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Review: What to Eat by Marion Nestle

What to EatWhat to Eat by Marion Nestle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nestle explains not only the nutritional science behind making healthy food choices, but also explores the economic, political, and environmental considerations. I was looking for nutritional advice, so I skimmed many pages that dealt with the other issues. However, I did find the information on food marketing interesting. Nestle summarizes the scientific research, presents several options, then makes recommendations. There are a few special topics at the end, including baby food, which I haven’t seen in the other nutrition books I’ve read.

Nestle’s nutritional guidelines are simple: select unprocessed or minimally processed foods; eat vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Meat isn’t necessary, but you can eat lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs in moderation. Dairy isn’t necessary, low-fat dairy can fit into a healthy diet.

I had heard this book referenced in several other nutrition books and articles, and it was recommended by Michael Pollan.

Dairy isn’t necessary. It’s better to get calcium from plants.
If you want to drink milk, choose nonfat.
Limit cheese, since it’s high in saturated fat.
The American Heart Association says to eat at most 1 egg/day due to cholesterol.

Meat isn’t necessary; you can get enough protein from dairy, fish, eggs, even grains and beans.
80% lean meat gets ⅔ of calories from fat; 95% lean gets ⅓ from fat.
Limit red meat; saturated fat may increase the risk of cancer.
Choose chunk or light tuna, not albacore or white.
Fish aren’t essential; you can get Omega-3s from chicken, eggs, flax and canola oil, and fish oil supplements.

Baby food
For infants, breast milk is best, but formula or soy formula are OK.
Babies can start eating baby food at 4-6 months. Homemade or storebought baby food is fine.
Organic baby food is highly recommended, to reduce pesticides.

Fats, best to worst: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, trans.
The more saturated fat a food fat has, the higher the temperature required to melt it. Fats that are solid at room temperature have more saturated fat than those that are liquid.

Keep sugars below 10% of calories.
Choose real sugar. Artificial sweeteners may have risks because they’re unnatural and aren’t metabolized. Stevia isn’t recommended.

Miscellaneous nutrition notes
Buy organic to reduce pesticide intake. However, if organics are too expensive, conventional are fine.
Eat a variety of foods; it’s the mix that’s most beneficial, not any particular food.
Diets (including low-carb diets) only work because they reduce calorie intake.
Americans eat more than enough protein.
Aging, drying, freezing, canning, and cooking don’t change nutritional value much.
The times at which you eat don’t matter as much as what and how much.
Cholesterol comes from animal foods, not plant foods.
Whole potatoes with skins are nutritious. The fibrous skin reduces the effect of the starchy inside on blood sugar.

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