Nutrition – A Delicate Balancing Act

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If you have ever explored nutrition before, especially for weight loss, you will know that there is way too much information out there. I highlight this in my book Strategic Nutrition Guide as well. To make matters worse, there are tonnes of celebrity-type diets, some of which don’t even make sense, an example being Fergie drinking vinegar to lose weight.

With so much information out there, it is starting to look like perfect nutritional balance is something elusive. But in reality, it’s not that hard. I recently read some comments that experts have made regarding proper nutrition for weight loss and minimising your risk of getting cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them resonated with me when I wrote the Strategic Nutrition Guide.

Rather than get bogged down and caught up in all the hype, you should aspire to keep things simple. Most health professionals will agree with me on this one. As long as you consume a great variety of wholesome food daily, and limit how much processed food you consume, you should be in a good position. It’s as simple as that.

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Here in Australia, we have what is called “The Australian Dietary Guidelines”. Not many people know too much about it, but it is backed by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), which not many people know about either (awkward!). Anyway, the guidelines did not come out of thin air; they were based on 55,000 known studies done, according to experts.

If you live in Australia, you might have come across a ‘circular plate diagram’ which shows how much of each food you should be filling your plate with. I imagine that it’s their attempt to match the American food pyramid, although I don’t profess to know this first hand.

Anyways, the five essential food groups covered are:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Grain foods, mostly whole grain and/or high-fibre varieties
  3. Fruit
  4. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives
  5. Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans.

When you take a closer look at this list, you will notice that sugar does not seem to be present, even though carbohydrates clearly are. This is because The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently reduced sugar intake recommendation, from 10 percent of overall food intake to only five. Their rationale is that sugar adversely influences health, and contributes to many lifestyle-related diseases. Of course, we know this already, at least most of us do.

For most people, five percent of food intake would be about 25 grams. This is the equivalent amount of sugar in only one soft drink. Fortunately for us, this recommendation only applies to heavily processed sugar. This means that natural sugars from fruits, milk and yoghurt, do not count! What this also means is that if you ever have a sweet craving, you can satisfy it with a piece of fruit rather than office cake.

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Another thing that is often misrepresented is the portrayal of all dietary fat as evil. The truth is that fat is actually essential for good health, with evidence suggesting that intake of unsaturated fats can actually help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. However, the old thinking that all fat is bad is something that is difficult for us to mentally defeat, and that’s a fact.

But here comes another problem which we often overlook. Some of us, myself included, choose to cook food without oils and fat, including foods with fats that are good for us. Unfortunately that also means that some of us can resort to low-fat substitutes that are high in sugar or full of harmful chemicals that can contribute to weight gain and diseases. Personally I think the jury is still out on this one though.

Another train of thought that has been circulating amongst weight loss enthusiasts is that we should also be avoiding grain because food that contain it tend to be high in carbohydrates. Nutritionists, however, say that grains should be part of our diet because they contain not just important vitamins and minerals, but also fibre, which can help eliminate waste products, prevent bowel problems like constipation, and maybe even bowel cancer.

At the end of the day, we simply have to recognise that most of us hold a flawed view about nutrition, and that some of the things we have been told are simply not true. As scientific research progresses on, we are learning more and more new things about diets and nutrition. Despite that, some truths still remain regardless of era.

Although I don’t profess to be an expert on overall nutrition, I do know a lot about weight loss nutrition. If you don’t believe me, grab a copy of the Strategic Nutrition Guide and find out for yourself (or grab it as part of a Granite Fitness system). Rather than worry about how much of each vitamin and mineral you consume each day, I believe that if you have a variety of healthy food, you can never go wrong! It’s as simple as that.

Mark

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