If you keep up to date on holistic news, then I’m sure you’ve seen the latest headlines condemning Dr. Oz, popular TV personality and supposed “health food guru” as a sell-out due to his recent anti-organic article in TIME magazine. Well, as one who’s worked in the holistic health industry for a few years, I can tell you that this is pretty old news. Even when he’s promoting a natural supplement, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. He is just another talk show host, and holistic health is just another tool he uses and abuses to reel in viewers.
In his article (which is coincidentally quite similar to the recent controversial Stanford University review that was published in September) he claims that organic food is nutritionally no different than conventional food and that the organic lifestyle is “elite” and “just not very democratic.” Like the study, he bases his argument on the simple fact that a conventional pea is nutritionally the same as an organic pea. Um… DUH. A pea is a pea, but what he fails to mention (again, like the study) is the pesticide contamination that comes with conventional produce. And he also makes the (in my opinion) hilarious claim that canned or frozen veggies are just as good as farm fresh vegetables because “as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal.” Because it’s so much harder to cook fresh spinach than frozen spinach.
Here are some amusing highlights (sorry, I could not refrain from commenting) from his article, which you can read in full here if you don’t have a TIME subscription:
Nutritionally speaking, there is little difference between the farmer’s-market bounty and the humble brick from the freezer case… [Livestrong says BULLSHIT. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says BULLSHIT.] Organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic. As a food lover, I enjoy truffle oil, European cheeses and heirloom tomatoes as much as the next person. But as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal. [I’m choosing to take that as a compliment – I’ve never thought of the crops we grown at Greenbranch as “artisanal,” but hey, I’ll take it!]
The rise of foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic–all with premium price tags. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily. [I eat almost wholly organic even though I make less that $20,000 a year… But apparently I’m part of the “elite” 1%.] After several years of research and experience, I have come to an encouraging conclusion: the American food supply is abundant, nutritionally sound, affordable and, with a few simple considerations, comparable to the most elite organic diets. Save the cash; the 99% diet can be good for you. [If you can call overly-processed, starch & sugar heavy, and preservative-laden “nutritionally sound.”]
This advice will be a serious buzz kill for specialty brands and high-end food companies marketing the exclusive hyperhealthy nature of their more expensive products. But I consider it a public-health service to the consumer who has to feed a family of five or the person who wants to make all the right choices and instead is alienated and dejected because the marketing of healthy foods too often blurs into elitism, with all the expense and culinary affectation that implies… [Giant & Food Lions both have natural food sections that are VERY affordable, complete with organic canned & frozen foods that are not laden with preservatives and pesticides, for those who agree that fresh food is simply too complicated.]
There’s no question that free-range chickens and grass-fed, pasture-dwelling cows lead happier–if not appreciably longer–lives than animals raised on factory farms. They are also kept free of hormones and antibiotics and are less likely to carry communicable bacteria like E. coli, which are common on crowded feedlots. If these things are important to you and you have the money to spend, then by all means opt for pricier organic meats. [Um, hello? Does anyone actually enjoy scarfing down loads of hormones and antibiotics and bacteria?] But for the most part, it’s O.K. to skip the meat boutiques and the high-end butchers. Nutritionally, there is not much difference between, say, grass-fed beef and the feedlot variety. [EatWild says BULLSHIT.]
Let me make the argument against the great and powerful Oz. Or rather, arguments: 1) Even when he promotes holistic or natural remedies, he uses them only to gain popularity. On an episode of his show, he heralded white bean extract as a weight-loss supplement when its real purpose is to lower blood sugar and help diabetics digest starches without spiking their sugar levels. Never did he mention the fact that eating a starch-heavy diet is why you’re fat – and why you’re going to end up with heart disease, diabetes, or some kind of gluten-caused illness. That’s just not what his over-weight, over-50 female audience members want to hear. 2) His show is a running ad for RealAge.com, one of Big Pharma’s many marketing schemes used to push drugs on the unsuspecting public. RealAge is an online quiz that supposedly determines your true biological age. The website then graciously bombards you with ads and recommendations for pharmaceuticals tailored to your specific age and lifestyle. 3) He not only supports RealAge, he constantly urges his viewers to keep up to date on their vaccines. Coincidentally, he owns 150,000 shares in SIGA, a vaccine technology company. And you wonder why he’s pushing a conventional lifestyle over an organic, drug-free one.
Bottom line: do yourself a favor and unplug the wonderful wizard next time he tries to cast his spell on you. The only wonderful wizard in town is Mother Earth, and anyone who decries her bounty as the stuff of “food snobs” and “elites” is a grade-A Oz-hole.