Words to Live By

Michael Pollan is credited with the aphorism, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Tag lines are just good marketing; nothing wrong with that as long as it’s honest.

Bill Gottlieb interviewed me last year on the topic of prediabetes for his upcoming book (Bottom Line’s Breakthroughs in Natural Healing 2012). Bill had given me a preparatory list of questions, one of which was,”What are the best dietary recommendations? I’m looking for fun, fresh specificity here—along the lines of your book!” Also, “What’s the best way for a person to implement it—specific, practical, small-step actions that would lead to actually changing the diet?”

We didn’t have a chance to get to those in the interview, but here are some of my thoughts:

  • Give up all man-made food*
  • Give up all sugar-sweetened sodas and “sports drinks”
  • Give up all flour products
  • Give up all flours, starches, and added sugars
  • Give up deserts

But “giving up” is not a message people want to hear when contemplating a diet change, even if it’s for their own good. Nor do they want to hear, “Don’t eat . . .” “Avoid” and “cut back on” are not specific. “Forego” works, but is just a euphemism for “give up.”

“Eat only God-made foods” works for me but might turn off the atheists and agnostics.

Here’s a more marketable catch-phrase that I rather like and claim as my own:

Eat natural food.*

By “natural,” I mean “present in or produced by nature.” This would not include candy bars, potato and corn chips, soda pop, sports drinks, apple pie, bread and other flour products, cookies, etc. That still leaves a lot of different foods to eat, including most of the items on the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Whether modern, mass-produced versions of fruits and vegetables are natural is a debate for another day. I suspect modern corn, for example, is nothing close to the maize cultivated by Native Americans 400 years ago.

Why the asterisk? The exceptions to the “eat natural food” rule are red wine, olive oil, and vinegar. Those are partly natural, partly man-made. (Where do we get vinegar?) The red wine and olive oil are potentially healthful, and many of us like vinegar on our natural salad vegetables.

Eat natural food.

I bet the average person eating the standard American diet would tend to lose excess weight and be healthier by making the switch.

Steve Parker, M.D.

* Exceptions: red wine, olive oil, vinegar

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