About the Author – Marion Nestle
Marion Nestle is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, in the department that she chaired from 1988 through 2003. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of "Nutrition in Clinical Practice"; "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health" (winner of awards from the James Beard Foundation, Association of American Publishers, and World Hunger Year); and "Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism" (a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book), and she is co-editor of "Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Food and Nutrition." Inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America/Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, she lives in New York City. Visit her website at www.foodpolitics.com.
“The foods that sell best and bring in the most profits are not necessarily the ones that are best for your health, and the conflict between health and business goals is at the root of public confusion about food choices.”
— Marion Nestle, from the introduction
Never one to shy away from debates in which America’s health is at stake, distinguished nutritionist Marion Nestle has courageously challenged the food industry and became a vocal champion for reform in the way food is produced and marketed. Now she sheds light on the hype-laden world of super foods and taboo foods, fad diets and befuddling package labels in “What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating.”
“As soon as people find out what I do, they ask: ‘Why is nutrition so confusing?’” Dr. Nestle writes. “Everyone wants to know what the politics of food means for what they personally should eat. Should they be worried about hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, mercury or bacteria in foods? Is it acceptable to eat sugars, artificial sweeteners? What about foods that are raw, canned, irradiated, or genetically engineered? Eventually I came to realize that, for many people, food feels like nothing at all like a source of pleasure; it feels more like a minefield.” In an effort to quell these and other quandaries, she embarked on an extensive research project that would take her from a meeting of the Organic Trade Association in Austin to the Hong Kong Supermarket in Manhattan’s Chinatown, with countless interviews with store managers, fish inspectors, food company executives, farmers, and scientists in between.
Delivering the lowdown on a variety of culinary controversies, “What to Eat” tours each section in the grocery store, from the freezer aisles to the bakery and butcher, answering such questions as:
• Is there much difference between a product labeled “100% Organic” and one just labeled “Natural”? Are organic foods worth the high price? And why are they so high-priced?
• Are eggs, beef, and pork deadly sins on the road to heart disease? How worried should we be about E. coli, Listeria, mad cow disease, and other safety concerns? Is it better to buy beef that is labeled “all vegetable diet”?
• Are the omega-3 fats in fish worth the risk of methylmercury?
• Do calories really count? Aren’t trans fats and vitamins more important?
• Aren’t carrots and beets full of sugar, and therefore off-limits?
• Does everybody need to eat dairy foods?
• Corn oil, olive oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil: What’s the difference? If the label says, “vegetable oil,” it’s good for us, right?
• What should kids eat?
• Is bottled water better than tap water?
• How can I tell if foods are genetically engineered? Why aren’t they labeled in the U.S.?
• Is green tea really a wonder drug? Or should we avoid the caffeine in tea and coffee?
• Are soy foods and infant formulas better than dairy products?
• Who’s right in the debate over Vitamin E supplements? Which supplements are necessary?
At the heart of Dr. Nestle’s research is the fact that health claims sell products, but a society that constantly chases the next miracle food is not necessarily going to be any healthier—or happier. A sign touting the antioxidant benefits of blueberries will sell more blueberries, but ultimately, says Dr. Nestle, “Surely the best reason to eat blueberries is that they are delicious in season.” From the saccharin saga to the fast-food restaurants’ attempts to become more health-conscious (or at least look like they are), “What to Eat” leaves no fad uninvestigated and provides an inspiring dose of reasons to rediscover the joy of a worry-free meal.