Review: Rich Food, Poor Food

Jayson Calton and Mira Calton – Rich Food, Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System (GPS): Shop Smart, Shop Healthy, Save Time, Save Money ….. Avoid Hype and Harmful Ingredients

Man, I hate nutrition books. It’s even less fun for someone who has to be in the room with me while I’m reading them. There’s a lot of cries of frustration, hair pulling, and exclamations of, “That’s not how chemistry works! UGH!”

Let me give you an example. During their discussion of “Banned Bad Boys,” because who can take an author seriously if they don’t use alliteration, they tell you how terrible brominated vegetable oil and potassium bromate are, because bromine is bad. Let me show you some pictures.

This is what potassium bromate looks like:

File:Bromičnan draselný.JPG

This is what bromine looks like:

File:Bromine 25ml.jpg

Did you notice something? Perhaps the fact that they look nothing alike? That is because, in chemistry, typically compounds act absolutely nothing like their elemental forms. Sodium and potassium, both (in ionic form) micronutrients without which you would die, in their elemental forms literally explode when they touch water.

I couldn’t find any pictures of brominated vegetable oil, just a bunch of pictures of nutrition labels, bromine, and poison symbols, but that is probably because it probably looks exactly like ordinary vegetable oil.

So, I’d forgive them for being confused, except that they really hammer the point in. Let me quote: Brominated vegetable oil “is composed mainly of bromine, a poisonous chemical whose vapors are considered both corrosive and toxic.” And yes, bromine is a huge jerk. I have worked with it, and it’s fucking evil. You’re pouring it and these terrifying dark red gasses are flying up into the air, and you’re wearing a mask and the sash on the fume hood is all the way down and you’re still a little freaked out because it looks like you’re in a bad mad science movie. But once it’s in a compound, it no longer gives off vapors. I promise. And “mainly”? Define “mainly”, because I am pretty sure it is “mainly” vegetable oil.

But I mean, seriously. I’m not even arguing about whether BVO is bad for you. It probably is. It’s banned in a bunch of other countries. That’s good enough for me. But why the bad chemistry facts? This guy has a PhD in nutrition, and he doesn’t know how chemistry works? And it didn’t even occur to him to maybe CHECK THE INTERNET before publishing this garbage? How am I supposed to believe a single other thing he says?

I have a lot more to say about how nutrition books are bad in general and this one specifically, but I’m tired and I want to go home.

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