Bob 1 vs. the General 0

Do you eat food? Are you sure? Did you eat “breakfast cereal” this morning? Most “breakfast cereals” aren’t food, which puts them in the “entertainment” category. There are lots of ways to tell, but if the ingredient list alone doesn’t convince, you can just take a look at the highly-designed box. A big part of the experience of eating a bowl of cereal is having your face glued so closely to the captivating box that you have barely any awareness of the stuff you’re shoveling into your mouth. This, as I’ve said before, is not a good sign.

Try this experiment: empty your breakfast cereals into a plastic container and toss out the boxes. Notice how much less interesting the product-eating experience becomes. Without something to distract you, your attention falls to what’s in the bowl. And there just isn’t a whole lot there. Real food nourishes; the rest is entertainment.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients in Cheerios, made by General Mills. They list whole-grain oats first. Whole grains consist of a highly nourishing bran and germ, plus an endosperm, or starch core. The second ingredient is modified corn starch. Frankly I didn’t consider that corn starch to be food even before it was modified. Then, although whole grains already contain significant amounts of iron and B vitamins, all these are listed individually as separate ingredients. Cereal manufacturers add vitamins and minerals to cereals to compensate for losses that occur during processing, which may also help to explain the discrepancy between O’s and actual oat flour.

A comparison of Cheerios with Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Oat Flour reveals that O’s have less fiber and protein, which leads me to conclude either that 1) General Mills uses a lower-quality oat than does Bob, or 2) it dilutes the quality of the original product with fillers, thickeners and stabilizers. Which is what modified corn starch is. And don’t forget that Cheerios markets itself as a finger food for babies. Ugh.

The best way to nourish oneself is to eat foods as they actually grow. Whole foods include cofactors, enzyme activators, and vitamin formulations that maximize the availability of nutrients contained in the plants from which the food originated. What O’s are doing is what most processed baked goods do: start with a whole grain — oats, in this case — remove much of the nutrient-rich parts, and then attempt to replace some of them. In America this is called “enrichment” and, in the special case of folate, “fortification.” 

I think I’ll stick with whole grains.

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Spring Greens & Grains

This is one of those recipes that gives you a chance to feature whatever grain you feel like eating today, whatever greens are in season, and whatever other vegetables you are in the mood to sautè. Take a deep breath, saunter through the kitchen to see what’s there, and then gather your goodies and start to chop. If you get everything ready early in the day, you can throw this together pretty quickly. And if you make the grains ahead of time, you’ll feel like a real pro when everything comes together in just minutes! Continue reading

Here’s Your Approach!

It suddenly occurred to me this week, right out of the blue, that stepping into the driver’s seat (and applying our understanding of the differences between real food and manufactured calories) looks different for each of the three major macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, fat. The strategy for each is slightly different. Now, if you’re new to this, then it’s perfectly reasonable to try one at a time and, without a single second’s hesitation, I would start with carbohydrates. Continue reading

Potatoes, Horseradish, and Other Gifts from the Compost Pile

A few years ago, when winter was coming to an end and spring was still soggy and cold, I discovered a lone organic* potato in my kitchen. It is important to specify organic here because conventionally grown potatoes are much less likely to root and generate offspring. It was dried out, wrinkly, and way past edible.  At least six baby roots were beginning to form on the skin.  I decided to try an experiment. I cut that potato into six small chunks, each containing a single rootlet. I dug a trench in the garden on the far side of my backyard, and dropped the pieces into the trench, about 1 foot apart. I covered them with dirt and waited. A few weeks later, when potato buds began to push up through the mud, I covered them with more dirt and waited again.  I kept covering the buds until I forgot about them completely, distracted as I was by other projects. Later that summer, I found a group of straggly potato plants on the far side of the backyard, and when I finally got around to digging up those potato plants, I discovered many beautiful, golden-skinned, new potatoes, perfect in every way. Continue reading

The Best Broccoli Soup

Recently I discovered three large stalks of broccoli in the refrigerator, and one of them was starting to turn a bit yellow at the tips of the buds. Time to swing into action, unless I wanted those beautiful stalks to end up in the coop. And I did not! Continue reading

The Proposed 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines

Every 5 years, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health & Human Services work with academicians to identify “foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease.” Things have not been going very well. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Passover Quinoa Pilaf

Last week I received a request for ideas about what to make during Passover. I knew I had to come up with something wonderful, so here’s a very special little recipe just for you, Nancy! Continue reading