in the show that calls into question the modern assumption that polyunsaturated, plant-based fats are healthier than saturated, animal-based fats. I maintain that there were too many variables to call the study's results conclusive, and I hope that more research into fats and proteins is in the works.

In the meanwhile, if you're looking for a base for your personal diet, Harvard's School of Public Health has a guide to protein/fat consumption that'd be a good starting point for most people.

And hey, if you want to be as conflicted as I am about eating lunchmeat, check out the 5 things you need to know about deli meats. Tl;dr: It's gross. For a similar conflict about food in general, here's the FDA's Defect Levels Handbook that I quoted a bit of on the show -- it describes the levels of insect and filth contaminants not only allowable but considered unavoidable in lots of foods.

But before you swear off food altogether, give NPR's excellent overview of the nutritional value of bugs a read. I maintain that a few larvae here and several insect segments there count as a bonus in my food. For the sake of my continued sanity.