Totally appalled at the thought, radio presenters warn us: “This year 24.12.falls on a Sunday! No more panic purchases or last-minute bargains on 24.12.!” In order to prevent such a panic situation shortly before Christmas, in today’s blog contribution we would like to give you an idea for a very worthwhile Christmas present which has a bit of class. We would like to draw your attention to Jörg Blech’s book: „Schmeckt´s noch? Die falschen Versprechen der Lebensmittelindustrie und wie wir einfach gesund essen können.“ (“How does it taste now? The false promises of the food industry and how easy it is for us to eat healthily.”)
Biochemist and science journalist Jörg Blech landed a best seller with “Inventing Disease and Pushing Pills” about business transactions involving medicine. His current work links in perfectly with the Tumour Centre Munich book “Stark gegen Krebs“, since it propagates the consumption of unprocessed, “clean” food, a term which embraces ecologically produced food or food from species-appropriate animal husbandry. The difference between the two publications, however, is that Jörg Blech dedicates much more precise attention to the extent to which food is processed: The foodstuffs available to us are rapidly developing into industrial products – which actually bear very little resemblance to ingredients we actually think we are buying. This worldwide trend can also be observed in our supermarkets – meanwhile as much as 80% of the goods are processed or ultra-processed (Blech has elaborated a useful division into four categories) and the trend is upwards.
The problem with this form of food consumption is that the value for health sinks with every degree of processing. Blech’s four stages of food processing range from the fresh staple foods (group 1) via the substances gained from fresh food and processed in a culinary way such as fats, oils, flour, cooking salt, honey etc. (group 2) to fresh food processed with sugar, oil and salt such as preserved fruit and vegetables or smoked fish, cheese, freshly baked bread and wine (group 3).
In group 4 we then find the so-called “ultra-processed foods”, where you only have to tear open the package – for example, potato crisps, muesli bars, packaged bakery goods, breakfast flakes, fruit yoghurt, to name just a few examples. These products are very rich in calories, contain very little roughage, micro-nutrients and secondary plant substances and a lot of unhealthy fats, free sugars and salt, This statement is a quote by Blech from a study published in the renowned medical journal Lancet.
The author describes in a very entertaining way how the extension of the shelf life, which in itself was very sensible, began in 1850 with the tin can, and then made a significant improvement to living conditions with the invention of the “Erbswurst” (peameal compressed into sausage shape) and Liebig meat extract/portable soup (produced in Uruguay since 1865!) and then with stock cubes and milk powder. Since the sixties, however, the food industry has changed considerably. Big business with ultra-processed products proved to be significantly more lucrative than trading with unprocessed food, which, in addition, also caused shelf life and storage problems.
In a knowledgeable and at the same time very appealing way he explains, for example, why butter is better than margarine, why one should eat oranges instead of drinking them, how sugar, emulsifiers and fried chicken ruin the intestinal flora and can contribute to the formation of dementia and cancer. As a biochemist he can explain exactly the processes in the body when it takes in food, and give an illuminating commentary on them.
Jörg Blech is an outstanding journalist and a committed enlightener. He conveys in a convincing way why there is a lot of contradictory information on the topic of nutrition and why this area is fought over to such an extreme. At the same time he discusses the fact that a lot of studies are contradictory (first of all coffee is poison for the pancreas, 6 years later it is again protection against colorectal cancer and then in 2005 it is cursed again). The problem with scientific studies on the topic of nutrition is that they are based on statistical values which have no real binding character. Blech wonders about the fact that, in view of the difficulty to assess the individual ingredients, the dangers of industrially processed food are scarcely investigated.
His conclusion: We should nourish ourselves in a traditional way, with fresh food such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain products, nuts and seeds. Fish and rapeseed oil are also important. Ultra-processed food such as fast food, sweets and ready-to-eat bakery goods, on the other hand, are to be avoided. Furthermore, he recommends breaks between meals, if possible a longer break of 12-16 hours during the night, in order to activate the body metabolism. In this way the resilience of the body would be strengthened, superfluous substances reduced and inflammations alleviated.
A very stimulating, well-documented and beautifully written book, which would definitely make a good Christmas present. It would certainly be very worthwhile to snuggle up on the sofa and read for a few hours – and you will learn a lot from the book, too.
Jörg Blech: „Schmeckt´s noch? Die falschen Versprechen der Lebensmittelindustrie und wie wir einfach gesund essen können.“ (“How does it taste now? The false promises of the food industry and how easy it is for us to eat healthily.”) Fischer, 240 pages, March 2017