If you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching Michael Pollan’s new series, Cooked.
Based on his book of the same name, Cooked, in typical Pollan style, shows us a fresher, healthier, and more enjoyable way to eat. He focuses not only on the nutritional value of foods, but also the culture of preparing and sharing meals.
The series is divided into four parts: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Each episode features mouth-watering meals from a variety of countries and cultures.
Pollan also offers theories as to how America’s diet and food culture got so completely messed up.
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As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about a recently published study in The BMJ that showed
Ultra-processed foods comprised 57.9% of energy intake, and contributed 89.7% of the energy intake from added sugars.
In other words, Americans get almost 60% of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods.
What are ultra-processed foods? Well, most foods, even healthy ones, are processed. Canned beans and tomatoes, frozen peas and carrots, milk, yogurt, whole wheat bread and orange juice are all processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods are such items as frozen pizzas or burritos, potato chips, Fruit Loops, hot dogs, cupcakes, soda, cookies and the like.
According to The BMJ study, these foods also account for 90% of the added sugars we get in our diets!
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Pollan talks about ultra-processed foods. How we came to be so dependent on them, and how the manufacturers use the cheapest, least nutritious ingredients to maximize profits.
Ultra-processed foods are cheap and easy, and our taste buds have become hooked on them. Did you know they are designed by “crave” engineers or consultants to appeal to the emotional centers in our brains? Therefore we choose foods with our emotions rather than our intelligence.
We have a generation of Americans that have been raised in large part on ultra-processed foods. They don’t know how to shop for nutritious foods, or how to prepare them. They don’t value time spent creating healthy meals for friends and family.
I am so grateful to my mother, who made me and my siblings eat healthy foods like oatmeal, yogurt and home-grown fruits and vegetables long before “health foods” were a thing.
Research has shown that kids who have healthy diets are less likely to suffer from cancer and other chronic diseases when they are older. Don’t we owe it to our kids to give them the best possible foundation for a healthy life?
I’ve only watched the first two episodes, but it’s left me yearning for a return to an American culture that takes more time, gets more pleasure, and places more value on what we put in our bodies, and how we interact with family and friends.
It took decades to get us to this unhealthy point in our country, and reversing the trend will take time, too.
We have to start at home, in our own small circle of influence—our kids, our families and our friends.
In Cooked, Michael Pollan speaks and cooks with such passion and joy that I defy anyone to watch it and not come away wanting to have just a little bit of what he’s having.
Other great books by Michael Pollan: