There’s plenty of blame to go around.
The average health-conscious American is a little confused about what constitutes an optimal diet. One source of confusion is the tremendous volume of nutrition information to which we are exposed. It so saturates our culture that even those who avoid reading nutrition books and magazine articles get plenty of it. For example, just yesterday at the grocery store I grabbed a watermelon from a large crate that had a full paragraph about the merits of lycopene (a nutrient with highly touted antioxidant properties) printed on its side.
Those who conscientiously try to heed the news of each new “miracle nutrient” that’s identified and every other sort of nutrition discovery that comes along can easily become overwhelmed. I imagine my fellow shoppers wandering through the supermarket aisles thinking, “Let’s see, to prevent liver cancer I need carotenoids, which are in carrots; and to balance my prostaglandins I need alpha-linolenic acid, which is in salmon; and to lower my cholesterol I need plant sterols, which are in – dammit, I can’t remember!” No one can retain it all, and the quantities of information we do retain are overwhelming enough to make shopping, planning meals, and eating a far more enervating set of activities than they should be.
A second source of confusion is the fact that so much of the nutrition information we get is contradictory. Why can’t the nutrition authorities keep their story straight? There’s a host of reasons. In the following pages, we’ll look at some of them.