In this post I’ll talk about why researching nutrition is important, why we can’t believe everything we hear in the media, and tell you about a great resource to find out more about what foods we should be eating.
I recently listened to a Chris Kresser podcast where he interviewed Dr. Mark Hyman, a prominent functional medicine doctor and director of the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine (I highly recommend you listen to the podcast; it’s one of the best I’ve heard recently). Dr. Hyman’s new book, Food: What The Heck Should I Eat? is a comprehensive book which gives people the information they need, since there is so much confusing and conflicting advice out there. He talks about food as medicine and how our food systems and policies impact the environment, economy and more.
If you have any questions or if you have been confused about what foods really are good and which ones aren’t (hint: he talks about why you shouldn’t eat oatmeal for breakfast), this is the book for you.
After listening to this podcast it really got me thinking about where people get their information when it comes to nutrition. And I realized that the majority of people most likely get their information from the media and the food pyramid.
Let me give you an example.
Last year, the American Heart Association came out and said coconut oil is bad for you because it contains saturated fat, and saturated fat is bad so don’t eat coconut oil. There wasn’t even a study conducted to show that coconut oil is bad. There’s actually not a single study out there that shows coconut oil is bad.
After this came out, my mom and dad, who get most of their nutrition information from the media, called and said, “See, coconut oil is bad for you.” I assume this how the majority of people behave, then they cut that food out and don’t think to do more research.
You see here’s the real truth behind coconut oil: Yes it has saturated fat, which may in fact raise your LDL cholesterol overall, but the small dense LDL particles (which are bad) are decreased, and the large puffy LDL particles (what you want your LDL cholesterol particles to look like) are increased. Particle size is important, because research shows that small dense LDL cholesterol is inflammatory and toxic to blood vessels, and the large and fluffy type of LDL may be protective. (source) What the American Heart Association failed to share is that coconut oil also raises your good HDL cholesterol.
Why researching nutrition is important
There are so many factors that go into nutrition, and most studies are so completely skewed that people who don’t look into it more may not be fully informed. A large percentage of studies conducted are funded by a group or business that has a specific interest in what the study results will show. And 90% of those studies favor the study funder. Did you know that 40% of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics funding comes from junk food industry companies? Also, a lot of data that comes out only gives a partial story. For example, there have been multiple studies conducted over the years about high fat diets. And a lot of what is concluded is that fat is bad. What they don’t tell you is that a majority of the people in the study who ate a high fat diet also ate a diet high in refined sugar, which will completely skew the results.
Here’s what I think about nutritional research: people would rather follow a prescription than do research. Research takes time and work and in general people are lazy (not everyone, I’m just making a generalization). I hear people all the time say, “I really need to look into that,” then they never do. We also trust that the government wouldn’t lie to us about food, which I think is hysterical. They lie to us about everything else, why the hell should we believe they are telling the truth when it comes to food? Look at our country’s obesity epidemic. According to the CDC earlier this year, over 1/3 of American adults are obese. (source) 1/3 you guys! That’s insanity! And public schools are still required to follow and teach the food pyramid guidelines, which I hope we can all agree are completely backwards!
Obviously I’m very passionate about nutritional research. My opinion is if more people did research on food we wouldn’t be in such a disease state in America. Nutrition is medicine. No it can’t solve every issue, but it can resolve a huge percentage of chronic illness people experience. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one chronic illness. Know that there are people who have resolved their chronic illness with food! Everything from diabetes to arthritis, to IBS. But we, as a population, continue to shove our faces full of processed boxed foods, because we don’t know any better and we would rather play ignorant, and wonder why we have all these issues. Then we try to fix it with drugs and wonder why we never truly heal. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s reality.
So I want to make a call for everyone who is reading this: Start researching! Not all nutritional eating plans work for everyone. I will tell you to start with vegetables, protein, healthy fats (like avocado), and some fruit and if you can do that you’re off to a good start. But do your research and find what works for you! I promise there is happiness in healthy food, and once you find what works for you, you will be amazed at how well you feel!