Nutrition can become confusing as one day we are told to follow the USDA Food Plate (formally known as the Food Pyramid), on another we are told to eat Paleo or vegetarian, and on yet another we are told to eat everything but in moderation. So which is it?
This is the golden question! I specifically chose the field of Holistic Nutrition as I believe nutrition must be personalized as each person’s needs are different based on age, exercise levels, disease state, stress, environment, genes, health goals, and so much more. However, on the most basic level, everyone benefits the most from focusing on whole, nutrient dense, organic (where possible), and diverse foods. Too often we forget how powerful food choices are as foods can either harm or heal us physically and mentally in regards to disease progression and overall health.
While eating whole foods seems obvious, most Americans heavily rely on processed foods. These foods are commonly touted as “nutritious,” as they are made from “whole grains,” fortified, low fat, low carb, or are “kid approved.” While these foods are successfully marketed, they rob the body of nutrients at a faster rate, cause blood sugar imbalances, increase hunger, and often result in weight gain as well as a host of other negative consequences. In contrast when focusing on eating whole foods, the body knows how to incorporate and utilize nutrients optimally, will provide correct feedback as to when to stop eating, and will lead to increased vitality both physically and mentally. Ironically, when as a society we began focusing on packaged foods in order to create low fat items and, thus, seemingly healthier foods that would help us to lose weight, we began the obesity epidemic as a nation.
Commonly I hear, “I know which foods are healthy, but the packaged foods just taste so good!” Committing to changing habits and staying accountable are the most important and yet most difficult aspects as these foods are very addictive. However, cutting out processed foods and focusing on whole nutritious meals can lead you to experience numerous personal benefits not only in the long term in regards to potentially lower healthcare costs in the future as well as longevity and vitality, but in the short term can lead to increased energy, improved sleep, stable moods, weight loss, improved regularity, and a host of other rewards. In the short term it may appear more costly to purchase whole foods and many people complain about how quickly the food goes bad, but on the most basic level why would anyone want to eat something that is scientifically designed to not rot? Everything that grows should at some point decompose. While this can feel annoying when you reach in the crisper drawer and realize you forgot about the lettuce you bought last week, it is actually a good reminder that good nutritious food should and does not last forever.