Rethinking Whole Foods | Larry Olmsted | TEDxUniversityofNevada

Rethinking Whole Foods | Larry Olmsted | TEDxUniversityofNevada


Translator: Madison Shirley
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs I’m going to talk about
my favorite thing in the world: food. But first, I want to talk
about something else I’m a fan of: cars. I’ve always been fascinated
with cars, all kinds – sports cars, classic cars, muscle cars,
big cars, little cars, even electric cars. But there’s one thing that’s no fun
about cars, and that’s buying one. I think it’s one of those universally
terrifying experiences we all hate. Shopping for a car new or used,
go in, you feel cheated, nickeled and dimed. You don’t get the color you want
or the option you want. Or you have to buy an option
you didn’t want. We’ve all been there. But let’s suppose for a second
that you have the fantasy, all time great car buying
experience of your life. You go in, they’re friendly. They’re honest. You can get exactly the car
you wanted at the best price. Let’s say its $30,000. So you’re about to buy it,
and the salesman says, “Wait a second, there’s something
else I have to tell you. There’s a second choice, ‘Plan B.’ You can have the car
just as we discussed, for $30,000, or for $60,000, twice as much, I can sell you just the engine,
the driver’s seat and the steering wheel. That’s Plan B. Which do you want to do?” Well, you’d be crazy to go with Plan B,
paying a lot more for a lot less. It sounds ridiculous
because it is ridiculous. They don’t sell cars that way. But they do sell food that way. And everyday at supermarkets
all across America, we choose Plan B. We pay more and we get less. Less flavor, less food and less health. That’s why I’m here today and that’s why I want you
to rethink whole foods. When I say “whole foods,”
what do you think of? Most people I talk to
think of the supermarket chain. But that’s not what I mean by whole foods. Other people think I’m talking about
quinoa and brown rice, whole wheat. But that’s not what I mean
by “whole foods” either. I mean “whole” in the literal
sense of the word – the way food occurs in nature,
like an orange versus orange juice. Or coffee beans instead of ground coffee. Why is this important? Because most of the time
when you start with whole foods you pay less and you get more,
just like in my car example. You get more flavor, which everyone wants. You get more authenticity, which is something
consumers often overlook. And you often get more health. It’s a win-win-win-win. Consider the humble apple. It’s not the healthiest fruit,
but it’s way better than apple juice. Eating apples, whole apples,
lowers our cholesterol. Drinking juice does not. When they make juice,
they get rid of the good stuff, the fiber and the cancer-fighting,
anti-oxidant polyphenols. Drinking juice elevates
your blood sugar faster, whereas eating the same number
of calories in a whole apple has more fiber and less sugar,
both good things. Yet, apple juice costs more than apples. That’s just one example. When I wrote my book,
“Real Food/Fake Food,” I wanted to give readers
very specific tips for how to shop better at the super market
and eat out better in restaurants. But I covered a lot
of different kinds of food from cheese and wine
to olive oil to seafood. So at the end of every chapter
I have a long detailed list of tips, labeled terms, red flags to avoid,
that kind of thing. But when I speak
to audiences about my book they always ask me, “What’s the number one overall tip?” So I’ve given this a lot of thought,
and my number one tip is buy whole foods. Food critic at heart, I review restaurants
every week for USA Today, I write about food
for newspapers and magazines, and I love things that taste good. I love food. So I came at this from that angle. Why what I call real foods tastes better. But as I started to do the research,
serendipitously, it turns out that they’re better for us as well,
and they’re often better values despite being higher quality products. So let me give you
a concrete example, a common example: boneless, skinless chicken breast. Costs twice as much per pound
as whole chicken, sometimes more. What do you get for the extra money? You get one of the blandest
ingredients known to man. (Laughter) You’re never going to walk
into a Michelin-starred restaurant and see boneless, skinless
chicken breasts on the menu. A famous chef like Alain Ducasse
or Bobby Flay or Gordon Ramsay might make you a gorgeous
whole roast chicken, it’s a classic French dish. But they’re not going to make you
boneless chicken breasts because they make their living
selling things that taste good. (Laughter) So, most chefs will tell you
a few rules about meat. Dark meat has more flavor than white meat,
meat cooked on the bone tastes better, larger cuts stay juicier,
and a lot of the taste is in the skin. So boneless, skinless chicken breasts
are the opposite of why food tastes good. Yet, it costs twice as much,
and we buy them. Why? Well, most people I talk to say
either “convenience,” or “health.” To which I have to say, bullshit. (Laughter) You want convenience? Buy a rotisserie chicken. It’s cooked, it tastes better,
it’s cheaper, and you can chop it up and use it in any recipe that you’d use
boneless chicken breast in. What about health? Most poultry raised in this country
is raised very poorly. A lot of antibiotics,
unnatural, often disgusting diets, and then, because you pay by the pound,
they add water so it weighs more. So when I go to buy chicken
at the supermarket, I’m very careful, very picky. I buy truly naturally raised chicken that has no added drugs,
no weird diet and no added water. That chicken tastes better
than junky chicken, but it doesn’t cost more
than our junky ordinary chicken cut up into boneless, skinless breasts. So if I’m going to pay
a premium for health, I’ll still eat the delicious skin, but I’ll leave the drugs
and the weird diet behind every time. But at least when you buy
chicken, you get chicken. Unfortunately, that’s not the case
with all our foods. So, I’m not big on PowerPoints
or graphs or anything, but I did bring a visual aid today. This is my friend,
the North Atlantic lobster. (Laughter) You could all recognize this guy,
it’s the cartoon image of a lobster, claws and all. Lobsters are not farmed,
they’re not fed, they’re not given drugs. They’re just put on
the ocean floor by Mother Nature. We catch them, we eat them,
and they’re delicious. But best of all, nothing else looks
like a North Atlantic lobster. So when you see this whole lobster,
you know exactly what you’re getting. And you know it’s going to taste good. But what about lobster bisque? Inside Edition did an exposé, where they went around the country
and ordered dishes like lobster bisque, lobster salad
and lobster rolls from restaurants, national chains and mom & pop places. And then they DNA tested the food. (Laughter) Fully a third of the lobster dishes
contained no lobster whatsoever. They usually used a chopped mix
of cheaper sea foods. But my favorite was a restaurant
in New York’s Little Italy that had lobster ravioli on the menu
with no sea food whatsoever in it. Really. So, to recap, “whole lobster” –
real food, tastes good. The word “lobster,” you don’t know,
you might be getting ripped off. In general, seafood is the most convoluted
and fraudulent sector of our food supply. Numerous studies have shown substitution rates of 70, 80,
90 percent for prime species. And what this means is,
you go into a seafood store, you pay for a premium fish
like grouper or sole and you walk out with a much cheaper, lower quality fish. And red snapper is the worst. In this country, you order red snapper,
and eight or nine times out of 10, you pay 23 dollars or so
a pound for “red snapper,” and you get tilapia or tilefish or panga or some other farmed Asian catfish
you’ve never heard of that costs two or three dollars a pound. It sounds crazy but it’s true,
it’s been well documented, and in fact, there are entire species
of fish you’ve never heard of, that you’d never see at retail,
that are imported into this country, millions of pounds annually,
just to counterfeit your favorite fish. It’s the same story,
you pay more, you get less. And the reason this scam works so well is because as Americans, we don’t buy
and eat a whole lot of whole fish. We prefer white fish,
and we prefer filets. And all white fish
looks the same cut into filets, so they can give you anything,
and they often do. Fortunately, there’s an easy
solution to this problem, and if you’ve been paying attention
you probably can guess where I’m going with this. Buy whole fish. The problem is a lot of us don’t know
what to do with whole fish and it can be intimidating. So here’s what you do. You google “red snapper,”
and you look at its picture. (Laughter) Then you go to the sea food store
and you find a whole red snapper on ice. Now you’ve seen it, you’ve identified it,
it’s just like the Maine lobster. You know what it is. But you still don’t know
what to do with it. So I’ll let you in on a little secret,
you don’t have to know. Your heavy lifting here is done. Ask the guy to cut it into filets for you,
he will, mission accomplished. When you start with whole foods,
you buy better and you eat better. And there’s a reason why I chose to put a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano
cheese on the cover of my book. It’s a wonderful cheese –
it’s known as the king of cheeses, and it’s made in Italy
under very strict rules similar to champagne in France. These rules dictate everything
about the cows and what they can eat. So the milk used, unlike our milk here,
is 100 percent pure and free of antibiotics, steroids,
growth hormones, pesticides, chemical fertilizers. It’s as pure as you can imagine,
but it’s also as fresh as you can imagine because the law says
they have to start making cheese within two hours of milking the cows. Then when all that’s done,
the cheese has to age for a year or more. It’s so good. But none of that applies
to those tubes of stuff called “100 Percent Grated Parmesan
Cheese” that we get in our super markets. In that case, “100 percent”
refers to the grinding. (Laughter) What’s in that canister is,
in fact, 100 percent grated. It is not, however, 100 percent cheese,
not by a long shot. You can just look at the ingredients. In addition to all of the various
chemical additives, almost all grated cheese in this country
has added cellulose, which is a natural fiber often derisively
called “wood pulp” in the food industry. And the FDA approved the addition
of cellulose to grated cheese because it prevents it from clumping. However, when the FDA did this,
they didn’t bother to set a limit to how much cellulose
you can put in the cheese. And manufacturers realized
cellulose is cheaper than cheese, so if they used more
than they needed to stop clumping, sometimes way more,
they would make more money. For you, same story. Pay more, you get less. But here’s the thing:
what do you do with grated cheese? You put a little bit on your pasta
or a slice of pizza, small quantities. You never have a recipe that calls
for a gallon of grated Parmesan cheese. So, here’s what you do. You take a grater,
and you get a chunk of cheese, and you go like this. And that takes three seconds. (Applause) That takes three seconds,
and now it tastes better because your food actually is better. Starting with whole foods
does not work in every single case. But it works in a lot of them. Enough of them so that if you care
about what you eat, if you care about what it tastes like,
if you care about how much it costs, and you care about your health,
you might want to rethink whole foods. I have. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

3 thoughts on “Rethinking Whole Foods | Larry Olmsted | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  1. This makes a lot of sense. I will start buying whole fish and ask for it to be cut into fillets. Great advice.

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