Anthony Warner is angry.
A professional chef who also trained as a scientist, he's got a few things to say to purveyors of food fads and wellness bloggers who insist they know exactly how to live and eat best.
He blogs in defense of common sense, and believes there is no one rule that fits all foods. A little sugar is fine, a lot is not. Some convenience food is okay, a lot is not. It's about balance, as he explains in this fun interview.
Warner’s new book, The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating, describes the way food choices have become so complicated, and how those choices are used (especially on social media) to score points.
“It’s become a real battleground,” he says, “often a very confusing place.”
Thinking too much about what you’re eating, he says, tends to make you less healthy rather than healthier. “Guilt and shame are incredibly underrated in our general health, and they’re something so many people feel about food.”
As for the latest dietary trends, he is skeptical. Take the paleo diet, for instance. How do we really know what was being eaten during that time period?
“If you speak to any anthropologists, or any people who really study that, they will tell you they don’t really know. And the likelihood is that in different parts of the world, people ate massively different diets.”
Claims from paleo-dieters that carbohydrates weren’t eaten by our ancestors simply aren’t true, Warner says. “Amylase enzymes specifically exist to digest dietary carbohydrates, and they’re very highly selected for in human populations. You know, it’s been well-studied!
“Why would they be highly selectable if they didn’t exist in that period?”
Warner also gets annoyed at the demonization of all processed foods, which extends to those who buy and eat it. He says mothers are often the ones made to feel guiltiest or inadequate for choosing prepared food, which is deeply unfair given the daily pressures of work and parenting.
“Food is important,” he says, “but it’s not the only thing in everyone’s lives. The quality in your diet is composed of the chemicals it’s made up of, not the story of where it came from.”
Warner doesn’t argue with the fact people are eating too much sugar these days, but opposes the view that it is all bad. “Sugar is in all fruits, all vegetables and all dairy products. You really, really can’t avoid it. Should we really be demonizing something we can’t avoid at all?”
Even though a one-size-fits-all approach to food doesn’t work, he says, official nutritional guidelines have been very carefully researched and tested, and are better than any amount of pseudo-science or half-baked theory.
“It’s the best quality evidence we have.”
Follow the freshest thinking @fitplanetmag.