David Gans (tnf) Tue 8 Jun 10 09:45
I am very happy to introduce Darya Pino to the Inkwell. I've been a big fan of her web site, <http://www.summertomato.com>, for quite a while now. Darya is a scientist, foodie and advocate of local seasonal foods. She shares her healthy eating tips at SummerTomato.com, blogs for The Huffington Post and contributes to Edible SF. Follow her on Twitter @summertomato. Leading the discussion is Diane Brown. Diane is a foodie who trained as a scientist, works as a doctor, and loves to cook, eat and enjoy food. She has never met a bean she could resist buying, mills her own whole grain flours, and is still trying to make up for 20 years of chocolate allergy by eating as much as possible. She posts some of her recipes and random food ramblings on her WELL.com web site, <http://www.well.com/user/debunix/recipes/FoodPages.html>.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 8 Jun 10 09:52
Let me butt in with an opening compliment: Darya, summertomato.com has changed my life. You have posted some really great advice in a most readable and useful form, e.g. "Ten Reasons to Never Eat Free Food" <http://summertomato.com/10-reasons-to-never-eat-free-food/> and "Shocking: Sugar Content of Common Food Products" <http://summertomato.com/shocking- sugar-content-ofcommon-food-products/>. Your site is full of practical in- formation that is backed by science and research, and you present it in a highly accessible form. I (and my cardiologist) salute you!
Darya Pino (daryapino) Tue 8 Jun 10 11:27
Wow, that's one of the best compliments I've ever received, thanks David! I have a few simple goals that I try to meet with everything I write at Summer Tomato: 1) Make health enjoyable. Real, healthy food is delicious and should enhance your life, not hinder it. 2) Provide practical, not theoretical advice. Understanding the intricacies of insulin metabolism will only get you so far. How can a busy person who enjoys food really use this information? 3) Make science understandable without overstating the truth. Oversimplification of science is dangerous, but long drawn out explanations are boring and less than useful. I try to put findings into context and focus on the big picture (our daily lives). 4) Never take myself too seriously. I don't have all the answers and I distrust anyone who claims to. If we can't listen to other points of view and laugh at ourselves when we blow it, then we're really missing the point of this whole exercise: to make life awesome :) My favorite Twitter hashtag will always be #lifeisgood
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Tue 8 Jun 10 23:07
That all makes so much sense. Today there are a lot of ways to increase the health of your diet that don't take quite as much time or commitment as my grain mill, and don't compromise on taste. But it's not always so easy to know what's the real deal and what's not: the big food companies are trying to fool you into thinking that adding a little whole wheat or decreasing the sodium a little or cutting the fat or using a less refined sugar or adding some goji berries negates the unhealthy aspects of their cookies or microwave dinners or salad dressing or whatever. If you dont know how to read between the lines of the nutrition labels, youre going to be fooled. If you dont know how to cook some simple healthy food from scratch, youre almost entirely at their mercy. And even if you can read the labels, and cook a little so youre not only buying prepared foods, how do you know which nutrition advice to take to heart, and incorporate into your life, and which is a junk-science based passing fad? Thats where something like your blog seems so valuable: you share good information and show how to put it to tasty use, with real foods.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Tue 8 Jun 10 23:46
In my work with patients nutrition comes up *all* the time. People want to know what specific foods to eat more of or to avoid, what supplements will make them better, and always, always, how to lose weight. They get so disappointed when I don't have any simple answers. For some time now one of the few supplements I've given a tentative thumbs-up to (when patients bring them up, I never recommend them otherwise) are Omega-3s. I figured it probably wouldn't hurt and might help, as long as they don't have contaminated ingredients. But you had an interesting link last week to a study that argues against annointing omega-3s as our dietary savior. How do you decide whether or not to link to something that goes against conventional foodie wisdom like this? And have you gotten much feedback from people who are promoting grassfed animal products as healthier based on their omega-3/omega-6 balance?
Darya Pino (daryapino) Wed 9 Jun 10 09:47
You touched on the point of "functional foods," where companies add something a little extra like fiber or omega-3 to make the food seem healthier. This is a sure sign that the food is not good for you. These foods are generally not measurably healthier than foods without the fortification. The difference is so small as to be irrelevant. The best data we have suggests that the only thing that makes a food healthier is LESS processing. So we can deduce that these functional foods have very little nutritional value.
Darya Pino (daryapino) Wed 9 Jun 10 09:58
You bring up excellent points about supplements. The only convincing data I've seen for supplementation is for vitamin D3, which anyone living in or north of San Francisco should be taking at least 2000 IU. This does seem to prevent ostoporosis/fractures, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and possibly some cancers. I definitely don't think omega-3s are a dietary savior. They are a necessary vitamin, but you just need to get a decent intake and you're fine. More than that does not help (and with some supplements is actually harmful). I don't think this goes against the "foodie wisdom," I think media has been overzealous in promoting this supplement and have given the public a false impression of the data. As for grass-fed beef, I think the fat content ratio is interesting, but not the main reason to eat this food. First, grass-fed tastes better. It is healthier because it is from cows not raised in a feedlot and therefore haven't needed to be pumped with antibiotics. They are also less likely to be diseased, and are better for the environment. It is also more expensive, which I think is a good thing. We would eat less beef if we paid what it actually costs to produce it. Feedlot beef is cheap because the corn and soy the cows are fed are subsidized by the government. It would serve us well to question how much we want to spend on meat and limit our purchases to high quality, healthier products in smaller quantities. But anyone eating a healthy, balanced diet of unprocessed foods probably doesn't get much extra because of the beef's fat ratio. Make sense?
David Gans (tnf) Wed 9 Jun 10 10:15
Sure does! I just do my best to stay clear of the grocery-industrial complex, buying food at farmers' markets as much as possible. Michael Pollan's journalism on this subject has been hugely persuasive to me, and I am doing my best to keep it simple. Am I correct in assuming you generally agree with his advice?
Darya Pino (daryapino) Wed 9 Jun 10 10:42
I love Michael Pollan and consider him a friend and mentor. I think he is spot on with his analysis of what is making us healthy, particularly his points on processed foods and our lack of an enduring food culture in the US. Traditional eating culture has been taken over by food industry marketing, so we now snack all day, eat on the go and have been convinced buffets are a good deal. The idea of "value" have overtaken common sense and pleasure.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Wed 9 Jun 10 12:09
I also love your post about 'free food'. I bring my own bag lunch to work every day, and generally eat from it even when lunch is being provided for a meeting of one kind or another, and I feel a strong peer pressure to eat it. But though I eat some junk food, I'd rather have a nutritionally empty candies that are not embarrassed to be what they are, and at least have interesting flavor, than eat the highly refined and processed who knows what 'creme' filled pastry that never came near real butter or cream.
. (wickett) Wed 9 Jun 10 14:16
I've not read your blog, but will. It sounds delicious! I was raised as an Adele Davis baby and have never really eaten junk food. I was served a bowl of Campbell's mushroom soup when I was 18 and was horrified. I ate two spoonsful out of politeness--too thin, salty, tasteless, one piece of mushroom. The only processed foods I routinely buy in the market are Ry-Vita crackers (my oven isn't hot enough to bake crisp crackers), canned sardines and salmon, cheese, and ingredients like milk, baking soda, and baking powder. I bake bread and make yogurt every week. I, alas, don't frequent farmers' markets as much as I'd like, as the crowds can give me vertigo. Even if I could stomach the flavor, components, and texture, I've never understood the lure of processed food. Good cooking doesn't take too much time, although it does take some planning. I freeze packages of whatever soup, stew, pot pie I've made for my husband's lunch. So simple, so quick, so yummy.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 9 Jun 10 15:56
Darya, I just learned so much from your post "When is a Calorie Not a Calorie?" I've never understood how I could be so mindful about quantity and still gain so much weight, especially in the belly, which, I have been told, is a good indicator of insulin resistance. Now I understand! Thank you! Also, the post that David referenced above about the Sugar Content of Common Foods. I love the Thai salad at California Pizza Kitchen. I feel so virtuous ordering salads and having dressing on the side because I always thought the dressing was where the calories were. Is that what makes the Thai salad so high - 45 grams! - in sugar?
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Wed 9 Jun 10 19:24
(for our off-site readers, please email <firstname.lastname@example.org> with your questions and comments for Darya Pino)
Gail (gail) Wed 9 Jun 10 21:23
Where can I find the "When is a Calorie Not a Calorie" post ?
jelly fish challenged (reet) Wed 9 Jun 10 21:59
We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Thu 10 Jun 10 04:41
What a fantastic read!
David Gans (tnf) Thu 10 Jun 10 09:54
Darya, you're a grad student, right? What are you studying and what thesis (dissertation?) are you working on now? And what are your long-term plans? Selfishly, I want to you contine doing <http://www.summertomato.com> for the rest of my life :^)
jelly fish challenged (reet) Thu 10 Jun 10 10:09
As do I. I deeply appreciate your clear explanations of bodies and food, and appreciate even more deeply your NOT DEMONIZING FOOD ITSELF. It seems to me that many people get so worried about what to eat they fall into the supplements/diets trap and lose the pleasures of eating real & good food. YYour blog is a wonderful marriage of foodie/healthy advice. NOt sure I have any questions, but I wanted to check in as a fan and someone who refers friends to your blog over and over.
. (wickett) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:44
I mostly agree with reet, although from a brief read, I commend you for not demonizing real food, *and* for certainly questioning the value of pseudofood and clearly pointing out the harm it does.
Darya Pino (daryapino) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:46
@debunix I couldn't agree more about appreciating junk food for what it is. I eat food that isn't healthy, but I know it and appreciate it for what it is. To me the most offensive food is processed junk that pretends to be healthy but really isn't (and also tastes horrible).
Darya Pino (daryapino) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:48
@castle That makes me so happy! Nutrition is much more complicated than picking a diet and sticking to it. But knowing a few basic things about how your body deals with calories can be tremendously helpful in making food decisions. Let me know if you have any more questions.
Darya Pino (daryapino) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:52
@tnf My PhD thesis, which I am completing this summer, is in neuroscience at UCSF. I study a population of adult neural stem cells and how they develop. I'm happy to report that when I finish writing up my research findings I am forever done with academics and will pursue health writing. I still haven't found a great way to monetize Summer Tomato (without selling out) but am experimenting with alternate ways to make this my job. There will likely be a book or 2 in my future.
Darya Pino (daryapino) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:55
@reet @wickett Thanks, that is exactly the message I try to get across: it's okay to enjoy food, you will still be healthy so long as what you're eating is actually food. Life is too short and food is too delicious to make it your enemy. And in fact, making food your enemy is a fantastic way to gain weight. Eating delicious food is WIN WIN!
David Gans (tnf) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:56
This is such a perfect example of knowledge=power. I am fortunate to be married to a great cook and a committed organic-food consumer (i.e. <reet>), but I also spend a good deal of time on the road, where I have a great deal less control over my eating options. I have gotten great benefit from the advice on <http://www.summertomato.com>, and from the Nutrition Action Health Letter <http://www.cspinet.org/nah/index.htm> - which publishes reviews of processed foods and restaurant meals by brand name, detailed analyses of nutritional issues, etc. It's so important to have this kind of help in getting past the layers of marketing bullshit that cover everything in American life these days.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 10 Jun 10 11:57
<21> congratulations on the impending end of your academic career! I really want you to be able to continue with summertomato because it is a great resource. Do you have an opinion on CSPI and the Nutrition Action Health Letter? Maybe you can affiliate with them!
Darya Pino (daryapino) Thu 10 Jun 10 13:38
I like CSPI and the Nutrition Action Health letter, but I feel they are missing the boat on new media. I'd like to do something more progressive than mailing letters.
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