Whole Foods: The basis for evaluating your diet Part 1
Everyday in practice I talk with people about food. There’s a lot of confusion around what is good for us and what isn’t. We see messages that low fat eating is the way to go because cholesterol will cause heart attacks. Other messages tell us to avoid carbohydrates and eat a high protein diet. Sometimes people will say, I didn’t think nuts, seeds, or avocado were good for me because they are high in fat and I want to loose weight. People often unquestioningly think all diary is good for them when in fact many people feel better on a lower dairy or dairy free diet. Probably one of the most confusing concepts for people is that eating a low fat diet doesn’t mean you will loose weight because often it’s the sugar and starch content in people’s diets that are making them gain weight.
To increase the difficulty of deciphering all this food/diet/weight management information is that we are mostly uneducated in nutrition, or at least under-educated; hopefully that’s changing. With people not having the basic knowledge and skills to evaluate for themselves all this info on food people can be swayed by the latest Facebook post on diets making it difficult to forge a healing and nourishing relationship with food. Treating the individual as a unique person in need of specific treatments is a foundational concept in Naturopathic Medicine and is another complicating factor in deciding what constitutes a healthy diet in each person. In this respect resources like the Canada Food Guide, while great and full of healthy foods, can still be too general for peoples individual needs.
I try and start education around food and nutrition with the concept of whole foods. Whole Foods are foods in their most natural form-which means the food you are preparing is as close to how it exists when it’s growing in nature. Whole foods do not contain additives, preservatives, or any artificial substance. Vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs and spices are some examples. The idea is that we prepare meals each day with whole food and avoid pre-made foods and highly refined foods like white flour and refined sugars for example. Starting to think in this manner is a key starting point for a healthy relationship with food and to increasing the nutritional content of your daily meals. What is nutrition anyway?
Human Nutrition is the study of how food and its components maintain Life and health in people. It is derived from the word to nourish which means to foster, bring up, nurture. Nutrition in our modern world has come to refer to the scientific side of food. This is why we have seen the rise of ‘Natural or Holistic’ Nutrition schools reflecting the complexities of how food nourishes us. Natural and Holistic concepts of how we are nourished from food provides a framework to understand how damaged soil, the use of pesticide/herbicides and the manner in which we eat affects our overall health. Health and Nutrition is much more than calories in and calories out and these holistic concepts along with the science side of things (which we’ll look at next time) are also foundational to evaluating the quality of your diet.