Pork rinds, vegetables or pudding? Which should a dieter choose?

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

I thought I had the whole nutrition angle figured out. While those around me shamelessly ruined their bodies with steak and bacon, I was eating chicken and fish.

Then the news arrived that fish has lethal amounts of mercury in it and the chicken is an oppressed, unhappy bird.

So I ate lots of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Not so fast, the naysayers said. Seeds and nuts are bad for me, and vegetables well, they come out of the dirty, contaminated soil, don't you know?

I tried to stick to the safe, tried-and-true meals: rice, pasta, bread. Soft, spongy, filling, proved by a billion mothers to be nourishing.

Not so fast, they said; carbohydrates are bad for you.

They suggested replacing the carbs with such weight-loss items as beef jerky and pork rinds, around which some entire diets are built.

In my innocence, I asked: "But what about the cholesterol, the fat, the calories? What are people on this diet doing to their arteries?"

"Pooh," they said. "Eating pork rinds does a body good."

I needed a drink.

My old favorite, grapefruit juice, was ruled out, though, because it intensifies or hinders the effects of some medications.

Milk was either the most healthful or the most deadly drink in existence, depending on which report I read.

So I drank water and turned on the television. A commercial grabbed me by the arm and told me to try a certain soft drink instead.

"But there are 300 pounds of sugar in a single soft-drink can," I said. (I had read that somewhere.)

"Then try our sugar-free soft drink," the commercial oozed.

"They taste bad," I replied.

"Pooh," the TV said, "you just have to get used to the taste."

"But I'm used to the taste of water," I said.

"Can't you see we have taken out the sugar and even the caffeine, if you wish it that way?"

"Water has no sugar or caffeine," I said.

The commercial scowled.

"You're not a good American," it said. "You will be investigated by John Ashcroft. Now get with the program or get out of this country, you dirty, rotten Commie. No, wait, come back. We also sell a bottled water loaded with vitamins, minerals and herbs."

I turned off the television and picked up the latest report in the medical journals saying that if I understood it right a study at a big university had found maple syrup instant pudding to be the best food for losing weight, adding muscle, gaining energy and getting closer to nature.

I noticed that the study had been funded by the Maple Syrup Cooperative of Southern New England and the American Instant Pudding Foundation.

"Is that a reliable study?" I asked.

"Didn't you notice the lofty name of our journal?," the lofty journal replied. "Do you really think we would let our findings be swayed by the people who sign our paychecks? Now, who's ready for a nice dish of maple syrup instant pudding?"

I didn't want maple syrup instant pudding. I wanted the truth.

Why were certain foods good for me on Tuesday and bad for me on Wednesday? Or the other way around?

Would I pick up a magazine tomorrow and read that a study funded by the American Lard Consortium (motto: Lard, the other white grease) had found lard to be healthful because of its coating effect on the heart?

"Stop the madness," I said.

I may have to quit reading and watching TV, or else quit eating. I haven't decided yet.

Glynn Moore is a writer at the Augusta Chronicle.

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