Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cook at home! It's good for you!

"Even if home cooking is of the fried-chicken-and-mashed-potatoes variety, it rarely produces extreme obesity, said Barry Popkin, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Almost any kind of cooking you can produce in a kitchen is healthier than fast food. [...]The decline of home cooking worldwide," he said, "is an underlying cause of obesity".

Neil sent me this article today from the New York Times about a reality TV show called the Biggest Loser. I'd never heard of it before. People do weird things on TV now. Ultimately, though, the article is about eating "healthy."

As much as I like kale and brown rice we need variety. A piece of low carb toast with a fried organic egg, a little local sharp cheddar and maybe a puddle of mustard is going to fill you up and make you feel better because it tastes good and doesn't taste like punishment. However, for some reason in our culture we still have two very common misconceptions about food and weight loss: Fat is bad (just not true) and low fat food "products" must be better for you, like skim milk (really not true).

As someone who a short time ago lost 20 pounds rapidly (and intentionally) I can tell you that it was not from avoiding fat, it was from avoiding carbohydrates. My feelings on the subject are that you can't just throw around the word fat, because as we know all fats are not created equal. Olive oil is not the same as lard, just isn't. Hydrogenated soy bean oil is not the same as butter. Bottom line is I think that losing a lot of weight by learning how to eat properly and cook for oneself is a great thing. It's sad that so many people have lost touch with such essential skills.

By taking all the fat out of say, milk, you take something that tastes rich, filling, and satisfying and turn it into something that is just thin sugar water. The lower the fat content the higher the relative carbohydrate content. "Low fat" foods are filled with sugar, either because that's what's left after you have processed it or because the manufacturer has had to add extra to give it the flavor it lost because there is no fat. A key physiologic aspect of this strategy is that without simultaneously consumed fats, any sugars are absorbed more quickly and likelier, thereby, to cause an insulin spike which is NOT what you want to do.

Nonetheless, the essential message of the article is that we're waking up to the value of cooking again. Now we just need to get people to stop being brainwashed by the media who keep insisting fat is bad and perpetuating the myth that fat makes you fat. At this point I need to give you some scientific facts so let me get back to you, but my sense is, from everything I have read and experienced while dieting is that fat is indeed your friend, not your enemy.

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