It’s fair to say the amount of nutrition advice available to us today is absolutely insane and it’s understandable that many of us – myself included – find it difficult to know whether you are eating the right foods for your body. I think it’s a given that we all know processed food has to go, but even for those of us who have already made the swap to a wholefood based diet – one minute a study has been published stating a particular food will reduce your risk of A, B, C, (which is good right?) but it’s only hours before someone else influential in the nutrition field finds a reason to suggest that actually it causes X, Y, Z (so now it’s not so good right?). Let’s take just a little peak into what I’m talking about here: *note the following health claims are just examples of some information that is out there and is not by any means supported by scientific research in this instance.
Red meat: It gives us protein, B vitamins, zinc and iron. But hang on, it also increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes too.
Seafood: Yes, give us those omega-3 fatty acids we so badly need – oh but be careful of mercury levels which can be toxic to the nervous system and also of farmed fish which can be fed antibiotics.
Dairy: Ticks many boxes – calcium, healthy fat, protein, cultures….but don’t go too crazy because some say it also causes inflammation and has been associated with auto-immune diseases. Not to mention it can contain anti-biotics and medication that the cows have been fed if not organic.
Chicken/poultry/ Eggs: I’m sure many of you would be thinking ‘can you get much healthier than boiled eggs and steamed chicken?’ But apparently chicken contains one of the highest levels of carcinogenics and the yolk of an egg is a concentrated form of saturated fat and cholesterol. Some believe there is not as strong as an association between saturated fat and cholesterol and cardiovascular disease as once thought – but how can we be sure when a lot of the studies proving this were funded by large companies in the dairy and beef industries (whose products contain saturated fat and cholesterol)?
Carbohydrates: perfect for the energy our body needs and not to mention the importance of fibre…but apparently they also cause gut issues, weight gain and blood sugar problems.
Legumes: A plant based source of fibre and protein, must be fantastic for you right? But remember our ancestors in the paleothic times? Well they never ate them so our digestive systems must not be designed to process legumes causing more gut issues and digestive problems.
Fruits: Super high in many important vitamins and minerals but don’t go overboard because they are also high in sugar and sugar may just be the reason for many of the health related diseases taking over the world.
Nuts and seeds: A good source of healthy fats, protein and micronutrients – but they are laden with calories and too many calories causes weight gain doesn’t it?
So it is no wonder people are confused!! Even as a qualified practitioner it can be difficult to navigate your way around all of the research available, the false marketing, the un-qualified influencers and your own experience with clients and yourself.
Making matters worse is that even when a study does find some fantastic results, it’s likely to be funded by a large company that will profit from those findings. Similarly, those large companies are funding our governing nutrition bodies which leaves them with their hands tied behind their backs if any research is found that will negatively affect that company – regardless if it will positively affect our health!!
Furthermore the Australian Dietary Guidelines may have been updated recently but it took 12 years for this to happen proving that even if there is a breakthrough in research, it can take years for more supporting research to be published and then to translate into adjustments to the dietary guidelines.
So what is the answer?
Well I can say that there is one aspect of our diets that no matter how much research is done – always proves to have extremely beneficial effects on our health and there wouldn’t be a single qualified person in the nutrition field that would disagree – vegetables! Now of course people will warn you that non-organic vegetables grown in mineral depleted soil that travelled thousands of miles to get to your plate is ANOTHER thing you should be worried about. So let’s be honest- yes, the best way to get your vegetables is organically home-grown in mineral rich soil, or if not, then from a locally grown organic farm or grocery store. But even at the least, just your average vegetables from your big chain supermarket (ideally Australian grown and washed well) are one of the only foods that isn’t surrounded by controversy when it comes to the positive effects on our health.
So my suggestion for how to apply this information to your own diet is by ensuring majority of what you are eating is vegetables. The other stuff – the red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, dairy, carbohydrates, legumes, nuts and seeds should be considered like condiments at your meals. Whether you choose to include all or none of those condiments should be an individual decision based on your food ethics and how your body functions with or without them. Not only is this a safe way to approach a balanced diet but you will also save money this way as vegetables are by far the cheapest food source available – especially if you grow your own!
If you want help trying to create meals or a meal plan that involves mainly vegetables and you want it to actually taste good – then hit me up for a consultation or join one of my programs (my 12 Day cleanse is currently running and my next 21 Day Detox starts on October 16th).
NOTE* One thing I highly recommend avoiding or keeping to extremely minimal amounts in your diet is processed meats (ham, salami, sausages, hot dogs) which The World Health Organization has classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer) which means that there’s strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer.
Article by Steph Wearne
Steph Wearne is a Registered Nutritionist and holistic foodie whose recipes are a revelation for anyone wanting to feed their body good food whilst keeping it easy and seriously delicious! She owns a training and nutrition studio in Melbourne, has a blog full of amazing recipes, creates menus for popular cafes, and has developed life-changing programs and recipe collections to bring balance and happiness back to our food and bodies. She also loves to downward dog, dance to 90’s music, and eat chocolate in her spare time…dark and homemade of course!