Nutrition is one of the most confusing and contradictory components of the Health and Wellness field. Opinions and advice regarding diets, food choices, cooking methods and supplements are overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to turn or who to listen to.
As a result, I continually witness people making rather odd choices, all in the name of “nutrition”. It’s unfortunate that food choices are consistently made based upon certain isolated components of specific food. For example, whether a product is fat-free or low-fat, sugar-free, low in calories, low in carbohydrates, low in salt, or gluten-free are some of the factors I see people solely base their decisions upon.
Another segregated way of looking at nutrition (as opposed to a holistic, whole food approach) is to choose certain foods, or components of those foods, based on one of its qualities that supposedly aids in some symptom or condition we may be experiencing. For example, selecting certain foods because they are supposed to be anti-inflammatory in nature, or help to lower cholesterol or blood pressure, or help you burn fat.
Although we certainly vary in our personal preferences of food choices, human beings share essentially the same genetic requirements for nutrition. In order to express health, we all require a variety of fresh real foods, closest to their naturally occurring state, with the fewest toxins possible.
I like to call this the “Human Being Diet”.
When we start basing our food choices on isolated ingredients and components rather than the overall nutritional value of food, we fall short of achieving health. We fail to see the forest (optimal health and function) for the trees (segregated components of the food). The obvious exception to this is avoiding a food due to a toxic ingredient. That’s an intelligent choice.
The only successful approach to making nutritional choices that will result in lifelong health and balance is to focus on creating a holistic, balanced diet. We need to look at the big picture. When we fail to do this, some of our segregated choices seem rather silly.
Some recent examples of well-intentioned, but inaccurate nutritional choices that clients have shared with me (and granted me permission to share here) are:
1. Choosing foods and beverages because they are labeled “low carb”. This is a client that has struggled with her weight for years. When grocery shopping, her number one focus is reading labels to see if a food choice is low carb or not. She admits that many products are purchased that are toxic and lacking nutritional sufficiency… but they’re low carb! Is decreasing our carbohydrate consumption inherently bad? Of course not. It’s when it’s taken out of context that it no longer supports optimal health. When the focus is on real, whole, pure foods, a natural by-product is optimal body composition. It’s a requirement for health; therefore, the body will use that food more efficiently.
2. Choosing foods because they are labeled gluten-free. Now this one is certainly more understandable, since gluten sensitivity is a serious health concern. Actually, we’re all gluten-sensitive to some degree. Again, the challenge lies in how we act upon certain information and the choices we make as a result. One particular family I work with has two children with rather serious digestive issues and gluten-sensitivities. The parents shared with me that they regularly feed the kids ‘foods’ like M&M’s, Skittles, Tootsie rolls, cheese puffs, gluten-free cakes and cupcakes complete with icing and sprinkles, as well as an entire host of toxic condiments and dips to “make them eat their healthy food”… all because it’s gluten-free.
In these first two examples, I see the common trend of people selectively reading labels, looking only for what it is they want to see. They completely fail to see the toxic load they’re consuming because of their laser beam focus. You can’t create health when you’re choosing foods for a single ingredient and inadvertently poisoning yourself in the process.
3. Choosing foods for a supposed health benefit they have. This approach is not as damaging as the two previous ones. It’s just based on an inaccurate model of nutrition. One client I work with was diagnosed with an advanced arthritic condition several months ago. He still looks at nutrition through ‘allopathic lenses’, where individual supplements and foods can be used to treat symptoms. Yes, this is safer than drugs, but not as effective as an overall Wellness approach to nutrition.
Since he has read and heard in various health reports that foods like pineapple and cherries help with inflammation, he recommends to all his friends with arthritis that they load up on these fruits! I remind him that the first focus is to eat a balanced, healthy diet – one that is pure and sufficient and has minimal toxicity and deficiency. Pervasive toxins, modern day ‘food’ made in a chemistry lab, stress, and sedentary living are far more critical when dealing with inflammation and all other pillars of chronic illness… NOT a deficiency of pineapple and cherries!
So, while it’s a good thing that more of us are actually reading labels and making attempts to choose healthier foods, unfortunately we’re basing our choices on skewed information and an inaccurate paradigm.
When we follow a simple, holistic approach to nutrition – like the “Human Being Diet” – the natural by-products are welcomed changes like optimal weight and body composition, little-to-no sensitivity to foods, and less likelihood of developing the pillars of chronic illness, like inflammation or stress hormone release.
Focus on Health first!