Jamie Oliver Sings the Sugar Blues

Food is all the rage these days, especially concern about how bad so much of our food is. There’s the incredibly successful and compelling Supersize Me, the documentary following one man’s decision to eat only MacDonalds meals and the devastating effects it has on his body. More recently, HBO produced The Weight of the Nation.

Today’s “Wednesday TED Talk” turns the spotlight on British chef turned media personality Jamie Oliver, who has been on a crusade for several years now to change the way we eat. More specifically, he is trying to change the way we feed our children. Oliver is one of the few folks in the food industry who seems absolutely committed to telling the truth about the food we package and serve our children in restaurants, at schools, and at home. Chief concerns for chef Jamie: processed sugar, preservatives, and all kinds of chemical additives. Why? Because these foods – all unnecessary – are combining to create an unprecedented epidemic of obesity and all kinds of other diseases in our children and in ourselves.

One of the more dramatic moments in the video is when Jamie brings in a wheel barrow of sugar to demonstrate just how much artificial sugar our kids ingest in a year. There are a lot of remarkable things about Jamie’s work, but maybe two insights that have stayed with me are 1) the degree to which we’ve assumed our present eating habits have always been this way, when in fact they’ve only taken hold over the last generation and largely in response to food laws favoring the growing of corn and soybeans, and 2) how relatively easy it is to make a few changes that can dramatically influence our diet.

For those who are interested, here are some resources I’ve found most helpful in thinking about food:

Jamie’s own site, where you can find out more about his work as well as find all kinds of additional information and recipes.

Sugar Blues by William Dufty, one of the early, and still best, exposes of the effects of sugar on our bodies.

NPR’s Talk of the Nation ran an interesting story on a scientist arguing that sugar should be regulated like alcohol.

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto which dives into the question about how we can change our diets. (And it turns out it’s not nearly as hard as we might think.)

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