Photo courtesy of TopNews

I got a funny postcard in the mail yesterday from the Walnut Board & Commission about some upcoming events. In big letters on the front, it asked, “Have you recommended Walnuts today?”

Why, no, I hadn’t. It did get me thinking for a few minutes, though, about some of the benefits of walnuts (omega-3s, fiber, protein, etc, etc) and wondering if there was anyone in particular I needed to remind. I also made a mental note to make another batch of lentil-walnut burgers very soon because it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve had one, and that’s just a little too long for me.

Oh dear—how susceptible we are to the power of suggestion.

It kind of amuses me that there are organizations that exist to represent specific foods. For example, a couple summers ago, I interviewed someone from the National Peanut Board for a piece about a 2007 Salmonella outbreak and how the Board addressed the issue through various ad campaigns. I remember thinking, “Gee, I’ll bet that guy didn’t grow up thinking one day he’d be part of the PR team for peanuts.”

Not that it’s a bad thing—I actually think that these kinds of organizations have a lot of power to do good if they use their influence mindfully and to encourage consumers to eat a healthy, balanced diet. To get back to reality for a sec, though, I’ll take off the rose-colored glasses and acknowledge the fact that for the most part, the food industry and food companies are interested primarily in making money—if their interests happen to coincide with the interests of the public’s health, all the better, but we haven’t really seen that happen much, have we?

I’m not trying to say anything negative about peanuts or walnuts or the people who promote them. What I do have a problem with is agencies that represent unhealthy foods and aggressively market them to, say, children, or when a snack food company decides they’re going to paint a health-food aura around their cookies or something and push it on moms who are desperate to get their kids to eat something with some nutrition in it. Not cool. I’m not even going to get started on just how big a part the interests of Big Agriculture play in our country’s food policy. There are people far more qualified to discuss that.

For those in the nutrition field, it can be easy to think you’re somehow “above” advertising, which is totally untrue—I was laughing and shaking my head at myself for how well the walnut thing worked on me. While I don’t mind getting junk mail about whole foods, I worry about both all the crap out there and all the value-added crap people are being led to think is healthy—why eat that when you can leave a little room for the real stuff, you know? And by “real stuff”, I don’t mean Fritos…

Speaking of Fritos, if you want to see what happens when you set them on fire, check this out. I can’t say it proves all that much, but it’s not really supposed to…just good to keep in mind if you go camping or in case of the apocalypse.

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