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Thinking about changing my mind: food

September 19th, 2011
diet, food  [html]
At the less wrong meetup on sunday we tried out a game where we went around and talked about things that we were currently considering changing our minds about. This naturally led to discussions, so we didn't actually get all the way around the circle to me. I didn't end up having to decide what I would say, but one thing I'm currently thinking about is whether I should change my view of what eating habits I should be aiming for.

Currently I think of what I should be doing in terms of food as:

  • Eat food with vitamins, protein [1], fiber, enough calories
  • Don't eat much sugar, fat, cholesterol, salt

In practical terms, I treat this as "eat whatever I want, but eat bran flakes for breakfast [2] and not too much junk food. Also eat vegetables, especially raw ones".

There are a lot of people with strong views on nutrition and the right diet. Unfortunately, there is little consensus. Maybe fat is ok and carbohydrates are the problem? Maybe I should eat omega 3s? Maybe I should be taking a daily multivitamin, or some other supplement? I'm in general skeptical: I feel healthy and happy, and I'm a reasonable weight. But there's the potential for long term unhappiness if I'm eating food that's eventually bad for me. Is there any good evidence in the form "people who changed their diet to eat more/less X were healthier (or less likely to be dead) decades later"? While I think my current diet is likely non-optimal, I'm not sure whether there's reason to believe that any specific changes would be better.

Do you have good evidence that I should be doing something else? Do you have something you're thinking about changing your mind on?

[1] There are a bunch of amino acids the body can't produce on it's own, so you need to eat them. Some foods (egg white) have the amino acids in pretty close to the perfect ratio for people, so that 1g of protein from egg white is 1g of usable protein. Other foods (pasta, rice) have low quantities of some amino acids so they need to be combined with other foods (beans) that have the missing amino acids. So 1g of rice protein isn't 1g of usable protein, and 1g of bean protein isn't either, but eaten together you have close to 2g of usable protein.

[2] The shaws and stop and shop store brands are vitamin fortified, high in fiber, cheap, and tasty. I always thought of it as icky until I realized that if I liked raisin bran but picked out the raisins it might make sense for me to buy cereal boxed that way.

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