“Eating chickpeas for breakfast should be normal”

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We often look for the solution to our food problems in the supermarket, but more and more experts point out that our diet lacks nothing. Rather, you have leftover products: it is not so important to eat more healthy foods, as to stop taking those that harm us. And the worst thing is that we know very well what the latter are, although we want to downplay their consumption: alcohol, ultra-processed foods, excess meat…

Basically, what the nutritionist Julio Basulto (Barcelona, ​​1971) has described in his latest book as shit. A word that we are not used to seeing printed in nutrition books, but Basulto explains that it should not surprise us. eat shit (Vergara, 2022) is the latest book that this author has published and that is presented to the public in a very direct way: almost all of us eat a multitude of products that are real garbage for our health.

This book confronts us with the consequences of eating food products in our day-to-day life —not food— for our unmitigated health. In Europe alone, ultra-processed food is responsible for 2.1 million deaths. eat shit aims to reveal what these foods are and dismantle some of the myths of the food industry that have affected our way of thinking about food.

The first thing that catches the attention of your book is the title, why did you choose it? Have we been soft when it comes to talking about ultra-processed foods?

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes. We have been very soft – myself included – and it is time to call things by their name. The RAE admits that we call shit to something poorly done or of poor quality, and nutritional quality is an established concept in the scientific field. In the scientific field, the concepts junk food OR junk food. Why can we scientifically call it junk food without batting an eye and can’t call it shit in a book title? For the record, the publisher did not like the title very much (laughs).

Was it your thing?

Yes, yes, it’s totally mine. They would have titled differently because it generates controversy, rejection and it is logical. But it is time to call on the population to wake up to something that we are not seeing. We are surrounded by messages that invite us to eat badly and we don’t even realize it.

The title has received some criticism from people who think it can lead to guilt, what do you think about this?

Yes, I’ve heard it. If I make a book where I say “eat fruit” and someone will probably tell me that “there are thousands of people who have fructose intolerance and you are making me feel guilty because I can’t eat fruit”. If we paid attention to this, we would never talk about anything, there is always a group that will feel offended by a public health message. The message that the reference entities are sending today would be that, in addition to saying that you have to eat well, above all you have to stop eating badly. Saying it lukewarmly doesn’t work because the powers that conspire to make us eat badly are too powerful. The only thing that the book intends is that society is aware that it is eating a large amount of ultra-processed foods that cause 11 million deaths in the world, according to the lancetwhile tobacco causes 7 million deaths. Actually, what the title says is what the food industry is secretly telling us. You enter the Barcelona metro right now and you find Messi announcing a 2,000-calorie hamburger. The only thing that pursues the book is to reveal. I have put 600 bibliographic citations in the book that justify the position that I am taking, so that they tell me bibliographically that I am generating these disorders. I think not, really.

In Spain we stick out our chests with the Mediterranean diet, we say that we eat well and we compare ourselves with Americans, who eat badly, what do you think of this? Is our diet more like that of those Americans than that of our ancestors?

Yes, not only does it look like it, but it is going to look more like it and the measures that the health authorities are taking to counteract it are lukewarm. That our diet is better? Yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Not even the Mediterranean diet as it is sold to us is good, from my point of view. We should run away from the concept of the Mediterranean diet. The best diet is plant based diet And that is the message that nutrition science has been repeating to us for 40 years: a diet based on plant-based foods and without ultra-processed foods. The Mediterranean diet, today, includes wine, which is a potentially addictive alcoholic beverage: 20% of the population that drinks alcohol in “moderation” the following year has dependency. The interests that there are for us to think that alcohol is healthy are anything but friendly. I prefer not to talk about the Mediterranean diet because I have the feeling that it is sold to interests other than public health.

What would you say to people who say “why eat better if we’re going to die the same”?

This has a name: it is the dealgohayquemorirismo. I would tell them that we are going to die differently. Spain has one of the highest life expectancy rates on the planet, but quality of life is different. We live more than 20 years in an ailing body. I have three children and the truth is that I would not like them to have to take care of me for 20 years of my life and their life. Not only because of the suffering that I may have, for being dependent on the health system and drugs or on my family, but also because of the harm that I can cause to third parties. I’m not going to die suddenly: for example, colon cancer —which is closely related to diet; in fact, 25% with red and processed meats—it doesn’t kill you all at once, you may even live because medicine has advanced. We are going to die, yes, but differently.

What about the people who say “this has taken a lifetime” to keep giving their kids buns?

Most of the population is not aware that they are feeding their children poorly. Most are not aware that those buns, those cupcakes, those cookies, that little juice… are part of most of the calories that are taken in childhood. Adults take a lot of calories from ultra-processed foods, but in children it is even more. What is causing this? Unconsciously, I insist. Our children for the first time in history are going to live less than us; life expectancy in children is lower than ours, but not only that, it is that they will live fewer years with quality of life, which is what is important. Why? Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Spain and the leading cause of cardiovascular disease is modifiable dietary factors. Today, we can more or less deal with high blood pressure when it starts at age 40 or 50, but when high blood pressure, hyperglycemia or hypercholesterolemia starts at age 16, things are very different. There is no medical advance so great that someone can have 50 or 60 years of their life with glycemic control.

Ultra-processed foods are very established at breakfast and snack time and sometimes it is heard that the solution is to eat foods that are rare at that time, such as chickpeas…

Of course! Unhealthy food is unhealthy at any time of the day, just like a yell or a punch. It doesn’t matter if they give it to you in the morning or in the afternoon. Is having chickpeas for breakfast strange? Well, most of the population should be made normal. Where is it written that you have to eat salmon and have cereal for breakfast? By the way, it is not essential to have breakfast, the one that forces you to have breakfast is the food industry. Science does not say that it is mandatory and, in fact, if what you are going to have for breakfast is the same as what you had for dinner, I do not see any problem. Do you want something different? Good, but be healthy. It can be a banana or two, or dried fruit or whole wheat bread with tomato spread and sautéed peppers. Nor does it need to be very varied, this is another message that I question in the book. It has always been said that we have to eat everything and varied: that means that we eat everything, but bad.

Ultra-processed foods are very cheap and save time in the kitchen. How can we stop depending on them?

We think that since they give us a lot of calories in a small space they are cheap, but I think it is a predatory lender: someone who gives you, but then takes more. It is giving you calories, but not important nutrients for your health. In the short term it satisfies you, but in the long term it clearly increases your risk of chronic pathologies that are very difficult to get out of. The message for me is, above all, to stop eating badly because there are many ways to eat healthy, it doesn’t have to be mine. You can cook for the whole week, of course. Of course, we should plan what we eat. But the message for me is “don’t think that you have to eat a wide variety of everything”, because that means that something that is not so healthy enters your shopping cart. You can eat whole grain macaroni today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow without it being the end of the world. You can eat a plate of lentils for dinner and eat another one the next day. The important thing is what you don’t eat. That’s why the subtitle of the book: “don’t eat better, stop eating worse”.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some consumers are destroying supermarket products and now it is milk, which has always been sold to us as essential, is it really?

It’s marketing. I invite you to search the Internet for Nutrimedia, a very good science portal that collaborates with Cochrane Iberoamerica. It has a very good headline which is Is it essential for adults to drink milk? The answer is no. Can you drink milk? yes, is it poison? no, does it produce mucus? no, does it give cancer? no, is she a healer? It is not essential? no, neither.

With the pandemic, food has become fashionable that protect you And one of them is natural yogurt. Is it so important to have a yogurt a day?

If you are the director of Danone, yes. To cover you with the ignorance of others. Probiotics are only indicated in very few conditions and I assure you that most of the supposed benefits of probiotics are pure nonsense. Is it necessary to eat yogurt? No, you don’t have to eat dairy. The nutritional problem is not that we lack nutrients, nor is it that we have to take probiotic bacteria, your intestine without them is already capable of generating its own bacteria that hinder the development of early pathologies. The problem we have in nutrition is what we do wrong. We do not lack nutrients, in fact we have plenty of sugar, we have plenty of fat, we have plenty of flavor enhancers, calories, trans fats…

The bacteria in yogurt have not been shown to be beneficial to health. If you are concerned about intestinal health, you can have yogurt, but do not take it thinking that it will solve it. What is going to improve your intestinal health is going to be, apart from stopping taking ultra-processed foods, taking a plant based diet with many substances that feed your intestine. Yogurt is distracting you, you think that’s good for your intestine when what really matters is that you take in fiber through food.

In Spain there are professionals who have pardoned Iberian ham from the group of processed meats or have said that it cannot be compared with a sausage, should we avoid it even if it is better prepared?

Isn’t a Frankfurt sausage the same as an Iberian ham? No. Isn’t a kick in the genitals the same as a slap? Man no. But better neither, I say. “I’m going to take slaps because since they’re not kicks in the genitals…” No, sorry. The population already knows that a frankfurter is not healthy. But, how many people believe that wine is healthy? How many believe that ham is healthy? Is that people believe that ham gives you health! That is no coincidence, the interests behind this are billionaires. Iberian ham is a processed meat, which is included in the food group that can clearly increase the risk of colon cancer and, in addition, its consumption is higher. Do you take it a few times a year? Nothing happens. But do not take it thinking that it is healthy because it is not.