I came upon a video on twitter today and found it very interesting. It is a 20 minute Tedx talk that "debunked the Paleo diet myth" with a scientific approach. No matter what your thoughts are on the paleo fad, it’s worth a look if you are interested in food and food science.
My favorite tidbits from the speaker include:
- Humans have evolved to eat whole foods. A food is "not just the sum of the calories and vitamins." YES YES YES. I couldn’t agree more. Nutrition in our society is SO focused on calories, fat, carbs, protein, antioxidants WHATEVER that we fail to see the forest for a few select trees. A banana isn’t good just because it has potassium. A carrot isn’t good just for it’s vitamin A. Brown rice isn’t good just for the complex carbohydrates. Etc, etc. These foods are good for us because they are whole, natural foods that accomplish a lot more than one thing. That’s why it’s ridiculous to get on any bandwagon banning a food (or more commonly a macronutrient) because of one specific reason (think low carb, low fat diets). Focus on a wide variety of unprocessed whole foods and you will get a whole range of benefits that aren’t quantifiable.
- Our food system is full of food products that have been so reconstituted and concentrated that we are losing what we really need. This relates to the above statement. Food science tries to pick out what’s good in food and then really magnify that in the hopes that it will be good for our bodies. But in the process we come up with something that’s less like real food and more like a scientific food experiment. We are never going to find in a lab what nature provides for us in a field.
- We should focus on eating fresh, ripe, in-season produce. I understand that this is easier said than done but it’s definitely worth a try. Spend your produce allotment at local farmers markets or CSA when you can. Not only is it good for you but it also tastes so much better to eat fresh, seasonal foods. Look me in the eye and tell me a strawberry tastes as good in December as it does in July and I’ll call you a liar.
- Pretty much 100% of processed foods contain a version corn, soy or wheat (and oftentimes, all three). This is just not good. Our diet should not be reduced to a few ingredients – especially ones that are as manipulated and re-engineered as these three. Whole, unprocessed foods are key.
- There is no one correct diet – diversity is key. SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS PEOPLE. This is the truest, yet most ignored fact about food and diet. There is no one miracle diet – though billions of dollars are spent each year in the hope of attaining it. We are all so different and so bio diverse that we all need different things. If anyone ever tries to tell you that there is one right diet…turn around and walk away because they are only trying to profit off of you.
I’ve talked about this before and how I believe in biodiversity when it comes to our personal diets (diet as in what you eat, not diet as in trying to lose weight). What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Some people thrive on plant based diets and some people need more animal protein to feel good. Some people can get away with three squares and others prefer frequent mini-meals. The only way to find out what works best for you personally is to experiment until you feel your best.
Suggestions that I believe are universal:
- Eat more veggies. Especially leafy greens.
- Drink enough water – the majority of the population is chronically dehydrated. Drink water. Lots of water.
- Stay away from a diet heavy in processed foods/junk food/sugars.
- Remember, you should find something that will work as a long-term lifestyle, not something that will serve a short term purpose like fast weight loss.
There is a quote from the founder of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition that I think is spot on:
“Nutrition is a funny science. It’s the only field where people can scientifically prove opposing theories and still be right.”
Paleo. Flexitarian. Vegetarian. Vegan. Raw foodie. SAD. Whatever your diet is, take the time to make sure it’s the right fit for your body and life.