Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nutrition and Tradition

I find this article on nutrition very interesting. I thing it diagnoses not just the problem with our current culture of food but also the current culture of how we understand ourselves. The article argues that the scientific tool of reductionism “takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.” This has lead to processed foods that have the known nutrients but are still unhealthy because we lack the full picture of what is going on.

It’s also important to remind ourselves that what reductive science can manage to perceive well enough to isolate and study is subject to change, and that we have a tendency to assume that what we can see is all there is to see. When William Prout isolated the big three macronutrients, scientists figured they now understood food and what the body needs from it; when the vitamins were isolated a few decades later, scientists thought, O.K., now we really understand food and what the body needs to be healthy; today it’s the polyphenols and carotenoids that seem all-important. But who knows what the hell else is going on deep in the soul of a carrot? (Unhappy Meals)

So what is one of the cures for “nutritionism”that is laid out in the article? To go back. Not to what our mothers see as food, but what our mother’s, mother would consider food. To go back to the wisdom that is found in how our ancestors lived and ate. So to use my own word, we should go back to tradition. And extending the argument, I would say that materialism has the same fundamental disfunction and the same fundamental cure.

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