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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: A Field Guide to Eating  
 
Interview with Michael Jacobson PhD
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

Another good tip is to pay attention to exactly when and where you're especially tempted to eat junk foods. Is it lunchtime at work? Watching television in the evenings? Snacktime? Once you locate your problem areas, you can think through some ways to avoid them, and work them into your routine—bringing your own lunch to work, eating at different restaurants, making sure you have lots of good nutritious snacks, or whatever.

Another thing I find myself doing is substituting chicken for red meat, beans instead of meat, lemon juice for butter, and yogurt or blended fruits in place of butter or jam.

I've found that friends and neighbors and family members who are making changes in their own diets can be a big support and a source of ideas.

Yes, there's definitely a good deal more peer support for good eating now than there's ever been. Ten years ago, people who were concerned with nutrition were real pioneers.

And were usually thought of as real cooks?

Yes.
Brown rice was considered really weird. If you ate it, you used to get strange looks. The same with dark bread. But now, in many circles, if you were to serve white rice or white bread, people would think it was a joke and would wait for the real food to come out.

Another change that makes it easier is that nutritious foods are more widely available now. Salad bars are springing up all over the place—even in some fast-food restaurants. Supermarkets now routinely stock things like brown rice and whole wheat bread.

There's also more support in the media. You hear public service announcements for good nutrition. And it seems clear that the federal government is now going to be promoting good nutrition in a big way.

What's your feeling about the extremely rigorous low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt diet recommended by Nathan Pritikin?

I think that Pritikin is extremely smart and very brave. Heart specialists have been saying for years that a drastically low-fat diet might cut the incidence of heart disease, but nobody was really doing much about it until Pritikin came along. As he says, the American Heart Association diet is a prescription for heart disease. Pritikin's diet exactly follows the nutritional suggestions I've been making—except that he takes those principles even further. His diet calls for no sugar, no salt, no caffeine, and practically no fat. It's a very severe diet. It's particularly suited for people who already have serious heart disease. If the reports from Pritikin's center can be believed, his diet really is helping people with rather advanced coronary artery disease.

It seems very clear to me that the Pritikin diet is helping people. I don't see how it could not help people. I'm upset that the National Institute of Health and other research centers haven't started research projects to test the effects of this diet—both on people with coronary artery disease and on healthy adults.

Pritikin's own reports are very strong, but of course he's not the one to do controlled, documented studies. I feel certain that his diet has very beneficial results. The questions that still need to be answered are the exact extent of those results, and under what conditions people are able to stick to the diet. Pritikin's critics say that it's too strict a diet for anyone to be able to stick to. Pritikin and others claim that people do stick to it. Everyone would benefit from some further studies, but l must say that the preliminary results look very good

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
 
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