5 Jul 2017

The Angry Chef busts food myths

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:09 pm on 5 July 2017

Anthony Warner is angry.

Warner is a professional chef who trained as a scientist. He's got a few things to say to purveyors of food fads and wellness bloggers who insist they know exactly how to live healthy and which foods to eat. 

He blogs in defence of common sense, and believes there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy food.  A little sugar is good, a lot is not. Some convenience food is good, a lot is not. It's about balance. 

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Photo: supplied

He’s just written a new book called, The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating.

Warner says eating has always been complicated, and is somewhat of a symbol about people.

These days, people often use food on social media to reflect their status, he says.

“It’s become a real battleground… often a very confusing place.”

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Photo: supplied

When people think too much about what they’re eating, they tend to become less healthy rather than healthier, he says.

“Guilt and shame is incredibly underrated in our general health and is something that so many people feel about food.”

He says people are not always entirely upfront when they’re portraying an image on social media of their diet or lifestyle.

“It really worries me, especially for younger people that they’re setting themselves up for expectations they’re never going to live up to.”

Mr Warner is sceptical of the popular ‘paleo’ diet, questioning how people know what was being eaten during that time period.

“If you speak to any anthropologists, or any people who really study that, they will tell you they don’t really know, and the likelihood is that in different parts of the world people ate massively different diets.”

Claims from paleo-dieters that people during that time did not eat carbohydrates simply aren’t true, Warner says.

“Amylase enzymes specifically exist to digest dietary carbohydrates and they’re very highly selected for in human populations, you know it’s been well-studied.

“Why would they be highly selectable if they didn’t exist in that period?”

The paleo-diet is a romanticised view of a time in history, which we don’t really know much about, he says.

Pressure for people to avoid processed foods is another pet-peeve of Warner’s.

He says an enormous amount of food we eat is processed, but not all of it is poison.

“Our body doesn’t know what factory was something was processed in.”

To say we should never eat any processed food is a very unreasonable expectation on a lot of people, he says.

“There is genuine vitriol and scorn being poured on people making reasonable choices.”

He says mothers tend to be the ones who are made to feel guilty or inadequate for choosing prepared food, in addition to work and parenting pressures.

“Food is important but it’s not the only thing in everyone’s lives.

“The quality in your diet is composed by the chemicals it’s made up of, not the story of where it came from.”

Warner says he wouldn’t argue with the fact people are eating too much sugar these days, but is opposed to the view of demonising it.

“Sugar is in all fruits, all vegetables and all dairy products, you really, really can’t avoid it. Should we really be demonising something we can’t avoid at all?”

While Warner says it’s difficult to have a one-size fits all approach to food, he says official guidelines given around nutrition take a long time to create and are thoroughly researched and carefully considered.

“It’s the best quality evidence we have.”