Updated: Feb 17, 2020
Confused about nutrition? Welcome to 2019. There are headlines everywhere contradicting what we thought was best for us, leaving us in this frustrating and confusing headspace about what we should and shouldn't eat. It’s certainly a common feeling. I’ve been there, and I was in even deeper into the confusion when I was in school getting specific education on it. But here's the thing: I was learning about different approaches to nutrition - and that's exactly where the confusion lies. There are different ways to feed and nourish yourself, and we should work to find what's best for us as individuals.
Let me do my best to simplify.
THE SCIENCE INCLUDES WHAT WE EAT.
It is the macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates), how much we eat them, and in what proportion. Generally speaking, there should be a balance between the three, unless there are specific goals in mind. Maybe someone with a brain condition functions better on a high-fat diet or maybe someone eats a higher protein or carbohydrate diet due to their training regime. What is good for one individual, is not necessarily ideal for another.
The science also includes the micronutrients that affect our health on a cellular level. Certain vitamins and minerals are catalysts for physiological reactions, and certain amounts are needed for optimal functioning of every human body. Once again, however, depending on goals or health conditions, we may need to have a greater focus on specific micronutrients. Our physiology (the way our body systems interact with one another), is strongly affected by these critical nutrients, especially over time. While you can get away with avoiding a nutrient for a day or a week, eventually function will be limited if the nutrient is depleted.
The science can also include WHEN we eat. Based on macro and micronutrient amounts, foods breakdown at different rates and therefore affect our short-term or longer-term energy levels. Due to the lack of fibre that would slow down digestion, the sugar (glucose) in apple juice will absorb quicker in the bloodstream than a whole apple - and due to structure complexity, proteins and fats will take longer to breakdown than carbohydrates. This is why refined carbs like a donut or McDonald's aren't necessarily satiating for long. They lack fibre and quality components that would allow for a more steady release of energy.
The science can also include the chemicals and additives on and in what we consume. Food is ultimately information to our body, and what we eat, whether it's real food or packaged "food-like" products, affect certain functions and systems, especially in the long term. Artificial colours, sweeteners, additives and pesticides are unrecognized and toxic to the body, meaning your liver has extra work to do on top of an already busy job and leaving you at higher risk for many health issues.
Now for the art.
THE ART INCLUDES the HOW AND WHY WE EAT.
This is where nutrition can get tricky, because much of nutrition articles and headlines are based on the science. I'm certainly not saying they shouldn't be, BUT we should be aware of how we apply the information to our own lives.
See, here's the thing: the way we eat can affect our digestion and can therefore determine the amount of a nutrient that is available for utilization. Stressed? Eating on the go? Eating too quickly? Drinking too much water at meal-time? Think about these variables the next time you eat. Quite possibly more importantly than anything you've read so far, consider this: we are all individuals with personal requirements of macronutrients and micronutrients based on our body, activity level and goals. We also live different lifestyles than one another, have different values and different restrictions based on health conditions or preferences. On top of that, every one of us has our own relationship with food. Our mindset around nutrition alters our perception, which affects our behaviours around what we do or don't eat. All of this matters in terms of sustainability and enjoyment of what we are eating, and on an even larger scale, for how we are living. The art aspect of nutrition is about becoming the lead designer; creating our own combination of ALL of the above, finding something that works for us with our current circumstances and then putting trust in those personal decisions.
Here's to good food and a better future,
THE III TIPS
Assess your current diet: What small changes can you make to increase consumption of real food? Think fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, eggs and locally sourced animal meat if applicable
Assess your lifestyle: What can you sustain? How can you prioritize your nutrition, health and yourself a little more? Think about better planning and preparation or seeking out educational resources (oh, heyyyyyy)
Assess your mindset: How healthy is your relationship with food? Does it provide you with energy, or does it suck energy out of you just by thinking about it?