By Kirsten Serrano
What do I mean by extremes? Look no further than the extreme food tribes that have become incredibly popular. From the carnivore and keto diets on one end of the spectrum to veganism on the other, we are pulled in every direction. In decades past we had the zero sugar and zero fat extremes that wreaked havoc on our bodies and our food systems.
So, what do we eat? Whether you are seeking better health or a sustainable life for you and the planet, you will not find it at the opposing ends of the dietary spectrum. In a lot of dietary circles, that’s not just controversial, but downright blasphemous. Let’s bust some myths by telling some truths.
- Humans are designed to be omnivores.
- Our bodies have requirements for proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
- An all-plant approach is not going to save the planet.
- Most of us need to eat more plants.
- Good farming is the MOST important factor for feeding the world sustainably and nourishing bodies.
- Good farming involves plants and animals working symbiotically in a system.
- There is no right way to eat for everyone.
Wow. Writing that down almost feels like a declaration of war, but it is just facts. If that all makes sense to you, great. We are on the same page. Keep reading if you want some resources to further your understanding.
If it does not make sense and you are really looking for answers that explain why our approach to food is often so misguided, keep reading. The resources are going to help you too.
If you are saying, but I am not a nutrition expert or a farmer, do not worry. There are some excellent books that will explain what you need to know. One of the reasons extremes are so popular is that they are easy to explain. “Eat this, never that” is a great way to sell products and win followers. If that diet dogma often results in weight loss, well then you have hit the jackpot in the “wellness” world. So much of what we are told is boiled down to a slogan so here is what I call my universal truth. I call it universal because you already know it is true.
My universal truth is, “Our health, the quality of our food and the state of our planet are all interconnected.”
So, what’s the thinking eater to do? Dig a little deeper. I promise you do not have to get a nutrition degree or buy a farm. I am continually asked for my top resources and where to start. These three books are it. They are where I started, what got me on my road to better health and ignited my passion for food literacy. They are excellent (and enjoyable) books for reading/listening about getting smart about food (and impervious to marketing.) They are not about nutrition per se. They are about how our food system works which has everything to do with nutrition. These three books, which I have listed in the order I would read them, will explain how our food system works and where the problems are.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
- The Third Plate by Dan Barber
My journey in understanding food compelled me to write my own book that breaks down what you really need to know about food into “digestible” lessons and then takes the next important step of guiding you in how to put it into practice. It covers everything from how we “broke” farming and why it matters to how to be a savvy shopper, outfit a kitchen and get meals on the table. My book “Eat to Your Advantage” is available for purchase online.
However you decide to approach it, I hope you do dig in and learn more about why our health, the quality of our food and the state of our planet are all interconnected and how you can apply that knowledge to your own life.
Kirsten Serrano is a nutrition consultant, chef, farmer, food literacy educator and the best-selling author of “Eat to Your Advantage.” You can find out more about her work at SmallWonderFood.com.