The wheat from the chaff

It is time we started sorting the wheat from the chaff and finding answers to our health and nutrition questions from those who are qualified to give them.

Pouring milk (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Pouring milk
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook page about someone who recommended that to improve his health, he should go off milk. Not dairy, but milk (whatever that means). Following that, other people posted things such as “Try eliminating flour, you’ll be amazed” and “I haven’t eaten eggs in a year and I feel great.”
This is when I began to feel the forces of black magic descending upon me.
As someone who is professionally involved in training and teaching people how to lead a healthy lifestyle, it never ceases to amaze me how many people are completely ignorant or misinformed about nutrition. Many of the questions and comments I encounter daily make my hair stand on end.
It shouldn’t really be surprising that we know so little about the food we eat and how it affects us. The education system is really to blame. From first grade we begin to learn addition and subtraction and continue to have algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus shoved down our throats well through 12th grade. In contrast, a measly three months out of our entire 12-year school career (if that) is devoted to the food pyramid and discussing health and nutrition. Is it any wonder that we lack knowledge?
I am not minimizing the importance of mathematics; it is a basic life skill that we all need. But how many later pursue a career that requires the level of mathematics taught in school? Thirty percent? Fifty percent? Does someone who becomes a lawyer, a social worker or a kindergarten teacher really need geometry? calculus?
On the other hand, we all require a much more important life skill – namely, knowing how to lead healthy lives and avoid illness. This applies to everyone on the face of this earth, kindergarten teachers and rocket scientists alike. Why this bias in our education?
The standard response is that you get nutrition and health from home; it is not necessary to teach it in school. But if our parents weren’t taught it, how would they know to give it from home?
Even today, with the vast expanses of the Internet on tap, we are still mostly ignorant about this subject. I often ponder the irony of modern society and wonder: When was humanity better off, before Gutenberg’s printing press or now, in the modern information age? Before there were books, most of the world population was illiterate. Today we have the opposite problem – too much information and, often, conflicting information.
Undoubtedly, in terms of nutrition and healthy food, we were better off before Gutenberg. Knowledge – that is another matter.
Trying to learn alone about nutrition on the Internet can be a daunting task. The sheer mass, complexity and conflicts of information make the head spin. Much of the material is anecdotal, like the above comment “I went off flour and I feel fantastic.” What does that mean? Which flour? All flour? All flour products like pasta? Just because it worked for one person doesn’t mean it will work for another. This is the way disinformation is propagated, until we end up with buzzwords or phrases like “flour is bad for you,” which then becomes “common knowledge.”
So there is disinformation and there is truth.
I don’t think anyone on the face of the earth has the entire truth on nutrition. It is doubtful, with an organism as complex as the human being, that we will ever be able to uncover every facet of the puzzle. However, most likely to be closest to the truth are those who have studied the subject intensively and know more about it than any living human. I am referring to clinical dietitians.
A clinical dietitian will examine you as an individual. What is your starting point and your specific circumstances? Not everyone is alike. For some, milk is no good, for others it is. These professionals can give you the most accurate and correct information that is applicable especially for you.
It is incredible how many people will waste countless hours sifting through tons of often meaningless and potentially harmful information on the Internet, trying to find answers to their questions, when a simple 20-minute visit around the corner can provide all (or most) of the exact and correct information required.
What is it that makes the amateur, the quack, so alluring that we accept his opinion instead of going to a trained professional? Whatever it is, it is misguided; and with something as critical as our health at stake, we cannot afford to play around.
It is time we started sorting the wheat from the chaff and finding answers to our health and nutrition questions from those who are qualified to give them.
To your good health!
Langos recipe
This delicious Hungarian potato bread contains both milk and flour.
Makes 4 langos
2 cups whole-grain flour ½ cup mashed potatoes (cooled), 2 Tbsp. water, ½ cup milk, 2 tsp. instant powdered yeast, 1 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. oil.
Mix and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to rise, covered, for 45 minutes. Shape into four flat pita-style rounds. Slice a cut down the center of the round. Leave to rise again for 15 minutes. While it is rising, heat a pan of oil to 180º. Fry for 1 minute on each side until golden brown. Drain, cool and sprinkle with garlic and salt.
The writer, a master baker originally from Johannesburg, lives in Ginot Shomron with his wife and four children. He is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute (, which specializes in training and education in the field of organic, healthy, artisan baking, and the inventor of Rambam Bread. He also lectures and works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health and nutrition.