This is my summary of a fantastic article I read over at Lifehacker on why we are so confused about nutrition.
- Health industry a large part of the blame. They sell us on bad ideas to sell us more bad products we don't need. Their solution will never be: buy less of our stuff.
- Corporate-influenced government writes our guidelines. Just as they have an interest in the presidential run, they have an interest in our food purchasing decisions. Money influences politics and our food guidelines fall into politics.
- Media and science communicate poorly. Scientists have a poor channel in which to reach the general public, often they have no interest in communicating with the public. The media is often ill-equipped to understand scientific studies and how they work, and run stories without understanding the complexities. Which is why they can create contradicting headlines every few hours about a study. Media is poor at science. Science is poor at media. We as consumers are also poorly educated on science issues.
- Our shopping behavior has been predictable and largely unchanged. We buy out of fear and aspirations. We buy when it confirms our biases. We want quick fixes.
- Doctors have minimal nutritional training and can fall for the same misconceptions as consumers. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, it does not mean a set amount of training. Registered dieticians often tow the established guidelines and give you more of what you already know.
What Can You Do?
According to Kamal Patel, nutrition researcher with an MPH and MBA from Johns Hopkins University, he suggested everyone take time to learn about nutrition science and empower themselves:
"It's best to learn a bit of basic nutrition science (like from a free online course or book—online courses from Udemy, Khan, MIT, etc), and then get to finding people who seem logical to discuss things with. These people can be at a local meetup, they could be a doctor or an alternative medicine practitioner or a dietician.
Do not rely on Mayo Clinic, WebMD, etc. They are very conservative and go with whatever the government says for the most part. People who like food, who like cooking in particular, often eat healthy even if they don't know everything about nutrition. This is because eating plants and animals is probably the healthiest diet, rather than eating mostly packaged foods comprised of some type of flour, some type of vegetable oil, and a long list of other ingredients."
Andy Bellatti, MS, RD. suggests you be critical, but also don't boil it down to the old adage, "everything in moderation." It oversimplifies things:
"The basic principles of healthful eating—eat a generous amount of fruits and vegetables, eat as little sugar as possible, prioritize whole foods (i.e.: avocados and chickpeas as opposed to Lucky Charms and Cheetos)—have remained unchanged for decades. The issue of moderation is problematic because it sounds good in theory, but it has been so watered down and so co-opted by the food industry that it now means nothing. The food industry loves to use "everything in moderation" to state that all their offerings—no matter how heinous—"fit in a healthy diet." Alas, a diet that includes frozen pizza, sugary cereal, soda, chips, and fast food all in "moderation" quickly becomes a diet where these foods, "in moderation," take up the most real estate.
I urge people to remain curious and open-minded, but also to remember common sense and, whenever possible, read the actual study or seek the opinion of a well-informed individual who is able to understand the studies. Sometimes, a study like "X food lowers diabetes risk by 35%" is based on a study where the servings needed to slash that risk are preposterous."
Read it in its entirety.
My name is Sam Yang. I'm a martial artist, entrepreneur, fitness nerd, information geek, and productivity nut. For more useful information, join my newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter. For more philosophical posts, check out Must Triumph