How to think about what to eat

The government has some new nutrition guidelines, and the Atlantic’s James Hamblin explains why they make a lot more sense than previous guidelines:

The 15-person advisory committee’s new recommendations are emblematic of an essential ongoing shift in approaches to eating: focusing on whole foods, as opposed to avoiding or endorsing specific macronutrients (carbs, fat, or protein)…

Similarly open-ended in terms of execution, the report continues, “This can be achieved through a variety of evidence-based dietary patterns … Strategies should be based on the individual’s preferences and health status and consider the sociocultural influences on lifestyle behaviors that relate to long-term behavior maintenance.” Which is to say, not everyone should be held to a single standard, because there are a lot of variables in individual lives, but here are the basic principles that everyone can try to accommodate if they want to be healthy…

Vegetables and fruits were the only dietary elements that proved beneficial in preventing or treating every disease that the committee included in its review of scientific evidence. They were followed by whole grains, which had moderate-to-strong evidence for their consumption in every case. The evidence was largely against any diet that is high in sugar-sweetened foods and refined grains. Other elements common to diets proven to prevent certain diseases were being high in low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol; and lower in processed meat and red meat.

Well, there you go.  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and a minimum of processed foods.  And no one combination of these foods that is some magic diet.  Not exactly rocket science, but it has taken us a long time to get to this point.  I’m sure there’s still plenty to be learned about human nutrition, but I strongly suspect this basic advice will be appropriate for a long, long time.

Photo of the day

From the Lively Morgue, NYT tumblr of old photos:

snow

Nov. 28, 1977: The first snow of the year fell on Thanksgiving weekend, but cold temperatures did not prohibit shoppers or skaters from taking to the city. “New York is fabulous and depressing, all at the same time,” assessed a visitor from San Francisco who rode the Staten Island Ferry to and fro. “I saw people who looked happy, especially those that were out with their children; but so many people’s faces here look as if they’re working too hard.”Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

I don’t know that Scott Walker is not a cannibal

Now, in an obvious dog whistle to the nuts on the far right of the Republican Party, Scott Walker is not even willing to say that Obama is a Christian.  Obama publicly says he’s a Christian– how is that not enough?  Dana Milbank brilliantly takes Walker to task:

This is not a matter of conjecture. The correct answer is yes: Obama is Christian, and he frequently speaks about it in public. Balz and Costa presented Walker with this information to give him a second chance to answer.

But even when prompted with the facts, Walker — in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting — persisted, saying, “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” and, “I’ve never asked him that,” and, “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that.”

This is an intriguing standard. I’ve never had a conversation with Walker about whether he’s a cannibal, a eunuch, a sleeper cell for the Islamic State, a sufferer of irritable bowel syndrome or a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. By Walker’s logic, it would be fair for me to let stand the possibility that he just might be any of those — simply because I have no personal and direct refutation from him…

This is insidious, and goes beyond last week’s questioning of Obama’s patriotism, because it allows Walker to wink and nod at the far-right fringe where people really believe that Obama is a Muslim from Kenya who hates America. The governor is flirting with a significant segment of the Republican primary electorate: those who have peddled the notion (accepted by 17 percent of Americans at the end of Obama’s first term) that Obama is a Muslim.

Great stuff, but I do have one significant disagreement with Milbank’s column:

I’ll go out on a limb and stipulate that Walker loves his country and his family, and I have no reason to think he isn’t a good Christian and a decent man. But he’d be a better man if he didn’t insinuate with his demurrals that his political opponents are not.

Ummmm, no.  A decent man does not behave like this.  Scott Walker is an indecent man.  And, yes, I’m mildly hesitant to question Walker’s Christianity, but I’ll simply say I see very scant evidence that he’s doing much to follow Jesus’ primary message of helping the less fortunate.

Soccer grandmas

So, this is really cool, my research on parenthood and politics made it into an Atlantic piece on “Boomer Grannies.”  Of course, Laurel and I have not actually done any research on the grandmother vote, but neither has anybody else and ours certainly comes closest.

It makes a certain amount of sense that the soccer moms of yore are making a reappearance as a key voting bloc. Boomer Grannies are more world-weary than gracious, more educated than docile; their concern for posterity extends beyond the traditional “maternal” interests of education and healthcare. Today, these grandmas are just as interested in the implications of foreign-conflict intervention and tax reform as they are in paid leave and anti-poverty initiatives…

It makes a certain amount of sense that the soccer moms of yore are making a reappearance as a key voting bloc. Boomer Grannies are more world-weary than gracious, more educated than docile; their concern for posterity extends beyond the traditional “maternal” interests of education and healthcare. Today, these grandmas are just as interested in the implications of foreign-conflict intervention and tax reform as they are in paid leave and anti-poverty initiatives…

Part of this cohort’s grandmotherly concern for posterity may have to do with its shared experience of parenthood itself, says Laurel Elder, a professor of political science at Hartwick College who, along with Steven Greene at North Carolina State University, has published the only study of how being a mom affects choices at the ballot box.

“We’ve found very consistent motherhood effects,” she told me. “Even when you’re controlling for other variables, motherhood predicts more liberal attitudes. Being a mom makes you more supportive on government spending on education and daycare and on a whole range of social-welfare issues: spending on the elderly, spending on the poor, overall government services.”

But do these effects continue when the kids those moms raised leave the house? That’s a complicated and under-explored question. Elder said that “even mothers of grown children are more liberal.” Members of this younger generation of grandmothers are still concerned about posterity, but are also committed to advancing their own interests, prioritizing women’s workplace issues like equal pay and paid leave.

Laurel and I have only done one study (a conference paper never delivered due to a hurricane) on the political impact for parents of grown children, but if “boomer Grannies” catches on, we’ll have to do more with this.

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