Category Archives: Culinary

Why Do We Eat?

It’s generally not because we’re hungry.

I can generally go all day without eating, and often do. There’s a lot of evidence that fasting has some of the benefits of caloric restriction, in terms of life extension.

I’d note, though, that the article seems to subscribe to the caloric theory of weight gain and loss. It doesn’t say what “high-density” foods are, energetically speaking, but not all are created equal. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.

Rethinking Fat

Even NPR is starting to figure it out.

But note, that, as with climate “science,” dissenters have trouble getting published when they have actual science in opposition to the “settled” science in nutrition:

“Fat was really the villain,” says Walter Willett, who is chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. And, by default, people “had to load up on carbohydrates.”

But, by the mid-1990s, Willett says, there were already signs that the high-carb, low-fat approach might not lead to fewer heart attacks and strokes. He had a long-term study underway that was aimed at evaluating the effects of diet and lifestyle on health.

“We were finding that if people seemed to replace saturated fat — the kind of fat found in cheese, eggs, meat, butter — with carbohydrate, there was no reduction in heart disease,” Willett says.

Willett submitted his data to a top medical journal, but he says the editors would not publish his findings. His paper was turned down.

“There was a lot of resistance to anything that would question the low-fat guidelines,” Willett says, especially the guidelines on saturated fat.

Willett’s paper was eventually published by a British medical journal, the BMJ, in 1996.

And that was almost twenty years ago, and the junk-science FDA guidelines that probably killed my father in the seventies remain pretty much in place.

Terrible Nutrition Advice

The top five worst.

I agree with all of them. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat, eating cholesterol doesn’t increase your cholesterol, stick with saturated fat (not just butter, but egg yolks, and animal fats), not seed oils, and stop counting calories. Just eat what’s good for you, and avoid what’s bad.

This is even more junk science than climate science (and as I’ve noted in the past, this kind of nonsense probably killed my father in the late seventies). As I’ve also noted in the past, science that has public consequences tends to become politicized.

Saturated Fat

The science is (finally) settled:

Since the 1970s almost everyone in this country has been subjected to a barrage of propaganda about saturated fat. It was bad for you; it would kill you. Never mind that much of the nonsaturated fat was in the form of trans fats, now demonstrated to be harmful. Never mind that many polyunsaturated fats are chemically extracted oils that may also, in the long run, be shown to be problematic.

Never mind, too, that the industry’s idea of “low fat” became the emblematic SnackWell’s and other highly processed “low-fat” carbs (a substitution that is probably the single most important factor in our overweight/obesity problem), as well as reduced fat and even fat-free dairy, on which it made billions of dollars. (How you could produce fat-free “sour cream” is something worth contemplating.)

But let’s not cry over the chicharrones or even nicely buttered toast we passed up. And let’s not think about the literally millions of people who are repelled by fat, not because it doesn’t taste good (any chef will tell you that “fat is flavor”) but because they have been brainwashed.

And this junk-science nutritional advice almost certainly contributed to my father’s death thirty-five years ago. I hope, at some point, that they stop putting all the “fat free” labels in the candy section.

The New Federal Dietary Guidelines

…are being written by vegetarian junk scientists:

“After 30 years of waiting, the fact that this committee is addressing sustainability issues brings me a lot of pleasure,” she began. Clancy went on to advocate that Americans should become vegetarians in order to achieve sustainability in the face of “climate change.”

“What pattern of eating best contributes to food security and the sustainability of land air and water?” Clancy asked. “The simple answer is a plant-based diet.”

“Now, this is not new, this idea of how important plant-based diets are has been around for, gosh, 30-40 years,” she said. “Before that for people who long ago were eating vegetarian.”

Clancy said plant-based diets lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and have a “smaller ecological impact” on “drought, climate change, soil erosion, pesticides and antibiotics in water supplies.”

There is zero scientific evidence of cardiovascular disease being caused by eating animals, per se (though corn-fed beef and chicken might be problematic due to omega 6).

Seven Unhealthy Foods

…that turn out to be good for you. It’s hard to reconcile this, though:

…he scientific consensus on whether saturated fats are bad for us is changing. Now researchers are stressing that saturated fats like coconut oil actually lower bad cholesterol in our bodies.

With this:

If you consider popcorn something to douse with “butter-flavored topping” and shovel in your mouth at the multiplex, then keep it on the “bad” list. A study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest has concluded that movie theater popcorn—a medium tub, mind you—has 1,200 calories and 60 grams of the worst kind of saturated fat.

So what is the “worst kind of saturated fat”? I see nothing wrong with butter on popcorn (and to the degree there is, it’s the popcorn, not the butter).

She also reinforces the myth that “low calories” = “healthy.”

Death By Food Pyramid

A favorable review by Michael Eades of what looks to be an interesting new book on the history of nutrition pseudoscience.

I hadn’t realized the degree to which George McGovern was responsible, and how much he was influenced by Pritikin. They and their junk science are responsible for millions of premature deaths, from the seventies on, likely including my father’s almost thirty-five years ago.

Sous Vide

The equipment for the home cook is getting better and cheaper.

Mine was very cheap. I just bought a controller for less than twenty bucks, and plugged an old slow cooker into it. It even included the temperature sensor for that price. The only problem with it is that it only reads out in Celsius, but that’s not a big deal (you can fix it by spending $35 instead). For bigger pieces (like the small rib roast I made last night), add an immersion heater for eight bucks (in my case, from Bed, Bath and Beyond) and use an insulated cooler. The only issue with that is that there’s no circulation, so I had to stir it occasionally to get it evenly up to temp. But it still beats hundreds of bucks for a fancy kitchen machine. And there are DIY guides for building circulators out of an aquarium pump.

Whole Milk

Helps you lose weight.

The notion that you should drink reduced-fat milk is based on two theories that have zero scientific basis — that calories per se make you fat, and that saturated fat is bad for your heart. They’re both nonsense.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The author still gets that part wrong:

Whole-milk dairy products are relatively high in saturated fat. And eating too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease. So many experts would agree that adults with high cholesterol should continue to limit dairy fat.

I repeat, there is zero empirical evidence that saturated fat increases the risk of coronary disease. It is based on the flawed theory that high cholesterol causes heart disease and that eating cholesterol increases your cholesterol. Again, neither is true.

The Calorie-Labeling Mess

Another ObamaCare disaster:

The calorie label clause, buried deep within the ACA’s 10,000 pages, seems harmless enough at first glance. Each restaurant chain with over 20 locations is required to display the calorie content of each food and drink item it serves on signs and printed menus–with vending machine distributors subjected to the same rules. But the regulation also covers “similar retail food establishments,” a clause vague enough to give FDA regulators sweeping power to determine who does and doesn’t have to comply.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg admitted that she “actually thought [calorie labeling] would be one of the more straightforward tasks…but little did I know how complicated it would be.” Hamburg’s concerns are hardly unfounded, but it’s small business owners and franchisees—not FDA bureaucrats—that will feel the most pain under the new law.

What’s particularly stupid is that even if they could make it work without impacting businesses so much, it won’t even do any good, because calories are not what make people obese. All part of the Democrats’ war on science.

Low-Carb Diets

…give better cardiovascular outcomes:

Recent randomized controlled trials document that low-carbohydrate diets not only decrease body weight but also improve cardiovascular risk factors. In light of this evidence from randomized controlled trials, dietary guidelines should be re-visited advocating a healthy low carbohydrate dietary pattern as an alternative dietary strategy for the prevention of obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

I’m convinced that the medieval unscientific low-fat nutrition advice killed my father in the seventies.

The Latest California Idiocy

Condoms for cooks’ hands:

So this law is in fact encouraging the very problem it strives to prevent. God, I’m glad I’m not governed by California—what a bunch of knuckleheads when it comes to food! Why don’t you people actually try to know what the f**k you’re talking about before legislating? Jesus.

I am continually washing my hands in the kitchen when I cook. This is moronic.


So, it wasn’t just me:

I found the stuff revolting, because it was like drinking cold tomato soup.

…It had great brand awareness when I was growing up, thanks to the constant barrage of ads featuring people who had, for some reason, forgotten to avail themselves of a V8, and remonstrated themselves by slamming their palms into their foreheads.

Not even this made me want some.

Me, neither.


I share Lileks’ attitude:

Wife wanted Olives for the Christmas snack tray. There is an Olive Bar. I hate olives, so the olive bar is interesting: so many things to dislike and ignore. Just like the DirecTV options. The amount of choices you can passively reject is just astonishing; it’s a defining feature of modern life.

I suppose I should try a couple different ones, just to see if maybe there’s one I like, but I’ve never gotten into them.

The War On Saturated Fat

Is it time to end it?

Yes. Next question?

When you’ve lost the LA Times

[Update a few minutes later]

“When saturated fat got mixed up with the high sugar added to processed food in the second half of the 20th century, it got a bad name,” noted UC San Francisco pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig. On the question of which is worse — saturated fat or added sugar, Lustig added, “The American Heart Assn. has weighed in — the sugar many times over.”

Yes. Also, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Two of the most damaging nutrition myths are that you get cholesterol build up from eating cholesterol, and you get fat from eating fat. Both are based on the primitive “you are what you eat” theory. Stop counting calories, eat things that are good for you (which include saturated fat) and avoid things that are bad (grains and sugar).