A few months ago, one of my friends lamented (in a facebook post) over hearing that the FDA had banned the California Walnut Commission from making the claim that diets including walnuts can reduce the risk of heart disease. She was upset because she thought they had ruled based on the fact that walnuts are not a drug.
I was in agreement with her at the time because I try to take a more holistic approach whenever possible, but I have now changed my mind. Well, actually, a more accurate description of my current state is: I have slightly altered my thinking.
Last night I read an article in the New York Times entitled Foods With Benefits, or So They Say and it certainly made me think. To give you a better understanding of my perspective, before reading this article, I have had a little exposure to Ayurveda, thanks to my yoga teacher training. I am not an expert, but I think it makes a lot of sense that certain foods are better for certain people than others and, basically, you are what you eat (in which case, I’m probably a big chocolate chip cookie).
That being said, I also realize medicine has its place in this world. My grandmother was a family physician and I have two cousins in the medical field. I was raised to believe that the best course of action to take in matters of health is “everything in moderation”. I think most holistic/natural/crunchy people out there would agree with me on that, to some extent. Even the current Dalai Lama, though vegetarian most of the time, eats meat occasionally for his health.
What makes this article so interesting to me is: it allowed me to see from the FTC & FDA’S perspective. Before, I had assumed the walnut issue boiled down to somewhat of a “conspiracy” between the drug companies and the government. Don’t worry, I am not a conspiracy theorist! I just thought maybe the drug companies had the right lobbyists working for them. Who knows, maybe that is the case, but now I can also see how I may have been wrong.
What I see now is that the GINORMOUS food companies out there have turned “health” into a very profitable industry (which I also realize is not a new thing) and the FDA and FTC do not have the resources to fully evaluate every claim made on food labels, so they make general rules about certain types of food to prevent those companies from “bending” the rules.
Surprise, surprise! Drug companies are not the only big companies out there trying to put one over on consumers and there is only so much the government can do to keep both in line.
I read labels. I always have, for the most part (though what I look for has changed slightly with maturity). Because of that, I already know that one bowl of Cheerios does not have enough fiber to do much of anything for anyone’s cholesterol. I also know that Activia does not have all that many probiotics in one serving, but it does have A LOT of calories, which means the necessary three servings it would take to keep someone regular might also add a few extra pounds to that person’s weight. I also know that whole grain hot cereal and kefir are much better solutions to those issues.
So, what have I learned today? Nothing. 🙂 No, but really, this article just reaffirmed that I should not believe everything I hear (or see on facebook), I should read labels and know what I am really consuming, and there is no short cut to living a healthy lifestyle.