Wednesday, January 18, 2012

6th worst article on the Internet

I discovered a link to 6 Worst Soups in America today. While their intentions are good, I still have a beef with this article. Har har. Pun totally intended. I don't like its strong emphasis on calories and its blatant disregard for nutrition.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a food scientist. I am not a certified nutritionist. All I have is what I experience, and what my instincts and common sense tell me about what I read. I am ok being wrong, but this is what I think.

It's not all about calories
The article lists six (totally unpopular) canned or restaurant soups and these key characteristics: Kind of soup, and calories, fat, and sodium per volume. It then proceeds to explain why each soup is bad. It does give you an alternative, but even those, I think, are kinda stupid, which I promise I will elaborate on. The article unrightfully puts all the responsibility of losing weight on how many calories you consume, which completely simplified, is true. But you could also eat absolute crap (literally poop, possibly) every day and lose weight if you consumed fewer calories than you burned. But, you'd also die. Because poop and crappy food have no nutrients. So you could be thin, but also wildly unhealthy. WILDLY.

This is common sense. This is instinct. 
They're not the six worst soups in America, they're the six most calorie-dense.

Full fat is better than no fat...?
The war on fat and salt regardless of amount or quality is getting out of hand. Read all about my rant on this "war" next week. It's more real than the war on religion, Rick Perry.

Sure, maybe a can of Amy's lentil soup has 460 calories, but you can bet I'll feel very satisfied with the fats (which, by the way, may be very good for me), protein, and fiber in those legumes I just consumed. Should I eat it every day? Probably not, but would you even want to? Should I eat the whole can? Not unless I'm hungry for the whole can! Eating healthfully is a balance. 
What if I get the alternative, and feel completely unsatisfied? What if I eat the whole can and still feel hungry? This is unlikely to happen with the calorie-dense soup for someone who doesn't over-eat, but over-eating's a can of worms (soup?) I don't want to open here. It'll get all over my desk.

Eating less of it
If you eat smaller portions, you will likely eat more frequently, your metabolism will speed up, and before you know it, you'll often rely on healthful, calorie-dense foods to fuel you. Well, it's not guaranteed, but it's likely that if you move your body around a little every day and don't eat more than you need, you will have a pretty snappy system. :: Eats some almonds ::

Eat This, Not That!
The problem with their recommendations in this article is that they're telling you to substitute something you like for something you may or may not like, or something that's not even the same kind of soup! And in any case, substitutions can be dangerous, because if you want a donut and someone gives you a sliced pineapple ring for a substitute, you might go "Hey, this pineapple ring is good!" But you may still very much want that donut. You might even want it until you get it.
I also dislike these kinds of comments: "Here are a few foods than contain less saturated and trans fat: Burger King Triple Whopper, 13 Taco Bell Steak Nacho Cheese Chalupas, and an entire medium-sized pepperoni pizza from Domino's. " How is that helpful? Are people now going to think that eating a Whopper is better for them than a tomato basil bisque and will help them lose weight?
Perhaps the message should be, "Eat these calorie-dense foods in moderation." Or..."Make your own, fresh soup and try not to buy processed, canned soup" or "try eating fewer cream-based soups for a little while and see what happens" (the reason being that cream-based soups often have fewer vegetables/nutrients and more "extra" ingredients like thickeners and sugar. The french eat a lot of dairy and fat, and they don't have the health problems we do...I firmly believe that dietary fat is not the enemy).

Maybe it'll help
Perhaps the problem I have with this article stems from the fact that I eat to be healthy, not to be a certain weight, and I think we should be focusing on health regardless of whether we're trying to lose weight. Losing weight is usually a fairly short-term goal and people want fast results. Health and longevity don't always show up as benefits, especially if nothing ever goes wrong. It's like not stepping in a pot hole every day, whereas losing weight is like someone giving you a present on the street every day. So, I get that my perspective may be uncommon.

It's simple, but it's not black and white
I don't think eating has to be complicated. But I also believe that when we say "fat always bad, low-sodium always good," we're cheating ourselves out of really understanding what our body wants and needs. Eating becomes complicated when it becomes solely an intellectual exercise, because it seems that we've lost touch with the instinct. Just like a woman instinctively knows how to have a baby, so do we all know how to eat food to prolong our lives and ultimately our species. You control what goes into your body, except when you're 5 and a camp counselor forces apple sauce down your throat over the water fountain while you gag.
Anyway, I believe we all somehow know what's good for our health and what's bad for our health, but we've gotten lost in a sea of misinformation, most of which is implying that we don't know how to eat.

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