Put your hands up, like this post, send me a snap chat, or even just smile if you’ve ever felt confused when it has come to nutrition?
I’m willing to bet the rights to my blog and say you all have at some point in time.
I know I have.
Should I be cutting out fat?
Should I be cutting out sugar?
What the freekeh is quinoa?
How do I cook quinoa?
Is quinoa a nut or seed?
Should I go gluten free?
Is bread really bad for me?
Are bananas fattening?
Butter or margarine?
Should I stop eating dairy?
Should I stop eating grains?
Should I just stop eating?
Nutrition confusion has developed slowly over time.
Dietitians have added to the confusion.
Scientists have added to the confusion.
Celebrity chefs have added to the confusion.
Lawyers have added to the confusion.
Magazine editors have added to the confusion.
The media has added to the confusion.
The media has exacerbated the confusion added by Dietitians and scientists and celebrity chefs and lawyers and magazine editors.
Even you have added to the confusion.
And now, in 2015, when our population is the most unhealthiest it has ever been, we have this well used recipe book of confusion.
We’re not eating bananas. We’re trying not to eat processed foods, but we’re eating protein bars at the same time. We’re cutting out sugar, and replacing it with sugar. We’re drinking kale smoothies in a hope to cure everything from bad skin to all our bad life decisions. Things have got so ridiculous, that suddenly eating vegetables isn’t enough and we need to cut the joy from our foods.
From a dietitian perspective on nutrition confusion, I would like to kindly remind you of something that we often lose sight of.
Nutrition is a science.
And just like I’m a baby in the dietetics profession and this blogging thing, nutrition science too is in its infancy.
Each day research progresses and we learn more about how food interacts with our bodies. Sometimes it’s in line with past research, maybe it’s something different. And as this body of evidence builds and strengthens, the guidelines we have created (as a guide, for the general healthy population) will evolve and change. This doesn’t mean it was wrong in the first place. It means that at that point in time, this is what research suggested. It was correct based on the data at that point in time.
It’s also important to remember that nutrition data is flawed. Try recall what you had the past 24 hours, the past three days or even over the past week. You’ll miss something, you’ll likely overestimate the foods you perceive as everyday foods and you’ll probably underestimate those sometimes foods.
Plus, we are all individuals and genetics play a huge part in our health. The way we digest, absorb & metabolise food all varies. Take a bowl of porridge for example. It’s full of fibre and low GI. Yet, it keeps some people full till lunchtime, others are looking for morning tea 30 mins post. And apples, well they make me want to eat more.
Lastly, our recommendations are a guide for the otherwise healthy population. If you have, for example, chronic kidney disease, severe malnutrition or coeliac disease, these won’t necessarily apply to you. But for those of you that may only suffer a few less brain cells on the background of partying hard during university, these are just a guide.
So taking this all into account, where does this leave us in the sugar-free, paleo, pegan, vegan, low carb high fat, high protein diet wars?
Well we know from some of the longest living and healthiest populations around the world that there is no one right to eat. And while they vary with culture and diet staples, their core foundations are the same.
Mostly plant based, minimally processed food.
Plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. They eat fish and smaller amounts of meat and dairy, and they use unsaturated oils.
They listen to their appetites, they don’t ban foods & more importantly, there is an enjoyment of food.
But in our part of the world, the reality is this.
We’ve stopped listening to our bodies and our appetites. We’re demonising food and we’re anxious about food. We’re eating certain foods because their ‘healthy’, not because we necessarily enjoy them. And really, we’re eating too much. Too much processed food. Too many of those foods off the Australia Guide to Healthy Eating plate.
It’s not just the sugar, or the saturated fat, or the gluten.
At the end of the day, while there are Dietitians, lawyers, scientists, nutritionists, celebrity chefs and magazine editors who each have their own beliefs (evidenced-based and non-evidenced-based), like the various diets of our healthy counterparts, thankfully our core message is the same.
We need to eat less processed food, and we need to eat more vegetables.
We need to focus more on eating more plants, and more real food.