Today, we continue to celebrate National Nutrition Month by digging into the confusion around nutrition and what to eat.
Nutrition science can feel like a mess. There are so many competing theories, and you can find studies that support both sides of any argument. The reasons behind the confusion are plentiful.
For one, many studies are funded by interested parties (such as the big food industry), and those conflicts of interest can influence the design of the study. Or worse, data can be manipulated to show the desired result that they want.
I came across this article on the Precision Nutrition website that gives nine reasons why nutrition science is so confusing. In addition to conflict of interest, other limitations of studying nutrition include: there are so many variables that impact health; studies are mostly observational and correlation isn't causation; and most funding goes towards disease treatment rather than preventative nutrition.
The article also points out that nutrition science is still young. We only started "studying newer problems, such as what’s healthy in a world full of tasty processed food and very little movement" in the last 20 years.
One of the most important factors is that we are all different. Also, we change over time. What might work well for one person, doesn't necessarily work for someone else. You might find that eating one way works for you at one stage in your life, but not so much in another stage.
That's why I like the simplicity of Michael Pollan's message from his book In Defense of Food: "Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants."
The below infographic from Precision Nutrition provides a great visual representation of what most health-focused diets agree on: "Emphasize whole foods; get enough quality protein; incorporate lots of vegetables; prioritize high nutrient density; eat slowly until satisfied; and minimize processed foods."
What may not be so simple is putting these into practice. Food is an emotional topic.
We often choose foods based on our social and cultural norms, out of habit, or in response to a trigger. For example, when you feel stressed, you reach for comfort food that you ate as a child.
One of the best things we can do for our health is get curious about when and how we eat. Self-awareness includes becoming aware of our patterns, exploring our cravings, and experimenting with how different foods make us feel.
Another great step is to eliminate those foods that are most often the culprits of digestive distress, and nourish the body's natural detoxification systems. Then, as you start adding foods back into your diet, notice how your body responds. Your body gives you clues as to what is right for YOU. All you need to do is listen.
It turns out, the answer to "what is the best way to eat?" is within you.
If you're ready to feel better, move better and eat better, join us for Firefly's Spring Cleaning Group. We kickoff on Sunday with an optional Personal Retreat Day.