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  • Dan Connors

Feeding you lies

Vani Hari 2019 Four of five stars ****

Vani Hari, the "Food Babe," is one of the most controversial people involved in the food industry. She has made her fame and fortune from criticizing the deceptive practices of the food companies and big agriculture. She is not a dietician by training, but has amassed a serious and convincing argument about the quality of the foods for sale in America's restaurants and grocery stores.

In her book, "Feeding You Lies," Hari argues that the food information chain has been corrupted by larger corporations going after big profits at the expense of our health. Large front groups, supposedly unaffiliated, release studies and information, not disclosing that they get large amounts of their funding from industry sources. The media is compromised by their dependence on food company advertising, as are some universities, Wikipedia and even Web MD. Government agencies like the FDA are helpless to stop most of the ingredients that end up in our foods because they rely on the industry to police itself.

While I like a good conspiracy theory as well as anyone, there has been a backlash against her charges that the food industry is in cahoots with the government and anyone else responsible for oversight of the nation's health. Sadly, I'm more likely to believe her story than paid representatives who have everything to lose if America starts eating healthier.

She points out identical foods sold in Europe and the USA, claiming that those sold here are much more processed and laden with chemicals, because of laxer regulations. There are more profits to be made by cutting corners, and the US market is allowing this to take place.

The second half of the book is an all out assault on some of the more damaging food myths popular in the United States. Most of these I've seen taken on in other well-regarded books, giving the author added power. These include:

- The myth of low calorie food being good for you. 100 calories of junk food can be much more damaging than 100 calories of healthier food. Plus zero calorie drinks can have unintended consequences that actually increase weight gain.

- The misconception of fat being the main villain in foods. A lot of studies pointing the finger at fat were funded by the sugar industry. Sugar is the number one toxin according to this author, and she points out all sorts of ailments associated with added sugars.

- The dangers of soda consumption, even as Coca Cola is ranked as the number 3 food producer in the world. By giving us calories without any fiber, our pancreas and liver are put at risk, while the soft drink manufacturers point their fingers at Americans not exercising as why they are fat.

- Sugar free foods, fat free foods, and gluten free foods can still be very unhealthy, depending on what they substitute for the "free" ingredients.

- The flavor industry not only hides a multitude of sins in foods that are unpalatable and bland, but flavor additives can make foods as addictive as drugs. She recounts the book "The Dorito Effect", in which the bland chips were slow sellers until someone came upon the secret recipe that added so much flavor that you couldn't stop eating Doritos.

- Fortified foods are tricks to make junk foods sound better, when the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is to eat fresh foods.

- The marriage of pesticide-resistant genetically modified organisms, (GMO's) and the world's most popular weed killer, (Roundup) means that farmers are so dependent on these items that pesticide residue is commonly found in our foods. No one knows for sure what these chemicals do to our body as we ingest them.

This is a book that will challenge your beliefs about the foods that you eat. It's a hard book to digest. (Pun intended.) But it could result in you choosing a healthier diet, reading food labels with a skeptical eye, and not falling for the latest food fads. She concludes the book with a 48 hour detox suggestion, and some helpful recipes for those who want to take the next step. I have no doubt that the food industry loves taking my money and doesn't particularly care if my food is healthy or not. That's up to me. What you put inside your body is the most important determinant of how healthy you will be in the future. Just as what you put inside your head determines your mental fitness and health.

Food for thought.

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