Aspen Times Weekly: Killing us softly |

Aspen Times Weekly: Killing us softly

Toxic apple
Getty Images/Hemera | Hemera

HOW CAN I QUIT EATING? This bizarre, unrealistic thought floats through my brain incessantly while I burn through all 285 pages of “The Bulletproof Diet.” Bestselling author Dave Asprey’s high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb plan purports to supercharge one’s metabolism and quash hunger — crucially, by consuming a high-octane coffee concoction laced with grass-fed organic butter and MCT oil every morning. But another thesis simmering beneath the surface scares me.

Asprey, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “biohacker,” finds a slew of fruits and vegetables suspicious — and not only due to high starch and sugar contents. That’s elementary. Instead, a large part of “The Bulletproof Diet” hinges on avoiding antinutrients, or substances occurring naturally in plants and animals that act as chemical messengers, preventing nutrient absorption and initiating inflammation in the body. Of utmost concern are lectins, prevalent in beans, nuts, and grains and linked to joint pain and skin issues; oxalates, found in raw cruciferous vegetables and a precursor to muscle weakness; and mycotoxins, formed by fungi and found in pretty much everything that tastes good —wheat, corn, coffee, chocolate, and wine included. Which is worse, I wonder while perusing “Chapter 9: The Bulletproof Diet Roadmap to Swanky Neighborhoods”: That pile of raw spinach I eat every morning, which could cause a kidney stone, or the black pepper — that “tends to be especially high in mold toxins,” as Asprey writes — I put on it?

The author notes that garlic, a noble building block of most cuisines and an ingredient with documented antifungal properties, boasts documented psychoactive effects. “It’s harder for me to focus when I eat garlic prior to meditating,” Asprey shares. “It should not be a staple additive to food for people who want to be in charge of their brains.” Sheesh.

The list of harmful food trails on. “Grapes and raisins in particular are sources of the mold toxin aflatoxin.” Tomatoes are “fairly high in histamines.” Walnuts have a “higher risk of mold contamination than any other nut except Brazil nuts and pistachios…Cantaloupes are one of the moldiest fruits in the world.” Peanuts, miso, and beer are likened to kryptonite. And don’t dare touch cheese, contaminated indirectly by dairy animals that consume mycotoxins and directly by yeast, fungi, or bacteria that ripen it into various styles.

Information out there is conflicting and confusing. We all must eat, but what can we eat that won’t hurt us?

“I’m not trying to be alarmist,” Asprey writes, following his diatribe on cheese, which pins the number of conventionally produced cheeses containing mold toxins at 40 percent. Right. Who’s up for pizza?

I finished “The Bulletproof Diet” with a newfound sense of supermarket skepticism, and fearful of all the stuff lurking in food that may render me sick and weak. If only I had the willpower to stop eating altogether.

If you’ve been following Food Matters lately it might seem like I’ve fallen into a black hole of negativity: food aversions; the potentially dangerous-for-the-public but revolutionary-for-endurance-athletes extremely high-fat diet; adult-onset allergies. These topics feed each other, literally. We all must eat, but what can we eat that won’t hurt us?

Information out there is conflicting and confusing. Of course, artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and dyes are made from chemicals that make food tasty but do us no good. All unnatural preservatives are best avoided. Soy is suspicious (and — surprise! — high in mold): it prevents or causes breast cancer, depending on whom you ask. Barbecued, blackened meats are carcinogenic. Deep-fried foods may cause cancer, too. Just stop the insanity that is trans fat! Chinese takeout could kill you, eventually: MSG is a noxious ninja and even brown rice contains arsenic.

Iodized table salt is granulated poison. Sugar is the new cocaine —except it’s far cheaper, it will make you gain weight, and you’ll die more slowly. GMOs may end world hunger but will they end the human race? Hope you had a blast at Bacon Day/Buttermilk Closing last weekend, because the nitrites in cured meats can cause one helluva hangover, among other long-term effects. In short: supermarkets and restaurants are nutritional land mines. Nobody is safe.

The latest newsletter for the Aspen chapter of Meatless Monday, a national nonprofit initiative launched in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, reminds us of what the sage Michael Pollan wrote in his bestseller, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”: “Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants.”

Even this gentle maxim makes me believe I might eat too much food—it’s an occupational hazard, after all. Still, I balance rich restaurant meals and champagne-drenched afternoons with lots of home cooking—mostly plants—and regular exercise. Sometimes I’ll order a burger, but, hey, I don’t even like soda!

When I meet Peter Defty, whom I interviewed for the recent “Lifestyles of the Rich” column, at the Aspen Sports Summit a couple of weeks ago, he calls me out as “robust.” Speechless, all I can do is try to stand taller than my just-shy-of-6-feet frame, glare back, and wonder: What the heck do I eat now, to prevent strangers from inadvertently dissing me to my face?

And then I remember the new buzzy anti-food trend around town: the Purium 10-Day Transformation Cleanse, which has been taunting me for the past few weeks from a kitchen cupboard while I wait for offseason to just get here, already. This is Aspen, I remind myself: A paradise of extremes.

I may be biased, but despite our adrenaline- and substance-fueled lifestyle, Aspenites seem super smart. Not to mention that Pitkin County is the healthiest in Colorado, which is the healthiest state in the entire country. So, I trust that you’ll all follow your own brand of common sense. If something makes you feel sluggish or queasy, ease up on eating it. Sugar slays — but a Swedish Fish binge at the movies can be good for the soul. Ignore the noise, follow your cravings, and eat what you want in moderation. Life is short.

And now Amanda Rae drops the mic on the darkness.

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