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“Is it OK to eat X?”
“Is Y good for me?”
“Should I cut out Z?”
These are questions I hear all the time, but you know what? This is not a mindset that I encourage.
Let’s stop thinking in terms of individual foods and macros, because we don’t eat these in isolation. We eat meals, yeah? The key thing to consider is your overall dietary pattern.
Simply put; what you eat on a regular basis is more important than what you eat on the odd occasion.
Here are some more helpful questions to ask yourself:
What am I eating most of the time?
Am I eating enough a diverse selection of foods?
Am I basing the majority of my meals around whole, plant-based foods?
Does what I eat make me feel good, and does it give me enough energy?
The nuances of nutrition
We know that processed meat can cause colon cancer,, but will one hotdog kill you? It’s pretty unlikely. If you’re eating hotdogs every day, then that’s a different matter (that may not kill you either, but you’re certainly increasing your chances).
I often talk about the benefits of including particular foods in your diet, but it’s important to remember that no single food can prevent, treat, or cure disease.
And if I’m extolling the virtues of certain foods, that doesn’t mean you should eat them and nothing else. Variety is essential.
Whatever you want to call them – junk foods, treat foods, fun foods, ultra-processed foods, nutritionally-challenged foods – they can be part of a balanced diet when eaten on occasion.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison
This is probably a poor choice of words, but the point here is that we are all unique in terms of our taste, culture, and health status.
For example – capsaicin is a compound found in chilli peppers, with a long list of health benefits. For most people, it’s healthy, but if you suffer with IBS, GERD, or have a gastric ulcer, you probably want to steer clear of eating it too often, if at all.
Equally, some people just can’t stand the physical pain that comes along with eating chillis.
So while capsaicin might be beneficial to health, there are groups of people who it isn’t good for, and regardless of what the data says, they shouldn’t include it in their diet.
But I read it online, it must be true!
Often, nutrition studies are misreported by mistake due to poor journalism, or on purpose to fit in with an agenda.
So next time you see some a headline declaring something like “Butter is Back”, don’t take it on face value. Sensation sells!
What’s the original source of information and is it trustworthy? Is this an outlier, or does it support a trend? Who was the study sponsored by? How was the study designed?
Be critical when you see nutrition claims, and dig into the detail. A sensationlist headline may have cherry-picked data from the abstract of a study, but when you look closer, this doesn’t always tell the full story.
Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat