Importance Of Nutrition In Life:
Staying healthy requires eating foods that give us necessary nutrients in the necessary amounts. But too many of us identify foods as one-nutrient wonders.
We see oranges and think, “Vitamin C.” We see bananas and think, “Potassium.” We see burgers and think, “Protein” or fish and think “Omega-3s.” It’s an oddly narrow view.
Oranges — and all our food choices — are more than the sum of their individual nutrient parts.
As Dr. T. Colin Campbell observes of our nutrient fixation in his book Whole, “…we’re taught that our health partially depends on getting precisely the right amount of these things into our bodies… Unfortunately, that just isn’t true.””
He goes on to detail three major misconceptions surrounding this fixation:
1. The Wisdom of Our Bodies:
“There is almost no direct relationship with the amount of nutrient consumed at a meal and… its bioavailability. If… I consume 100 milligrams of vitamin C at one meal, and 500 milligrams at a second meal, this does not mean that the second meal leads to five times as much vitamin C reaching the tissues where it works…”
“It means that we can never know exactly how much of a nutrient to ingest, because we can’t predict how much of it will be utilized.”
2. The Variability of Foods:
“The nutrient content of the foods we eat themselves varies far more than most of us realize.”
Take the antioxidant beta-carotene: “You could hold a peach in each hand, and the one in your right hand could easily contain forty times more beta-carotene than the one in your left.”
Multiple factors, including the season, soil, processing and storage methods and where each peach grew on its tree all influence its beta-carotene content.
3. The Complexity of Nutrient Interactions
Nutrients, Dr. Campbell writes, “…can modify one another’s activities.” For example:
“Calcium decreases iron bioavailability by as much as 400 percent, while carotenoids … increase iron absorption by as much as 300%.”
To add to the confusion:
“The fact that magnesium has already been shown to be an essential part of the function of more than 300 enzymes speaks volumes about the possibilities for the almost unlimited nutrient interactions.”
So is there hope for the nutrient-obsessed?
Yesterday I wrote about a podcast hosted by professional soccer player Hector Bellerin. A vegan, Hector shared a conversation with his doctor, who’d reported his blood-test results were fine, but cautioned him to lay off the Omega-3 supplements.
Hector: “Doctor, I’ve never supplemented in my life.”
Doctor: “How do you do this with a vegan diet and you don’t have any fish? I can’t believe this.”
Hector: “Doc, listen, you can be vegan and literally tick all the [nutrient] boxes.”
We’ve become so concerned about getting the right nutrients in the right amounts that we no longer regard food as simply food. Hector, however, has found a way to end the uncertainty:
Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet!
Nature has designed this diet to provide nutrient combinations that interact exactly as our bodies need.
Except in particular cases, such as having certain health issues or being B12 deficient, eating right eliminates the need to obsess over specific nutrient counts.