It’s a conversation I have often. It’s also a conversation that I hear often.
Good nutrition seems to have become very confusing and often contradictory. How has this happened?
I think that it is mostly due to literally every single person having an opinion! That opinion is based on our history, beliefs and values. We all eat, we have all eaten – in a way we are all nutritionists trying to navigate through mountains of information. Of course, I also have my own opinion! I have been interested and intrigued by food for many years. It’s a conversation that excites me! Hopefully with this knowledge I have picked up, I can sort through some of the confusion.
JUST LIKE A CAR
Think about nutrition like you think about your car. There are heaps of different makes and models. Everyone likes something different, everyone has an opinion. Different vehicles suit our ever-changing lifestyle. However, all vehicles have some basics – wheels, an engine, seats, suspension……..
Food is kind of the same. The basics are there, if we can get that right we can then add the extras. The problem with nutrition is that a test drive to know if it works for you or not can take months, years or even decades – certainly much longer than a cruise around the block!
CHANGE AS WE LEARN
Unlike a car, there is so much about the human body that we still do not understand. As we learn more we also learn more about what we need. That’s evolution. That’s saying that we used to believe in following one set of guidelines and now we have learnt, grown and evolved, we need to follow another set of guidelines. What we need nutritionally isn’t set in stone. Our lives change and with that we must be open to changing the nutrients we need to function – or indeed to function at an optimum level.
THE FOOD INDUSTRY
The food industry is made up of corporations that will try and sell you their ‘healthy’ options because they will make money. Your decision impacts their profit, so they will do everything they can to ensure that you purchase their product. Food holds emotional power over our decisions. Food companies use this to sway our emotions to purchase their product. (The Kinder Surprise is a classic example of this. Who wouldn’t want to give their child one of those!) If a car dealer was this pushy we would never go back!
(On a side note please remember that the word corporation (as a body) comes from the word corporate, corpus and corpse. Not sure that it’s a good idea to get our nutrition from a dead body.)
AND THEN THERE IS SCIENCE
To add another layer to our nutritional and food decisions we have ‘Scientific Research’ – sometimes this can be enlightening and at other times be incredibly misleading. (Thanks, Ancel Keys.) Scientific research is expensive. Given that, it often needs government money or big corporations to fund it. So often we blindly follow both – thinking that they have our best interests at heart. Do they? Really? Or do they have their own interests at heart?
HABIT OR ADDICTION?
If I had a dollar for every time I heard something along the lines of “I just had to…..” or “I can’t wait to have…..” or “I couldn’t resist…..”
Often it’s a habit that’s lasted years or decades, often it’s an addiction – the food industry spends a lot of time and money finding that ‘bliss’ point which becomes highly addictive- so the company can then continue to make money off your addiction – “once you pop, you can’t stop”. Let the profits grow….
Whilst it may not seem so, there are quite a few things that nutrition ‘experts’ agree on. Just to be very clear, I am not an ‘expert’… or am I? I eat every single day, have maintained the same body weight for over 30 years, I sleep well and have a mountain of energy for my day! The only serious illness I have had was pneumonia and I read – a lot! I like to read, listen and watch everything and anything I can about nutrition. I have been fascinated by nutrition for as long as I can remember. Therefore. I feel that even though I have no degree I am an ‘expert’.
Companies spend a lot of money getting the packaging right, to tempt consumers to purchase their product. You may be swayed by a colour, size, picture or words. So often we trust what we read and when it comes to food we need to question the words. When food is labelled as being “low” as in salt/sugar, fat make sure you know how much it is referring to. For years Nutri-Grain was advertised as the breakfast cereal for champions – in fact it has one of the highest sugar counts of any cereal. Champions don’t tend to start the day with a sugar hit.
Check out the nutritional information. The nasty ingredients are hidden by long words and numbers. If you don’t know what it is I would suggest you apply some curiosity and find out. Yes, that takes time. Remember that the company that made the product is hoping you won’t make the time. Their interest is in selling you their product for profit. Take some time and get curious before purchasing. Make your dollar count and make sure you are purchasing a product that will maintain or improve your health.
So, what does everyone agree on? (Including me….)
⁃ We are in a food, obesity, health crisis. That is clear to everyone. We are more over weight, have more serious health issues, have more ‘food’ available than ever before and it’s making us sick.
⁃ We are what we eat. This is not a new concept as it was first written in the 1860’s.
⁃ “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates has been telling us this for a few years…. (431 BC)
⁃ Our thoughts are powerful. Negative thoughts create health issues and can cut 7 to 10 years off your life. Think healthy thoughts for a healthy body.
⁃ Sleep is the foundation for good health. Without regular, restorative sleep our bodies struggle to maintain optimal health.
⁃ The importance of gut health continues to grow. Without good gut health we have chronic inflammation. Look after your gut microbiome, the bacteria in your gut is key to good health. The root cause of many of our diseases is gut inflammation.
⁃ Our portion sizes are too big, we eat too much, too often.
⁃ Drink more water and less soft drink and sugary drinks.
⁃ Drink less alcohol. Remember before an injection the area is swabbed with alcohol to clean any bacteria…. see point above about gut health.
⁃ We need to drastically reduce the processed food we eat. The more processed it is the more it will harm your body. Everyone agrees that when you put it in your mouth it should resemble its origin. As a general tip the really processed food comes in a few layers of packaging.
⁃ If the food you are eating has a lot of numbers or long words that you can’t pronounce it is no longer food and is likely to be harmful to your health.
⁃ Eat slowly. We have become a world where it is normal to eat on the run, standing up, in front of the TV, in the car. Take time out to focus on the fuel you are putting in your body.
⁃ Eat more vegetables, that are fresh, seasonal and cooked in a way that keeps the nutrients in.
⁃ Eat whole grain products in small quantities. The low carb diet created significant nutritional change for many – mainly because our carbohydrate intake has blown out of control. Eat less processed carbs and small amounts of the good ones – rice, pasta etc. Check out the amounts of rice eaten in Asian countries and the amount of pasta the Italians eat – it’s much less than we have in Oz.
⁃ Food cannot tell time. We need to eat our main meal with time to digest it and create movement before sleeping.
⁃ We need to limit sugar – everyone agrees that sugar is not good for our bodies…. but many people are still so sugar addicted.
⁃ Eat foods that are nutrient rich. Our natural food sources are being depleted of vitamins and minerals that are incredibly important for our health and longevity.
⁃ Stop eating processed meat. It’s highly probable that it’s carcinogenic and that’s bad – carcinogenic is cancer. Stop for a moment and think about what is in that sliced chicken meat or hot dog. You know it’s not food that is going to be good for your body. Even the nutritional experts that say we should eat meat do not recommend processed meats.
⁃ Eat 3 meals a day – morning, noon and night. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals have been around for centuries. If you are eating nutrient dense and the right portion size, then 3 meals will be enough. Nourish your body regularly throughout the day.
⁃ Snacking (if you need to) is having something small to eat that is packed with nutrients and not kilojoules.
⁃ Man made fats like Trans fats are bad for us. Eat lots of other fats – nuts, seeds, avocado. Are you still eating margarine? There is not a single shred of goodness in that spread – that’s agreed upon by everyone! Good fats will fill you up with good fuel. Bad fats won’t make you feel good – usually they are the ones that have had a lot of Human Intervention (H.I.). If you find fats confusing think about its source. If you compress and squeeze vegetables will the result be vegetable oil? It will be water right and not oil?
When it comes to nutrition we are all incredibly different, with different backgrounds, opinions, habits, cultures, addictions, finances…. the list goes on. There is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition. However, there are foods and food habits that are good for our bodies and we know which ones they are. There is a LOT of agreement. If you can find your inner expert, you will come to the same above conclusions. Follow them and you will certainly be on the path to better health.