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Eat your veg

(article, Kim Carlson)

"Just do it." Everyone knows what Nike means by its advertising slogan: Just run, just walk, just get off the couch. 

If only it took a pair of shoes to get the job done, they might even have been talking about eating your vegetables.

As Michael Pollan wrote in the New York Times on January 28, 2007, plants are where it’s at. (In case you're not registered at the Times, you can also find this piece in the International Herald Tribune). His exact words, in one of the more inspired first paragraphs I’ve read recently, are these: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." 

Thus, vegetables.

Despite the brevity of the first paragraph, the rest of Pollan’s essay is not such a quick read. If you don’t have an actual copy of the Times from Sunday, you’ll want to print out the online version, and savor it. 

In the essay, Pollan makes a case for eating less of those packaged things that scream “Eat me! I’m good for you!” and more of those quiet and unassuming things that contain no packaging at all. In other words, he suggests we look beyond labels and eat a variety of unprocessed foods. 

When we eat only for nutrient value, Pollan argues, we lose some of what makes eating pleasurable and sustaining. And we don’t eat what we ought to eat to be healthy; instead, we get sick. Witness the diseases that are running rampant through our populace: diabetes, heart disease, cancer.

One piece of Pollan’s advice is compelling but not easy to follow: “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” One of my great-great-grandmothers lived in Finland. Maybe my Finnish friends would recognize things she ate 100 years ago — but would I? As Pollan points out in The Omnivore's Dilemma, without a shared cuisine that's been developed over hundreds of years, we Americans are at something of a loss. We have to make it up as we go along.

Thus, the simplest advice — eat your vegetables — may be the best dietary advice we can get.

Furthermore, on the subject of vegetable matter: In case you missed it a week or so ago, Jeff Leach had a similarly compelling piece in the San Fransico Chronicle. Essentially he encourages us to eat vegetables too — for the fiber, especially if we're concerned about food safety.

Fiber and food safety? 

Fiber feeds the good bacteria that fight E. coli and other dastardly bacteria that come our way. I know, it sounds a little like a cops-and-robbers gig, but because this author is not trying to sell us a package of anything, I'm willing to listen.

And eat my vegetables.