With the advent of social media, nutrition has become a confusing topic. There are thousands if not millions of websites, blogs, Facebook and other social platforms giving advice about what to eat and what not to eat – often without qualifications and research to support their advice. This confusion has been confounded by advertising and let’s face it the commercialisation of food by big food manufacturers.
Through all of this we have lost our basic knowledge about good food (and thus good nutrition) and our connection with food and the critical role it plays as fuel for our body to help us grow, repair, learn and be active.
I’ve borrowed the words of the World Health Organisation to provide some clarity around this question because WHO does not have a vested interest in food – natural or manufactured. WHO defines nutrition as “the intake of food considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs.” WHO goes on to say that “good nutrition – an adequate, well balanced diet combined with regular physical activity – is a cornerstone of good health and poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.”
So this is pretty simple but what is good nutrition I hear you say? This can be hard to determine because we are bombarded with so many messages through advertising, the media and now social media.
The western diet is made up of highly processed staple foods and it is these foods that are heralded as healthy and good for you. The advertising, media stories and social media messages about these foods as well as the latest super foods and fad diets make it all very confusing. The properties of these processed staples – energy density, glycaemic index, macro nutrient balance, trace nutrient density, balance of essential fatty acids, sodium and fibre content – has changed dramatically over the years, and there is growing evidence demonstrating links to the rise in our modern day diseases like obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Good nutrition – based on scientific research, the principles of nutritional medicine and good common sense – is simply about eating a balance of natural, fresh foods from each food group ( fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein from lean meats or legumes and grains, and healthy fats). The foods we choose and eat should be as close to their natural state as possible without added sugars, additives and preservatives.
It’s also about listening to our bodies and responding by matching our eating habits with our individual needs.