By fo­cus­ing on spe­cific nu­tri­ents rather than whole foods, nutritionism has made the sub­ject of what we should eat far more com­plex than it needs to be.

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see, then you need a “priest­hood of ex­perts” to me­di­ate your re­la­tion­ship to that mys­tery,’ writes Michael Pol­lan, au­thor of The Om­ni­vore’s Dilemma, In De­fense of Food and, most re­cently, The Pol­lan Fam­ily Ta­ble.

One of the most de­struc­tive ideas to come out of nutritionism was the US gov­ern­ment’s rec­om­men­da­tion in the ’70s to re­duce fat con­sump­tion in favour of whole grains. Sat­u­rated fat was deemed un­healthy and a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to heart dis­ease (de­spite the lack of sci­en­tific ev­i­dence), and whole­some and nu­tri­tious real but­ter was vil­i­fied in favour of highly pro­cessed and ar­ti­fi­cial mar­garine.

Food com­pa­nies around the world went all out re­for­mu­lat­ing prod­ucts in line with the new di­etary guide­lines. Low-fat or fat-free la­bels started ap­pear­ing on food prod­ucts high in pro­cessed carbs and sugar. As it was be­lieved that fat made you fat and un­healthy, no one paused to con­sider whether an in­crease in car­bo­hy­drates was ul­ti­mately go­ing to have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on our health and waist­lines.

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