Do you ever feel confused about what you should be eating, or not eating to support your health? If so, you’re certainly in good company. If you pay attention to health topics in the media or look up health information on the internet to any degree, you may have noticed that there are huge numbers of claims made for this or that diet, this or that food, this or that supplement, etc. If you pay attention long enough you will even notice certain foods or vitamins and minerals falling in and out of favor. What was good for you last year is supposedly bad for you now! How do you sort it all out? What actually matters?
As naturopathic doctors, of course, we get a lot of questions about these kinds of things, so I thought I would launch our blog with a few articles on diet that will hopefully help to make sense of some of the conflicting information out there so that you can make dietary decisions that are actually appropriate for you and will have a significant impact on your health.
First, let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why there is so much conflicting information on the topic of diet and nutrition in the first place. To begin, there is an over-abundance of poor quality information from the media and on the internet about nutrition and health issues in general. The media generally spins nutritional and health related news to be sensational or controversial rather than to provide reliable and useful information. As a result it is often confusing or misleading. Secondly, while there is certainly high quality health information on the internet, there is also a lot of very poor quality as well. It can often be difficult to discern which is which.
In addition, dietary regimens that work well for some people are often promoted as being the solution for everyone. We can certainly see this currently with two strong dietary camps, one of which promotes a vegan diet (no animal foods whatsoever) and another which promotes a low carb diet (lots of animal foods). Authors in both camps claim that their diet promotes the highest level of health and resistance to disease for all people. Obviously they can’t both be right. I’ve had health conscious patients call me in great confusion and distress asking for help in sorting out these opposing views.
So how do we make sense of it all? I’ll start by dividing dietary and nutritional principles into 3 broad categories:
- Those which consistently bring health benefits for virtually all people because they address universal human biological needs.
- Those which consistently bring health benefits for some people based on a whole host of individualizing factors including biochemical individuality, genetics, current health status, age, etc.
- Those which don’t consistently bring health benefits but are promoted as if they do. These principles are often based on poor science, financial interest, or a guiding philosophy or ideology. (There’s nothing wrong with philosophy or ideology, but it has to actually work in practice to be valuable for health).
The bottom line is that where diet and nutrition are concerned there are universal needs, individual needs, and bad information. If we can separate the three out we can begin to make sense of all the diet and nutritional information out there and apply it appropriately to our own situation for the betterment of our health. I’m going to start with a series of blogs about “universal” nutritional principles, principles that everyone can start applying right now to improve their health. I will follow that with some discussion about why, when and how we need to individualize our diet beyond these universal principles to obtain optimal health. I will also try to shed light on some of the “bad health information” that we are frequently exposed to throughout the discussion.
In my next post I will begin with Universal Principle No. 1.