Carol Hart is a health and science journalist who wrote the bestselling Secrets of Serotonin. In this well-researched book about food, she makes "an argument for trusting your senses and ignoring the nutritionists."
She repeats many times throughout the book and in various ways that "there are at least one million distinct, chemically active substances naturally present in our food." That emphasis allows the reader to remember and retain the simple fact that all foods have chemicals. It isn't enough to claim that a food is organic, or home-grown, or genetically engineered. The labels cease to be as meaningful when one realizes that all edible material is full of "chemicals." If we heed only the scientific facts, gathered over only 100 years or so of our sojourn on the planet, we are no better off than if we simply ate what we liked. Scientists disagree and have led us astray many times.
How, then, to choose the right foods, the ones we "should" eat? This is what Dr. Hart would like to help us do. Based on her personal interests in eating in a healthy way, and on research into the subject from a fresh angle, she offers a few rational guidelines.
The book is somewhat inconsistent, jumping from subject to subject in a less-than-logical sequence so
that the information has to be "cherry-picked" for reader satisfaction. I wanted to know how to select a good general diet. Hart suggests that if something looks pretty, has a sound, sleek, plump texture and a pleasant, fresh odor, it will entertain our palates and satisfy our bellies better than some victual that is nicely packaged and possibly watery and wilted. That seems fairly obvious. But is it? Factually, many Americans (and it is particularly true in this country, and not in Europe to such an extent) avoid strong or odd tasting foods. They also may be guiltily convinced that aged cheese or fresh chard has to be eaten neat, with no chaser and no appealing sauces. Wrong. If cauliflower appeals to you for its gleaming appearance, take it home and cook it lovingly with a sauce prepared from that sharp cheddar. (Although, it should be said, this is not a cookbook.)
If you have never delved deeply into the subject before, what Hart puts on the table regarding factory farming methods and other agri-business practices will send you rushing to the whole foods store or your local farmer's market. But, as Hart wants you to understand, that is not the final answer. Merely "buying locally" will not necessarily make you happy with what you eat. You will still worry about cholesterol, fat and the proper levels of all the nutrients that are continually touted or decried by doctors, alternative medicine practitioners, food processors, and shiny product labels that scream at you from their shelves.
Be advised: Hart's book is a basic guide. If you are a serious student of nutrition and widely read already, this book may not contain enough "meat" for you.
Hart's two messages, finely distilled: Don't eat by the numbers…we still don't know enough. Get as close to the source as you can, not necessarily because they are "purer" in some mystical sense, but because "we evolved and adapted to eat them."