You can tell people many things, you can make suggestions, you can argue about politics, religion and different training methods but one of the hottest topics you can touch is Nutrition. Whatever you do, do not start telling people what they can and can’t eat!
Whether your philosophy revolves around avocados, bacon, clean, paleo, gluten free, vegan or keto – you are going to be in conflict with another person’s way of eating. When we started our business 4 years ago, we called the business “My Nutrition” because everyone is on a different journey, everyone has preferences on different types of food, different belief systems around food and one can always make positive changes no matter where they are on that journey. In this article, I will delve into our experience in dealing with conflicting Nutrition philosophies, our experience in dealing with professional athletes, mums, bodybuilders, health conscious vegans and everyone in between. In the coming weeks, I will provide an independent overview of different diets and eating philosophies.
Source of Information
As a scientist, one of my first responsibilities is provide unbiased interpretation of information and findings. We do not sell any products or systems to our clients and so we have built a reputation for being independent and trustworthy when it comes to our “expert opinion”. I would always say that “there is no room for opinion, the science directs my thinking toward these conclusions”. When reading articles on Nutrition, Food and products, you must ask yourself where the information is coming from and who will benefit from it. The business of Nutrition is worth billions and growing every year.
Another thing to realize is that sourcing your health information from the media is not the most reliable way of getting it as they love headlines and their interpretation of data may often be biased. This often leads to confusion as it conflicts with what your friend told you and what you read on social media and so on. Confusion lends itself very well to selling products and belief systems based on pseudo-science. Let us have a look at a few examples of this. I won’t go into specific Nutritional Belief systems yet but will provide full analysis in later articles.
Trends in Food & Nutrition
There are so many to choose from but ones that spring to mind in recent years are Himalayan pink salt and Coconut Oil. Let’s have a look at those.
Himalayan Pink Salt
It’s expensive! It is a lot more expensive than your normal salt. So, it must be rare enough then? No – it comes from The Khewra Salt Mine – the biggest and oldest salt mine in Pakistan and the second biggest in the world with reserves estimated from 82 million tons to 600 million tons! The salt gets its distinctive pink colour from the mineral present, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals. The health claims vary hugely yet there remains no credible scientific evidence that it is any better than normal salt. These trace minerals are abundant in many other food sources like nuts, seed, leafy greens and whole grains without the increasing sodium in our diet.
Oils and Fats are a very hot topic and one which I will cover in full detail very soon. Like every other oil or fat, Coconut Oil is very high in calories and low in micronutrients and should be consumed in moderation. It has been bestowed with so many health benefits by the media and now we are seeing conflicting reports emerge. Like other oils -it is not a health food. It has more saturated fat than butter and although proponents will cite that it has MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides), this constitutes less than 10% of the saturated fats in coconut oil with more than 80% coming from cholesterol raising long chain saturated fats. So, the message is clear – small amounts of refined oils.
There are so many other trends and products I could highlight here. I could pick one diet per week or one health food per week to discuss. The simple truth of Nutrition is that we need to increase consumption of the most powerful nutrient dense foods on the planet – things like leafy greens, vegetables and fruits. There just isn’t a huge amount of profit in that truth!
Healthy – Inside and Out
Our idea of “Health” originates from the Greco-Roman model of Health. This can be seen in the many statues like David with perfect physiques. The idea that because we have a toned muscular physique means that we are perfectly health is very common but not always true. We know understand the mechanism of how muscle building and fat loss and how to manipulate these things to build a powerful or toned body. We add to this our natural genetics and some people can have a great looking body without the same amount of effort as others. The can be very deceptive and misleading. A good example of this is the case of Bob Harper. Bob Harper was the host and fitness guru of Americas Biggest Loser. Although he had an amazing looking physique, he suffered a heart attack at 51 years old and it sent shivers through the industry. How could somebody who looked like him have a heart attack. Unfortunately, Bob had very poor arterial health and his arteries were blocked. He was a proponent of the popular “bullet coffee” – taking MCT’s and butter in coffee. He has since converted to vegetarianism since his heart attack.
The learning from this is that we must take great care in what we eat and how we train. Consuming energy rich, refined foods like sugar and oils must be kept to a low amount.
Take Home Messages
No products are going to fix a poor diet and magically improve 20 different areas of your health or transform your body composition in a lasting manner. Common sense and balance is the key to a healthy diet and long-term success. Here is my take home advice for people who might be confused about health messages or products;
- Question where the information is coming from and if the there is a product at the end of it
- Health comes from consistency and balanced whole foods and not singular nutrients
- A combination of training and diet over time is the best way to sculpt your body and health
- Extreme measures and ways of eating will not last and do not give lasting results
Increasing whole plant, nutrient dense foods in the fastest way to transform your health and improve your body composition when it is combined with the proper training.
I hope this provided some clarity and perspective for you. I will be looking at different eating systems and philosophies around food in later articles. If you want me to discuss different areas, please contact me directly at [email protected] and I will try to help.