by guest contributor Barb Swanson
Trying to figure out what a healthy diet consists of is hard. This article gives you a snap-shot on the Functional Nutrition viewpoint of truth vs. fiction in diets and supplements.
There are a dozen celebrities touting a dozen different “best” diets and weight loss programs. We have internet health gurus and social media influencers. Many have tens–or even hundreds–of thousands of followers. Each touts their philosophy (with matching product lines), always with claims of the best science, best ingredients, best results. Education on nutrition is equally complex! There are hundreds of studies, many of which seem to contradict the others. Finding your way to any single “truth” is nearly impossible.
False: Any diet advising you to eat mostly one or two macronutrient groups, or to completely stop eating any of them, has already missed the point of what your body needs for long-term good health.
Examples: The Keto diet, no-fat diets, high-protein diets.
Fact: We need all the forms of macronutrients–fats, proteins and carbs. Each type of food offers specific micronutrients, found mostly or even exclusively in that food group, upon which our bodies depend for good health. What matters most is that you choose healthy, whole foods instead of processed, nutrient-empty foods.
False: As long as you use the recommended multivitamin pills or drink, the diet you use will be fine.
Examples: Vitamin/mineral or vitamin/antioxidant tablets or drinks. Often, these are sold by the promoters of the diet you are doing.
Fact: It is micronutrients–elements we need in very small amounts–that determine whether the fats are good fats, if proteins are complete, and whether carbs build health or destroy health. We need approximately 50 essential micronutrients on a daily basis. No multi-vitamin or drink can begin to replace the healthy balances found in whole foods.
False: You get better health benefits using “proven” isolated nutrients.
Examples: Lab-created antioxidants like glutathione and NAD, or MCT, a type of highly-processed triglycerides.
Fact: Your body doesn’t use isolated nutrients. We use whole suites of nutrients together, each building a part of our complex cells and systems. No lab-created formula or isolated nutrient can begin to mimic the hundreds of co-factors, intrinsic factors and nutrient interactions found in whole foods. No study on a single nutrient can answer to the myriad other health interactions whole foods support.
False: Foods that have studies proving their benefits are better than other foods.
Examples: Soybeans, corn oil, milk.
Fact: It is estimated that science has only discovered and examined 5% of the total number of nutrients found in whole foods.
Indeed, the very nature of a scientific test, with built-in narrow parameters, encourages single nutrient studies. This means not that whole foods are less effective than the nutrients isolated out and studied; but rather, that scientific studies, as they are practiced today, can’t easily quantify the benefits of a whole food or whole food formula, which will contain dozens or even hundreds of nutrients, nutrient interactions and nutrient benefits.
These four facts point to one conclusion: The best way to support your entire body–cells, systems and all–is by eating the whole foods, or whole-food supplements, that are loaded with micronutrients.
It isn’t that all diets are wrong. Certainly, learning the reasons a diet is effective may teach you better diet options. It isn’t that you should never use a supplement. What is important is to understand that whole-food based supplements are going to offer dramatically more potential benefits than any lab-created or isolated nutrient. It isn’t that all studies are wrong or bad. In fact, they offer important information for us all. However, remember that any isolated nutrient benefit is likely to be only enhanced by eating the whole food that has that nutrient (such as using coconut oil instead of buying MCT), or a whole food that helps your body to create that nutrient (like glutathione and NAD).
Bottom Line: Find foods that are fresh, local & organic. Look to history for foods that have a rich history of human usage. Current scientific proof or not, foods that have been eaten for hundreds, or even thousands, of years, are the most likely to give you dietary support for good health.