Food habits play a key role in preventing and treating diseases, but why is it usually the last place where we look for answers?
All the noise around food and nutrition makes it much harder for everyone to make healthy choices. It seems like there’s always something new on the media showing conflicting information about food. The good news is that by learning the basics about nutrition or at least understanding the importance of a healthy diet, you'll be better equipped to judge food trends, ask the right questions, and look for answers in the right places. Ultimately, the food choices we make directly affect our health and well-being. I think it’s our responsibility to make informed decisions for our own benefit.
Why is Learning About Nutrition Important?
1. Healthy Body
Food is fuel to our bodies. The best food quality leads to optimal health, it’s that simple! Poor eating habits can trigger or worsen illnesses, while good eating habits can prevent and revert health issues.
2. Healthy Mind
A healthy and balanced diet has positive effects on your gut microbiome. Many studies show that a healthy gut is directly linked to a healthy mind. It can prevent common mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
3. Knowledge is Power
No one else has your interest at heart more than you do! Especially when it comes to your health. We seek professionals when needed, but in everyday life, we need to rely on our own knowledge, decision-making skills, and judgment.
4. Lack of Nutrition Education in Medical Training
According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, the results of a recent survey show that most medical schools in the U.S. are not providing adequate nutrition instruction. On average, students received 23.9 contact hours of nutrition instruction during medical school. Only 40 schools required the minimum 25 hours recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Doctors are essential to keeping our health in check and in my view, we can’t expect them to be experts at everything, however, there's a gap in the medical system that needs to be fixed. Nutrition is not at the front and center of preventative medicine or even prioritized during medical training when it should be! Given this, it’s our responsibility to decide when to seek nutrition professionals and when to raise concerns to our primary care physicians - It’s a 2-way relationship.
5. Nutritionists on Health Insurance
Nutritionists in the U.S. may or may not be covered by health insurance, and even if they are, services may be limited to specific conditions.
6. The Food & Beverage Industry
This may be one of the main reasons to learn about nutrition. To protect ourselves from foods that do more harm than good. There are, of course, some exceptions, but generally speaking, processed foods and drinks are not in the business of keeping a healthy community.
7. Food Trends
Similar to the point above, having a solid background about nutrition helps us evaluate information and question sources.
With or without professional advice, we need to maintain a well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. We do this by eating wholesome food, working out, and taking care of our mental health.
How Do We Learn About Nutrition?
So, where do we learn about food and how it affects our health and well-being? Here are some tips:
1. Unlearn From Untrusted Sources
Let’s start with a clean canvas. If your primary source of information is social media, chances are that the information you've been given is inaccurate. Losing weight is not as simple as calories in versus calories out, what works for one person may not work for another, carbs are not the enemy, and there are no magic teas for weight loss!
2. Learn From Trusted Sources
We tend to hold on to easily available information, usually from online sources or people we trust. Although some of it may be well-intentioned, the reality is that not all information online or floating on social media should be taken as professional advice. Instead of relying solely on online sources, I do research and get informed by reading books from experts in the field, listening to podcasts led by professionals, and using trusted online sources. Here are some of my favorites: Healthline, PubMed, NPR’s Life Kit Podcast, and Food for Thought Podcast.
3. Ask Your Doctor
If you have concerns about your diet, if you think you may have a food allergy or intolerance, if your digestive system seems off, if you have skin issues, if you have physical or mental symptoms that don’t seem to be resolved with other treatments, talk to your doctor about your diet, and more importantly, ask her/him to refer you to a registered dietician or registered nutritionist.
I know that it’s not realistic to cross-check every piece of information that comes our way, and it’s also not always easy (or fun!) to do our own research. That's why I do my best to share information that I think will be valuable to you. In the end, I believe that none of us need to be experts to understand the importance of nutrients in our body.
As much as I love creating recipes (I spend almost every weekend creating recipes!), filming recipe videos, and posting my creations on social media, the underlying reason for all of it is to show how simple and affordable it is to follow a plant-based diet. We have the power to make healthier choices and it’s only a matter of feeling inspired and motivated to do it.
I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’ve simply learned how to take responsibility for my health and that’s precisely what I wish everyone would do!
If you found this useful or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!