We were reading labels together: the back of the Country Crock, the back of the light sour cream, the fine print on what we thought was virgin olive oil. Somewhere in the fridge there was “real” butter for our cooking, wrapped in waxy paper with its neat red lettering.
Moreover, he has slipped sticks of real butter into my kitchen before, claiming it’s a necessity for some of his more lavish French recipes.
Do You Know What You’re Eating?
We were deep in discussion and matching up unpronounceable ingredients to brief paragraphs discovered on the Internet. We were determined to see if our attempts to avoid trans fats were leading to other indiscretions, unknowingly, that were potentially more hazardous.
“Look,” he says. “Let’s just eat butter.”
I roll my eyes. “Fine, but in moderation.”
And I think about his fromage habits… not so different from my chocolate habits… and realize that moderation is easier said than done.
As a general rule, I try to eat ingredients that don’t give refuge to chemicals and compounds I can’t pronounce. But I won’t pretend to do so in entirety – not anywhere close. Like most of us, I haven’t the time, the money, the access, or the knowledge, though I continue to make an effort and do what I can.
Over the past several years, I have taken the time to look at labels – and to read. I avoid what I know I should – or think I know – including anything that ends in “-ose” or “-ine” making my ears perk up. I try to consume a balance of those nutritional elements that “our news” recommends we enjoy.
Angels and Villains?
As for butter, it’s been on my NO list for years, which is all the more entertaining (to me) as only days after the trans fat conversation I see this from Mark Bittman at The Times: “Butter is Back.”
According to Mr. Bittman, evidence is increasingly pointing back to basics when it comes to the stick or tub of our fave creamy concoction.
Mr. Bittman writes:
… a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.
… the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.
He goes on to remind us:
… This doesn’t mean you abandon fruit for beef and cheese; you just abandon fake food for real food…
Real food. Got it. That entails access to real food, as well as time, a bit of education on the subject, and the patience to read.
Speaking of reading, does anyone else recall the yo-yo effect of NO to caffeine, YES to caffeine, NO to caffeine, okay… make that a yes after all – in moderation? And oh by the way, moderation in our java joy may mean two cups of coffee for you, four cups for me, and we all finally give up (in dismay) and make our own as-adult-as-we-can judgments.
Healthy Eating: Common Sense vs. Confusion
Now I won’t wax on about “natural” versus “organic,” but I will remind you to note the difference, whether in search of healthier beef and poultry or anything else as you stroll your local market with eyes glazing over and resolve in remission.
Returning to the delights of real butter, the overriding message just may be to use our noggins. Here is the kicker in Mr. Bittman’s column:
… let’s try once again to pause and think for a moment about how it makes sense for us to eat, and in whose interest it is for us to eat hyperprocessed junk. The most efficient summary might be to say “eat real food” and “avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.”
While I might find that just a tiny bit extreme (Coca Cola existed 100 years ago, then again, no one would pretend it’s food), I’m back to my premise that moderation is key as is awareness – of who it is that benefits from what we put on our tables (and into our mouths), the importance of how our food is made, and ingredients – real or otherwise – that we can pronounce, and in which we can believe.
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