I get asked frequently why I eat the way I do – no gluten, dairy or refined sugar, as natural/close to the wholefood as possible etc. I think when it comes to determining what a good diet looks like, an appropriate question to ask is; ‘is it the same for everyone?'
I think there are more obvious things that are not so good for our health (for everyone), such as really sugar laden and extremely processed products, I don’t think there are many (if any) people arguing that easy mac is good for you. It might be a stretch to say that it’s not really food at all (as I would), but I don’t think it’s hard to argue that easy mac, along with many of the processed options consumed today, have very little nutrients coming from actual whole foods. However, I also think that when it comes to the individual there is no single right way of eating well. For example, I don’t eat dairy because I have an allergy to it, but I’m not convinced that dairy is bad for everyone, as such I wouldn’t try and convince anyone else to take dairy completely out of their diet. That said, I would recommend consuming good quality dairy products with the least amount of processing as possible, and of course the ‘everything in moderation’ principle applies.
It's important to remember that some foods may be good or bad depending on the individual and how their body works, especially when there is so much in the media telling us what to eat and what not to eat. Here is a snippet from an interview with Michael Pollan, it’s a very humbling response and reminder that we should be questioning what we read and hear.
You describe nutrition science as being, in some respects, “parking lot science.” Can you explain this?
MP: You measure what you can see, and you inevitably decide that what you can see is what matters. Cholesterol is a classic example. It’s the first factor related to heart disease that we could measure. So, the science got obsessed with cholesterol, and cholesterol became the cause of heart disease, and dietary cholesterol was what you had to eliminate. This is parking lot science. It’s based on the parable of a man who loses his key in a parking lot at night. He spends all his time looking for it under the lights even though he knows that’s not where he lost it, because that’s where he can see best.
We have a science that often proceeds that way. But then new factors emerge. Now we know about triglycerides and C-reactive protein and homocysteine, and we’re studying those as well. Scientists understand this about themselves better than the journalists who write about science do. They understand the limitations. They’ve come out and made recommendations that perhaps were less than helpful, such as get off animal fats and get onto margarine and trans fats, but on the other hand, they understand that what they’re doing is still very provisional. It’s the rest of us that have taken what are very partial, imperfect findings and tried to organize a food supply around them, such as when we took all the fat out of the foods.
I don’t want to tell anyone what not to eat, but I know what works for me, and hope that it works for others too. I find great joy in eating well, exercising and looking after my body. I think it’s hard to go back once you know how good it feels to fill your body with nutrients, which is an incentive in itself to eat well where possible. When you’re eating food from scratch, you gain a good understanding of what agrees with your body and what doesn’t. I listened to a podcast of an interview with a nutrition scientist called Tim Crowe a couple of weeks ago, he quoted Michael Pollan so he’s already a favourite of mine. He said that we are all experts (to an extent) in our own health, but that the basic principle of healthy eating can be summed up by Michael Pollan in just a few sentences; “Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much."
I highly recommend everyone listening to this podcast (link below), it is useful for anyone who puts food in their mouth. The part that resonated with me the most was the discussion on which food contained the best nutrients, to which Tim answered that it’s not about any one food, but a combination of many. He says that a good nutrition guide is colour, that different coloured foods represent different nutrients. So if you want to get the most variation of nutrients as possible, eat a diet (of wholefoods) with a wide variety of colours; greens, reds, yellows, oranges, purples – it’s actually such a beautiful way to eat too! According to Tim, if you’re eating 5 serves of vegetables a day then you’re doing better than 94% of Australians.
I’m releasing a recipe on the website this week for Zucchini fritters with a beetroot, tahini and dill dip, it’s just one example of many colourful dishes that you could try.
Can I challenge you this week to try and eat those 5 serves of vegetables every day? If you have my zucchini fritters and beetroot dip then you can add 2 veggies onto your count, in just a snack! You could even throw some more veggies into the fritter mix if you please :) (Recipe here)!
Here’s the link to the podcast, it’s less than an hour, listen to it on your way to or from work!