As a nutritionist, a big part of my job is untangling nutritional fact from fiction. I completely sympathize with people who feel overwhelmed and beat up by the black and white “eat this/don’t eat that” food rules that seem to change every day. We want so much to do the “right” thing when it comes to eating and yet what’s “right” changes at a dizzying pace. It’s discouraging, isn’t it?
Yes or No
The problem stems from our desire (and the media’s tendency) to keep things too simple. For example, we want to know if supplements are worthwhile. We read in the news results of the latest study that “prove” nutritional supplements are a waste of money. Yet we also are learning about the power of Vitamin D to help build healthy bones and protect us from cancer. So is it “yes” or “no”?
It’s just not that simple. When it comes to supplements, first we need to consider the quality. Are they synthetic or food based supplements? Are the forms of each nutrient in the supplement the most absorbable and easily utilized by the body? Are there weird fillers in the supplement that keep the body from being able to break down the supplement? We also need to consider quantity. Considering that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals is only enough to ward off disease, are you taking enough to optimize the effects of the nutrient in your body? Studies on the efficacy of supplements don’t necessarily examine these considerations.
It’s the same way with food. Whole foods are miraculous and mysterious. Yet we often ascertain the value of a food by looking through one lens (calories, for example, or alkalinity v. acidity). In doing so, we fail to ask other important questions. Is this food nutrient dense? Is it inflammatory or anti-inflammatory? What happens if I eat it multiple times a day every day of the week? Do I have trouble digesting this food (no matter how nutrient dense it is)? What effect does this food have on my blood sugar (and therefore on my moods, energy, weight, hormones…)? Is it loaded with pesticides? How does this food affect my liver? My brain?
Too much of a good thing
Another tendency is to erroneously decide that if a certain food is “good for you” then more is better. For example, I have a client whose family’s diet is gluten and dairy free. As a substitute for gluten and dairy based foods, she is using almonds as a substitute: almond milk, almond flour, almond butter, etc. She recently ran across a warning that almonds are rich in Omega 6 oils, which turn on inflammation in the body. Upon doing further research, she found more evidence to support this claim. So, does that mean that almonds are “bad”?
Again, the answer is not so simple. It’s true that nuts are rich in Omega 6 oils. Omega 6 oils are considered “essential,” meaning our bodies cannot manufacture them, so we need to take them in via foods. Omega 6 oils DO turn on inflammation, an essential mechanism for our immune system. We need our bodies to inflame when we are injured or being “invaded” by a foreign substance like a toxin, a virus or dangerous bacteria. Yet we also need inflammation to turn OFF, which is helped by a healthy dose of Omega 3 oils in our diet. It’s not the inclusion of Omega 6s in our diets that’s necessarily damaging, but the absence of Omega 3s. There’s more to the story, but my point is that we have to appreciate the complexity of our foods’ effects on our bodies. If we were to demonize almonds, we would be eliminating a food from our diets that is high in healing minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. We would be without its healthy effects on our hearts and cholesterol levels. We would also be without its balancing effects on our blood sugar.
Everything in moderation?
It’s nice to take comfort in the idea that every food is okay in moderation. In general, my advice is “balance and variety.” Yet again, even this advice comes with qualifications. We need to take into serious consideration that our food supply is really messed up and our exposure to toxins, GMOs, antibiotics and other influences overwhelms our bodies’ protective mechanisms.
Some kids might seem impervious to a diet of junk food, while other children break down when exposed to food dyes, sugar, or other additives. One person might do fine on a moderate intake of dairy, where another might find that even a little results in congestion, psoriasis or weight gain. Or, you might have been raised on toast for breakfast and pasta for dinner, yet no longer can eat wheat without gas, bloating and memory loss. You might have functioned blissfully with a glass of wine with dinner over many years, yet now find yourself with insomnia or headaches with an occasional glass.
What’s moderate for one, might be excessive for another. What used to be moderate for you might now be excessive.
Take advantage of people like me who are interested in all this stuff.
When it comes to developments in technology, I need a lot of hand holding. I’m not interested in gigabytes, routers or servers. I just want to be able to use my computer, phone, and TV. I don’t necessarily want to understand how it all it works, but I’m still reliant on the optimal functioning of these tools. I marvel that there are people who are interested and can keep up with technological advances. I need them in my life. I rely on my techie hand holders.
Likewise, you may feel barely interested in nutrition or health, yet you’re reliant on your body’s optimal functioning.
This is where I can help. Consider me a nutritional hand holder.
Upload the latest healthy version of you!
Imagine you are a computer. Your body is the hardware, which unfortunately, you can’t trade in for a newer version. Yet updating the programming (food and lifestyle practices) can make a surprising difference in the efficiency of the hardware, no matter how old. Cleansing your body is a great way to clear out the bugs and the hidden programming that are sapping your system of its optimal functioning.
Growing Health’s Revitalizing Cleanse begins on Tuesday, February 25th. Not only is it a time to clean out and heal that hard working liver of yours, but it’s a time to identify food sensitivities, and importantly, time to get an updated nutrition education. We cover a lot of ground in five weekly meetings. We’ll take a deep dive into the most relevant nutrition topics to your ongoing health. We’ll be unraveling the effects of different foods on our various health symptoms. We’ll explore some easy ways to read labels. You’ll have a guide who understands that everyone is dealing with different hardware and therefore there’s no one optimal diet. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to health or eating well. There’s complexity and nuance that we need to explore if we’re to move beyond a “good food/bad food” paradigm.
I’d like to extend an invitation to you to join me and the other participants who are already raring to go. I have only one spot available in my evening session and a few more in the day time session. As a totally fun add-on, Linda Burkard, a yoga therapist whose work fascinates me, is offering bookend cleansing yoga sessions to deepen our cleanse. Super cool. Check ’em out.
I recently created a document to help you better understand what is involved in my approach to cleansing using the power of whole foods. If you’d like to receive a free copy of “Why Cleanse?” let me know.
Please remember that if cleansing sounds like too much for you to take on at this point or you’d prefer individual attention, I will happily work with you one-on-one.
Please contact me for a free consult if you’d like to discuss how best to meet your current health needs.