Discover the Excitement in Nutrition
Nutrition’s dull reputation may keep you from delving into one of the most exciting topics you could study. Part of nutrition’s mundane image likely springs from high school classes that indoctrinated you on the standard disease-causing diet while at the same time putting you to sleep.
I still remember my last high school nutrition class. The lesson plan was based on the same four “food groups” I had memorized in elementary school: meat, dairy, vegetables and fruits (combined), and grains (whole vs. refined never mentioned). The instructor was our gym teacher. I had no clue about why this diet was supposed to be good, only that it was what everyone ate. The main concern was about “getting enough protein.” Sound familiar?
From the ages of 16 through 43, I avoided the topic of nutrition whenever I could. This did not mean I regarded food as humdrum. In fact, food was one of my favorite obsessions. Not surprisingly, I was depressed, sick, and overweight. Yet through these unhappy years, the link between food and my body did not beckon as a solution in the same way that fad diets or counting calories (both unsuccessful) did. None of my numerous doctors ever suggested that eating choices could impact my health.
My indifference to nutrition morphed abruptly when my two daughters, then ages 13 and 11, announced they were vegetarian. The
idea of not consuming the supposedly essential meat “food group” was alarming. When the kids steadfastly refused to consume meat, I was off on a mission to figure out how to get them enough protein to sustain life.
The information I discovered transformed both my health and my life. Nutrition became an engrossing study. Why the change?
- I discovered virtually every popular myth about food and health was wrong. Of course, it took years to shatter these long-held beliefs. Here’s a very partial list. More of a given nutrient is not best – the optimal amount is better than too much. Humans do not need a specific, identified “source of protein.” All animal protein is recycled plant protein. Animal foods have numerous toxic effects on people and are in no way essential to health. Calcium has virtually nothing to do with how resistant bones are to breaking. Grilling is one of the least healthy cooking methods. Most nutrition studies are poorly done and the results in the popular press are misinterpreted. Government eating recommendations are written to protect powerful industries.
- The mega-business interests and inertia that keep these nutrition myths alive require an army of fact-seekers to fight them. The drama of this battle will determine the future of our collective and individual health.
- Eating right would reduce the cost of health care in the US by 70% and would keep the health care system from imploding as costs soar far above anyone’s reach.
- The most nutritious diet is the exact same eating plan that will counter climate change and save billions of animals from pain and death. Both domestic and wild animals die by the billions to feed outdated myths about a proper diet.
- So much more remains to be learned – the science of nutrition is still in its infancy. Yet we can tell from observing healthy vs. unhealthy populations which diets are best. We need a lot more research to discover exactly why. Every study can bring new surprises, so the discovery never ends. Even among researchers advocating plant-based diets, there are minor differences in emphasis that trigger vigorous debate.
- Paradoxically, while much of nutrition is still uncharted territory, good nutrition is simple and need not be at all time-consuming. Just eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. Consume generous amounts of vegetables, fruit, beans, potatoes, and whole grains. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Avoid animal and manufactured foods. Good eating need not be more complex than that. You don’t have to sit with eyes glazing over while you try to memorize which foods have vitamin A vs. vitamin E vs. iron vs. zinc.
- Excellent nutrition is the foundation of so many inspiring stories of people whose quality of life skyrocketed. A whole foods, plant-based diet allowed them to toss meds, lose weight after decades of struggling to diet, and regain better health than they had as teens. Just as important, their self-confidence and body image soared.
- My own health and weight were transformed through a whole foods, plant-based eating plan. I now enjoy perfect health at a trim weight. Depression is a distant memory. My vibrant energy is channeled at issues that mean the most to me. Unlike most people my age, I don’t take any drugs or spend time worrying about deteriorating health or risk factors. My connection to animals and nature is more intense than I would ever have imagined in meat-eating days.
- Lives changed vs. lives lost. Years of happy life no one dared to hope for. Personal transformation. What could be more dramatic or interesting? Are you inspired to learn more about nutrition so you can give your naturally perfect body exactly what it needs?
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.