The New York Times recently published an article damning mac and cheese.
I take this extremely personally, since this is one of my favorite food groups. It also must have been a slow news day — because the publication’s rationalizations for eliminating this lovely treasure of modern life were and are ridiculous.
The Times went after the category of chemicals known as phthalates. The chemical can migrate into food products during the manufacturing process, and it’s not specific to mac and cheese. Phthalates are found in many packaged food items, including dietary supplements.
The FDA hasn’t blocked the presence of phthalates in food products or supplements, just as it hasn’t banned pink slime in ground beef and a host of other unmentionables. Josh Bloom, a writer for the American Council on Science and Health, rebutted The Times article with a plethora of fantastic examples of potentially harmful products that were either given the nod by the FDA or ignored by it completely.
Regarding the presence of the chemical in supplements, Bloom wrote, “Dietary supplements were responsible for 275,000 calls to poison control centers between 2000 and 2012, which works out to one every 24 minutes.” He added, “Calls about [food] phthalates during those 12 years? I’m going to go out on a limb and say zero.”
Just as with many food products, supplements are not sold with warning labels attached. Consumers aren’t aware of safety measures or even how to determine whether or not a supplement is safe for them and properly absorbed by the body. Most people are hugely unaware of what supplements can be harmful or helpful to them.
So once again, Americans are exposed to a gross inflation of the facts regarding an American staple. Full disclosure: I grew up eating mac and cheese. I’ll eat it in any form: boxed, homemade, or from a gourmet restaurant. I’m a purist, however. Don’t mess up my mac and cheese with lobster or any other crazy stuff. Just give me my mac and cheese, thank you.
That said, you can imagine how much I’ve eaten in my lifetime, and I’m not dead yet.
As many scientific studies show — specifically if an agenda is present — the amounts of most chemicals (including phthalates) that are tested on lab rats and show the amount needed to slightly, moderately, or even severely poison a human being tend to be wildly significant.
Having owned a fitness and wellness company for over 20 years and having helped thousands of people lose weight, eat healthfully and exercise regularly, I know that we must always remember the term “moderation.” Eating mac and cheese every night for weeks would not be healthy, but neither would eating a burger with pink slime in it or ingesting supplements that have not been properly tested.
Someone once told me that humans eat about five pounds of dirt in their lifetimes. Is that bad, too? We don’t appear to suffer any consequences from a little dirt slipping into our bellies here and there.
But back to The Times article: It provides a short list of healthy suggestions. “Eat more whole fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and minimize the amount of processed food you eat,” and (this is my favorite): “Choose low-fat dairy products such as skim milk and low-fat cheeses, and avoid high-fat foods such as cream, whole milk, and fatty meats.”
Following these suggestions, there are a “few recipe options from the cooking section of The New York Times.” The interesting feature of the recipes included? That would be the ingredients, which include:
- cottage cheese (not low-fat)
- milk (not skim)
- evaporated milk
So what happened to the publication’s stern recommendation about low-fat dairy and cheeses?
I guess some folks like their mac and cheese, too.
Based in Boynton Beach, Florida, Christine King is founder and CEO of Your Best Fit, a health and wellness company that provides fitness, nutrition, and design and management services for individuals, private clubs, luxury communities, and corporations.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: jeepersmedia, Flickr)