French Onion White Bean Soup
and a nice little rant on wellness influencers, as promised
Hi! Welcome to “good mood food” from Kale Me Maybe’s Carina Wolff. If you’ve made it here and aren’t yet a subscriber, come join! You can expect recipes in your inbox every Tuesday!
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Last week, I mentioned how I wanted to go on a rant about nutrition information on social media, and this week I’m going to try to do that in the most productive way I can possibly muster.
Before I begin, if you haven’t read this piece I originally wrote in April of 2021 called “Influencers as Wellness Gurus,“ then start by going back and reading it. As most of you probably know, I’m always looking into the “why” of things, trying to understand issues in human nature through a psychological perspective so I can better comprehend how we can fix them. Reading that article before the rest of this newsletter will help give you a better understanding about how I feel on this topic.
Lately, I’ve just been mind boggled trying to wrap my head around how people can just go on social media, say something, and then everyone just takes their word for it. One topic that really grinds my gears is oat milk. If you were to log on to TikTok and Instagram and pay attention to wellness influencers, you would think oat milk is the worst thing you could put into your body right now. They claim it’s like drinking soda, that the oils in it will make your body inflamed — stay away, or you’ll be very sick.
To me, this already sounds so sensationalized on its face, but I guess to a lot of people find this feels reasonable, because my god, so many people have jumped onboard with this unsubstantiated mindset. I have friends who are now afraid of oat milk because the internet says so, and I consider these friends wise and informed individuals.
Now look, if someone says something is bad for you and it scares you, that fear is going to take over and drive you to make decisions. And I will never, ever blame anyone for wanting to take care of themselves and their loved ones and make good health decisions that help encourage a healthier, longer, and happier life. I have been a big proponent of these ideals my entire adult life, so it always makes me laugh when I have to come in and defend this stuff because it makes me feel like I’m someone who just throws caution to the wind when it comes to nutrition, and that’s clearly not true. It’s wild how the internet can make you feel.
Before I go on about how frustrating this is, I’m sure you would love for me to tell you why oat milk isn’t actually the latest poison. It all starts with seed oils. If you haven’t heard about the issues with oat milk, I’m sure you’ve heard about the issues with seed oils. Influencers touting this message make the claim that these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and cause inflammation. The kicker is, there are no compelling studies that prove any evidence of this! Even Goop, the wellness company notorious for its outlandish wellness claims, has come out with an article, with citations, that states otherwise. Dietitians and food scientists all across the internet are screaming and yelling, “Seed oils are fine!” but people just keep listening to the pretty girl on TikTok because she looks like she’s healthy and her life is aspirational.
There is nuance in this conversation here, of course. For example, it is true that a diet higher in omega-6s vs omega-3s is not as good for you, and here in this country, we tend to skew higher toward omega-6s because it’s in so many packaged and processed foods. However, the recommendation here is to actually just increase your omega-3 intake, not decrease omega-6s, because omega-6 fatty acids have health benefits, too! In fact, as stated in that Goop article, they can actually help reduce inflammation!
Additionally, the foods that tend to be higher in omega-6 fatty acids often contain larger amounts of sugar, sodium, or refined carbohydrates, which might help explain why too much of the foods that contain them lead to poorer health outcomes and why people might be led to believe they’re bad for you overall. And for some people, oat milk may not be the right choice because they’re trying to have something less sweet in the morning, or hey, maybe oats don’t agree with their stomach. But it’s not universal, and people shouldn’t act like it is.
Like I said, nuanced, but to take one ingredient, oat milk, and exclaim that it’s the issue with your health, divorced from other aspects of your diet, is just lazy and unhelpful. Even if seed oils were dangerous, the small amount added to your oat milk for creaminess is not going to derail your wellbeing. And don’t get me started about how so many of these wellness influencers are venting about this while drinking alcohol, a known carcinogen. It’s hypocritical. We all need some pleasure foods, and I promise you, oat milk is not going to tip you over the edge unless you’re guzzling it by the gallon. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Coca Cola has almost 4x the amount of sugar per serving compared to oat milk, so it’s definitely not the new “soda.”
I use oat milk as an example, but this applies to so many other health tips on the internet as well. I used this one because I see it everywhere, and it just seems like something that is so easily debunked, yet so many people fall victim to it. And I say this, again, not to shame anyone for wanting to make good choices for their health, but to make people more aware that you really shouldn’t just take people’s word for it on the internet. People have good intentions, but the information they get wrong has real consequences. Creating fear around food is not how we create healthier people. The best way to empower people is to make them feel motivated and excited about something good for them, not scared over a tiny ingredient. The world would be much better off if we made vegetables exciting rather than making people feel that the small amount of milk that they’re using in their coffee is the most terrifying thing they can do to themselves.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been someone who has read something online that scared you, and you wanted to make a change to protect yourself and your health, that’s okay. You were doing what you thought was best, and every single one of us has been there, myself definitely included. All I ask is that you just pause before panicking, check some valuable resources, like a credentialed dietitians (look for RD by their name). Not everything on the internet is a lie, but there is a lot of stuff that has been twisted. And remember, too, when it comes to nutrition, it’s almost always about the full picture and not just one ingredient. I hope that can make you feel better about your choices, because I’m sure you’re doing just great.
THINGS I’M LOVING!
I got my flu shot and Covid booster in Target this weekend, and I picked up this super cozy Pullover Sweater after my shots! I have been looking for a cozy red sweater, and they had one in my size (the red on the site looks a lot more pink, but it is a deeper red irl). I also love the cream, and at $25, it is such a steal! It feels like really nice quality, nice and thick for the winter!! It’s more of a cropped style, which I like for pairing with high waisted jeans.
In the spirit of coziness, I thought it was time to share my favorite slippers in the whole wide world: the Ugg Tasman Slipper in Chestnut! They are sooo comfy, and I basically walk around all day in them when I’m cooking at home (you can see proof in the stains heh). I also think they’re very stylish, and I’m always tempted to wear them out! You can buy them directly from the Ugg website (linked above), but they also have them at Anthropologie if your size is sold out!
As you all know, I’ve been traveling so much, and this CalPak Luka Duffel has served me SO well. First of all, it slides over my July Carry On, so it’s very easy to travel with. But I love it the most because it’s considered a personal item, so I can use just my carry on and this duffel without checking a bag, and it allows me to carry SO MUCH STUFF. I put all my plane items in here, but I also put in my purse, 1-2 pairs of shoes (IN THE SEPARATE BOTTOM SHOE COMPARTMENT), books, and my toiletry bag AND makeup bag. It is truly incredible, and it also makes the best weekend bag if you’re going away for a short weekend.
In my head, french onion soup was something extremely difficult to make, and it was something I could only enjoy when dining at French restaurant (which honestly, happens so infrequently). I recently discovered that this is actually so untrue — French onion soup is very simple! The hardest part is the patience you’ll need when you caramelize the onions.
Of course, as the bean lover I am, I had to add some into the soup to give it a little protein and make it a more complete meal! I used cannellini beans here, and I think it paired perfectly.
Give yourself a little bit of time to make this soup (about an hour and a half).
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
1 tbsp butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine
2 sprigs of thyme, divided
4 cups beef stock
1 (14 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
4-6 small slices of baguette, lightly toasted
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Salt & pepper
1. Melt butter in a dutch oven on medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt, stir, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid, and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook. the onions until they’re golden brown and caramelized, which will likely take you 40-50 minutes. I like to let the onions sit untouched, stirring them every 10 minutes and adding a splash of water when the onions start to dry out. Turn the heat down if the onions are cooking too fast.
2. Once the onions are caramelized, turn the heat to medium high, and add the white wine and a sprig of thyme, cut into a few pieces. Bring to a boil, and then add in the broth and the beans. Bring the broth to a low boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Preheat your boiler to high, and toast your bread if you haven’t already. Ladle the soup mixture into individual oven-friendly casserole dishes, and top with the bread slices (use 2-3 per person depending on the size of your casserole dish). Sprinkle the grated cheese onto the bread and the soup. Top with the other sprig of thyme, cut into a few pieces, and place into the oven. Broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted and just starting to brown. Serve immediately.
This was a really well-written, thoughtful piece! I am wondering if, while talking about food propaganda through social media, maybe we could actually see oat milk consumption itself as a result of entire food groups being demonised on social media, as you discuss. While there are certainly some people who drink oat-milk because they are lactose intolerant, a vast majority probably drink it because it is "plant-based," posed as a more "cleaner" (i.e. less sinful) alternative to real dairy. In my eyes, I saw the rise of oat milk as a direct result in the rise of media output about animal products being inherently bad for the environment and our bodies. I myself didn't drink cow's milk for ten years (even though, it turns out, my body thrives on it) because the wellness social media made me think that alternatives like almond and coconut were healthier and that real milk was somehow bad. Since then I have learned so much about animal products and how beneficial they are for the body, and how they are not straight-up the cause of climate change, or something. I just find it really interesting, as you point out, to question the information we see out there, and listen to our bodies--and research--above what we see on someone's post.
I love this article. The amount of bogus claims on a broad range of foods is just nuts. Influencers have found the cheat button on how to grow their audience: be pretty and aspirational, make wild and controversial claims (especially warnings because fear gets the attention) and then sit back and count the money. The level of sensationalism is insane. I get lectured all the time about soy milk and I'm like GTFO. The Koreans and Japanese have been eating soy for like centuries now. Anyway I love this and look forward to reading more from you! Oat milk FTW.