Food journalism is strange. It straddles a hard-to-manage line between science writing and the “Life and Style” section.
Food’s effects on the body are obviously science-based, but its consumption (or lack thereof) has become such an industry that writing about food requires a knack for scientific jargon, a flair for flowery writing, and an ability to combine the two categories without sounding like a complete ass.
For people like me, food is more than sustenance. It’s a pesky thought in the back of my mind, constantly worming its way to the surface. It’s prevalent in my life- more so than TV, even (maybe). Alright, they could be about equal. But that’s still a big chunk of where my brain power goes on a daily basis.
The point is, people looking to learn about food want to be entertained. However, when it comes to food journalism concerning health, they need to be informed. They trust food journalism with their weight, self-image, food intake, restaurant choice and their overall health.
So why can food journalism be so abysmal?
In my early years, I grew up learning about the outside world through my dad’s newspapers. His stories, complaints and rants filled my mornings during breakfast. My dad is as avid about his newspapers as he is about his coffee, and that’s saying something. That shit is addictive.
One of his regular complaints, I’ll always remember, was about food journalism. Specifically,coffee journalism. Coffee is notoriously bad for you; it’s also notoriously good for you. Studies vouching for the carcinogenic qualities of coffee or the reasons it’ll keep you alive forever have been published time and again, with the food community’s general opinion ping-ponging back and forth incessantly.
Food and health journalists always need new things to write about; unfortunately, restaurant reviews alone won’t cut it. Any new way to eat healthy is news, apparently, and food journalists have a magnetic fascination with food studies. These change all the time, but can have a lot of influence when they’re about important food like coffee or milk. It’s no surprise many of these studies and articles aren’t speaking the gospel truth, but some readers do take them seriously. That’s a problem.
Magazines like Women’s Health or Cooking Light contain articles that are the epitome of this crap. They promise weight loss and disease prevention based on questionable research or trends of the times.
For instance, recently in Women’s Health a featured article titled “The 10 Best Fitness Foods for Women” completely wasted precious time I could have spent watching slow loris videos on YouTube. The article proclaims berries are great for eating after you work out. No shit, one look at the new version of the FDA Food Pyramid, MyPlate, could have told you that. It’s no venture into space to say fruit is good for you. And really, carrots? They’re low-calorie?
Most of the rest of these revolutionary ideas were high-protein, which is what you need after working out, that’s true, but I think most people could have known on their own that chicken has protein and is good for them. I could just use non-sugar protein powder, too, but nay. Regular chocolate milk is obviously a better choice- thank you Women’s Health.
Another article, titled “Print this Powerhouse Lineup: 12 Foods for a Flat Belly” includes protein-filled nuts and…vegetables. Really? Thanks again.
Also, anyone who has a subscription to Women’s Health probably knows by now that fruits and vegetables and protein are good. I know, Women’s Health, you have to fill your pages somehow, but I’m sorry, that’s not my problem. You were the ones who decided to start a dumb magazine.
Take health and food articles you read with a grain of salt (ha!) before basing your diet off of them. Please. A recent Los Angeles Times article proclaimed green coffee beans as a new way to drop weight fast. Maybe these uncooked beans really are a miracle food. But probably not.
Nevertheless, The Seattle Times, U.S. News & World Report, NBC Chicago, and the International Business Times, among others, ran articles declaring that a new study on these beans holds the secret to weight loss. So, all those unroasted coffee extract makers out there should definitely be seeing a substantial boost in sales right about now. Good for them- but not necessarily for us.