No enemy of potatoes is a friend of Jane Brody's. During an interview, when I asked her about Walter Willett's recommendations about them, she could barely contain her ire. "His research may be fine, but his opinions really leave me cold," she replied. The fact that a potato can raise blood sugar is "absolutely meaningless," she says, because people don't eat potatoes by themselves. "A Mars bar is likely to be eaten that way, but how many baked potatoes have you eaten without anything else? I'll bet none. When you eat the potato in the context of a meal, it doesn't do the same thing because it's mixed with many other nutrients, which neutralizes the glucose-raising effect of the potato."
When she finishes her defense of potatoes, I ask about the item that had accompanied my hash browns at breakfast. Eggs, I remind her, were on the condemned-foods list not long ago. To those of us who like to eat, Brody's more than one hundred articles over the years cautioning against a lengthy list of foods, from meats (except on special occasions and then only lean and skinless cuts smaller than four ounces) to Girl Scout cookies ("they should be banned from the face of the earth," she declared at an Oldways conference) have been excessive, to say the least. But she makes light of the fact that she and fellow preachers of the gospel of naught have been known to damn a food one year and absolve it the next. "I use that Humpty Dumpty analogy," Brody replies. "The egg had a very bad rep, but we are putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. I've resurrected the egg and so has the American Heart Association. The Heart Association now says the vast majority of people can eat one egg a day without any problems. But if you happen to be a person whose body is sensitive to dietary cholesterol, and that may be as much as 10 percent of the population, then you have to be careful about those high-cholesterol foods."
When her twin boys were young, she frequently fed them a dish she called "Eggs Jane"—an English muffin, a slice of turkey breast, poached egg white, and a slice of cheese heated in a toaster oven. "It was my version of Eggs Benedict, but without the bad things," she says, adding that nowadays she eats yolks. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Brody had been among the chorus of nutritionists and health writers who warned the American public that yolks are packed with cholesterol. The more cholesterol a person ingests, the theory went, the higher his blood cholesterol and the greater his odds of a heart attack, so eggs were seen as potentially lethal. And as a result of the bad publicity, egg consumption in the U.S. plummeted.
Yet Brody says she does not regret having discouraged people from eating eggs. In her view, she was merely reporting the state of knowledge at the time. "We know something that we didn't know then," she says. "We now know how important HDLs are. When we only looked at LDLs, the bad cholesterol, it looked terrible to eat a lot of eggs. But if you look at the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, the good cholesterol that cleanses your arteries like Drano, then for a lot of people who thought they couldn't eat eggs, eggs are okay."