That night at dinner, I tried to use what I had learned. We ate Mexican. My friend had the chicken-and-cheese quesadilla; I had the wild-mushroom tamale. Mushrooms are high in NIACIN, good for reducing bad CHOLESTEROL, and CHROMIUM, good for preventing type II diabetes. I was being good, but that chicken quesadilla was also looking good. Damn good. That's when I called Audrey Cross for a second opinion.
"I think you can eat meat," she said, "just in smaller quantities. Populations where people get 60 to 70 percent of their calories from complex carbohydrates and 10 to 15 percent from fat and 10 to 15 percent from protein are very healthy. I tell people to think of meat as a condiment, not the focus of the meal." In America, meat as condiment means Bac*Os, but in other parts of the world, like China, it accurately describes their diet of mostly vegetables, rice and a little bit of meat. On a hunch, I asked Barnard when girls in China tend to reach puberty. "Around seventeen," he answered. And breast cancer? "Rare," he said.
That did it. For my grandfather's generation, it is probably too late to undo the damage caused by a lifetime of eggs for breakfast and steak for dinner. For my grandfather himself, it's definitely too late — he died of colon cancer when I was a senior in college. (Colon cancer has been linked to a diet high in fat and low in the dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables, what he used to contemptuously call "rabbit food.") But it's not too late for me. After all, I am a 31-year-old grown-up woman. My mom isn't cooking me hamburgers for lunch anymore. I live in an era of unprecedented nutritional diversity — grocery stores now carry as many as 30,000 items. There's simply no excuse not to start eating more healthily. I may still wake up at 40 with a malignant lump in my breast or at 50 with heart trouble, but if I do, at least I'll know that I did everything within my power to stay healthy.