The fake doctors at HuffPo are at it again. This time, Patricia Fitzgerald is writing about the “Top 10 Healing Foods of the Decade.” The article has just enough correct information in it to be exceptionally wrong.
One of the more ironic aspects to this is her quoting Michael Pollan. I have problems with some of Pollan’s ideas, but I like his little saying, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” When he first wrote this in a New York Times piece, he was arguing against “nutritionism”, the idea that you can break foods down into their components and then consume the component nutrients for specific benefit. Instead, he argued, eating real foods in proper amounts is a healthier practice for individuals and societies.
And yet Fitzgerald is embracing the same kind of fetishism that Pollan decried. By selecting certain foods as “best of the decade” she is engaging in food fad-ism rather than a rational, simplified approach to nutrition. Most experts agree that eating a balanced diet of real foods (rather than “food products”) in amounts sufficient to maintain a normal body habitus is the best approach to healthy eating. Beyond that, there is no magic in food. Too many calories leads to obesity and obesity leads to disease. It’s awfully hard to become obese on a diet that relies on fresh fruits and vegetables.
It’s not that some of the foods Fitzgerald writes about aren’t good for you—many are just fine. They just don’t live up to her hyperbolic claims. To say that a food is an “anti-inflammatory” or anti-oxidant is meaningless; neither of these terms has any real medical meaning. To say that a particular food lowers cholesterol isn’t meaningless, but it is deceptive—eating less can lower cholesterol in many people but not all. And any cholesterol-lowering effects gained by eating certain foods is dwarfed by the cholesterol-lowering effects of medications. If you have cholesterol high enough to significantly impact your health, no particular food is going to lower it enough to lower your risk of heart disease.
I get why she wants to call her self “Dr” despite not having any degree widely regarded as deserving of the label. Anyway, plenty of real doctors are quacks, so it doesn’t much matter. But when she starts using the Dr label to lend legitimacy to silly dietary advice, that’s just crappy.