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What’s in a Nutrient?

It's ok to indulge but when? And how often?

The globalization of trade sparked a new food environment worldwide.  Food environments traditionally based on locally procured items have expanded to offer a wide array of options from every corner of the earth.  Whereas girth was once considered a sign of wealth, it may now be a risk to one’s health.  But amidst all of these delectable options, do you always need to choose the healthy item? 

Obviously, eating is necessary to sustain life – we have to eat in order to get energy, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients that enable our cells to function normally.  But there’s more to it than that. There are many reasons to eat healthy, but the biggest and most obvious is that you’ll feel better. You’ll feel happier, more energetic, and more able to focus your attention. 

Eating healthy has value in and of itself and as a means to an end.  Great, you’re convinced. Now, how do you do it?  Here are, in my opinion, the top 5 principles to guide your food choices:

  1. Eat a variety of nutrient rich foods (aka get your fiber and vitamins).  We were all taught the 5 food groups (fruits, vegetables, dairy, proteins, grains) so you probably have a basic understanding of your needs.  Have a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, eat lean proteins, choose low fat dairy, and select whole grains.  There is no single food that is nutritionally leaps and bounds above its counterparts.
  2. Eat as ‘close to the earth’ as possible (aka reduce processing).  When a new ‘magic’ extract from the pituitary gland of jumbo shrimp hits the market this fall, don’t jump on it.  You don’t need it.  Eating is much more intuitive than laboratory synthesized (or even than highly processed) foodstuff.  Foods with less processing, grown organically, or raised naturally are generally good selections.
  3. Eat moderate portions (aka don’t overeat).  You can indulge in any of the highly refined treats that you want, but, they should be treats – consumed occasionally in small portions.  We’re all allowed a certain number of discretionary calories – calories needed to maintain our weight but that don’t have to be healthy if the other foods we’re eating are nutrient rich.
  4. Maintain balance (aka be aware of what you eat).  Every food, every meal, and every day doesn’t have to be a succession of “perfect” foods.  Instead, balance your choices.  If you didn’t eat any green vegetables today, have some tomorrow and don’t worry about it.
  5. Enjoy your food (aka derive pleasure from eating)! People who savor their food and don’t rush though meals tend to be more satisfied.  It takes 20 minutes for your brain to sense that your stomach is at a comfortable fullness, so slow down when you eat, have lots of water and enjoy it.  Learn to love the food you eat and eat the foods you love. 

Oh, and for the record, shrimp don’t have pituitary glands – don’t buy into the marketing schemes!  You’re smarter than that and a more sensible eater.

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