When I suggested that we reorganize grocery stores into different sections based on how healthy stuff was, I wasn't actually kidding. I can't stress enough how weird it is that nutrition is both the most important part of our food shopping and totally obscured.
I've written about how unhealthy food disguises itself as healthy food with tricky labeling, but this goes way beyond that. Even conventional wisdom tricks us. Do you think granola is healthy? It's not! It's full of fat, which may or may not be bad. You'd think juice would be fine, since it's squeezed fruit and fruits are bombs of pure healthiness, but juice will also murder your liver. Even vegetables are bad for you -- I mean, probably. Google it.
The internet: Where everything is true!
Then, if you keep digging, you can find articles that challenge everything you think you know about nutrition. Maybe salt is okay! Saturated fats, too! Maybe the entire concept of nutritional research is flawed! Fuck it all! GORGE YOURSELF ON ICE CREAM RED BULL SMOOTHIES!
Cut that shit right out. Nutritional science is complicated because all science is complicated (that's why scientists do it instead of goobers like me). So the exact effect that "salt" and "saturated fat" are going to have on an individual person, or different people in general, is going to be tough to pin down. If you insist on finding out how bad each individual ingredient in each individual thing you eat is, you're going to get totally lost and come to the conclusion that it's all bullshit and we can eat whatever you want.
That's the trick, though. Because the information you're digging for in that situation isn't useful anyway. It was never on the table to just "stop eating salt," because salt is in everything. Don't believe me? It's a goddamn element.
But if you go to a doctor, or a good expert, and ask them to cut through the bullshit, it all comes down to one fairly simple thing: Whole foods good, prepackaged and fast foods bad. If you take the time to prepare your own meals, they'll end up being healthier through pure momentum -- probably because, unlike the food industry, you aren't actively trying to get yourself addicted to the stuff you're making.
At the end of the day, that first step toward being a healthy eater may not be easy, but at least it's clear. It's everything that comes next that's impossible.
J.F. Sargent is making rice right now! Rice is still healthy, right? Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and let him know if it's okay to eat rice.
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, and their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it. To get there, you'd have to cross a bridge -- sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy. If you fell off, you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael, along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer, discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi, and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here, and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!