September 30, 2008

What Can You Eat? "Nutrition for Blokes" has Some Clues

The ongoing revelations about e coli in supermarket salad vegetables, Bisphenol-A in can linings and melamine in powdered milk point out to us the problems with relying on huge, anonymous multinational corporations for our food supply.

Intentional adulteration is a much bigger problem in packaged foods than any of us have realized--the melamine story is getting buried in the media thanks to the market meltdown, but every day it seems that a new brand name product is being found to contain melamine.

But even without adulteration, it turns out that many GRAS (generally regarded as safe) chemicals commonly added to packaged food, like sorbic acid, acetic acid, food colors and many others, turn out to be petroleum byproducts, many of them produced in bulk in Chinese refineries, and this, too, should be raising red flags in all of our minds as it is not likely any of these ingredients are being tested for adulteration.*

So what's a concerned omnivore to do?

One thing we can all do is eliminate from our diet the industrially prepared foods most likely to contain dangerous and adulterated additives and replace them with home cooked foods.

The other thing we can do is rely more on locally grown foods rather than those imported from parts of the world where slave labor tends crops in conditions that are not tolerated in more developed parts of the world.

If you have been thinking of eliminating questionable packaged foods and eating more locally grown produce but are not sure exactly how to go about it or don't have the energy to begin, a wonderful new book, Nutrition for Blokes may give you the encouragement you need.

Author Quentin Grady is well known to readers of for his incisive reporting on the little known health benefits of common vegetables and on the issues surrounding the different kinds of oils found in our food.

Now he has written a book that contains a quirky, personal and highly entertaining series of essays that intermix stories about his forays into his local farmer's market in New Zealand with observations about the little known health benefits of the foods he finds there which illuminate the many fascinating physiological functions of the micronutrients found in fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and fish.

Quentin's title tells us that there is something else going on in this book: his target reader is, by definition a "bloke." Bloke is a term used exclusively in those territories that were once part of the British Empire. It refers to what we in the U.S. would call a "regular guy" or perhaps, a "manly man." Blokes care about sports. They don't like to fiddle around in the kitchen. And they sure as hell are not going to sit still while someone lectures them about healthy eating.

Which is why Quentin's book is such a delight. Because somehow Quentin has figured out how to get blokes to care about the food they are putting into their bodies without lecturing or asking them to change their fundamental nature.

I gave a copy of this book to my own personal bloke, whose daily diet tends to be rich in impulse items and who, though he works hard at keeping his eyeballs from rolling upward when I launch into a tirade on some dietary outrage, could hardly be described as a health nut.

He read it, laughed at quite a few of the stories Quentin tells in its pages, and then astonished me by heading to Stop & Shop and coming home with a bag full of colorful peppers, avocados, fancy oil extracts, walnuts and fish.

For the next couple weeks we ate better than ever before, as I was served colorful salads prepared by my "bloke" at almost every meal. Obviously, Quentin was onto something!

Many of us regulars bought our copies of this book last year when someone was kind enough to arrange for the shipment of a few boxes from New Zealand. Now Quentin is selling his book directly to the public from a web site set up on my web marketing site. This allows him to take payment via PayPal which is extremely helpful as it handles the international currency conversion and enables purchasers to buy with a credit card or check.

Though I provided the sales web site that Quentin is using, I want to make it clear I have no financial interest of any kind in the sales of Quentin's book. I am letting you know about it solely because I love this book and would like more people to know about it.

Quentin is one of us--a person with diabetes--and he is also a fan of the "test test test" strategy that has popularized. So while his book is not written specifically for people with diabetes, it does take into account the issues important to people with diabetes.

You can find out more about Quentin's book on his web site here:

And re the origin of your food, if you are in the U.S. you should be happy to know that new regulations will go effect tomorrow, October 1, 2008, that will give you more information about the country of origin of some of the food you eat.

AP: More foods getting labeled as U.S. or foreign-grown

Note that the country of origin labeling breaks down as soon as you get into packaged foods. This is yet another reason to "shop the edges" in your supermarket where you can buy products like fruit, vegetables, cheeses, dairy, nuts, meat and fish that have been minimally processed rather than the more questionable foods that have been canned, bottled, or frozen.

* You can learn about the way petrochemicals become food additives in the book, Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger, though sadly, he does not bring to his subject the kind of critical thinking that such a topic demands.


Anonymous said...

It used to be the case, and probably still is, that when an agrochemical was deemed to be unsafe within the US or Europe, instead of shutting down the manufacturing lines they would continue to produce it and sell to the Third World.

Now, where are your cheap foods coming from?

Anonymous said...

Jenny, just wanted to say you do excellent work on this site and on Diabetes 101. Appreciate the food safety discussions alongside the diabetes information.

Lately, I avoid just about anything that comes in a box. Gotta eat real foods.