In an ever more confusing discussion around nutrition and health, the elephant in the room is that we just don’t have a simple manual that tells us the rules when it comes to food.
We’ve lost touch with the foundations and so try and cling to the latest food firework or nutritional nugget to give us guidance. As a result, we are left with the unsatisfying feeling of, ‘What can we eat for Pete’s sake?’
One minute, butter is the devil. The next minute, fat is BACK.
Often, the latest nutritional trendsetter is massively over fussy and faddy (in my humble option) tunnel visioned and only serving one particular system, such as being vegan, paleo, keto). This leaves us feeling that we are some how personally failing or that we might be on the wrong boat.
Not to mention that these trends are often super unrealistic. How we are actually going to achieve making fermented raw goat’s nugget Argon oil dairy free ‘cheese’, or some such pot of nutritional gold under the rainbow. Even if it helps, it is unsustainable without changing the structure of how we live and work.
Dare we ask, could it be simpler than this?
A bit of science
There’s a bit of fundamental biochemistry that applies to most people, whatever your tribe. How we control insulin is one – useful to know, easy to do.
Our body allows for about a teaspoon of glucose to circulate in our system at any given time. Glucose is vital because it is the fuel we require to power our bodies. Insulin is the hormone that regulates our blood sugars. It lowers blood sugars by opening our cells, like a key in a lock, to allow glucose in. The cells then use the glucose to produce energy.
But insulin is also a fat storage hormone. When blood sugar is too low, we rely on stored glucose (glycogen) found in the liver and muscles, which help balance this very delicate equation. The big issue with our modern diet is that we are either eating the whole day, and so triggering insulin the whole day, or we are eating lots of white, fluffy carbohydrates and sugar.
Our bodies are designed to collect food in time of plenty for the time of famine. But in our modern age, the lean time never comes – it’s party time, all the time.
Simply put, sweet, fluffy and white foods tend to raise and drop your blood sugar. We should be aiming for food that balances the blood sugar – real food, but specifically thick fibrous protein and fat, or dense or chewy food. When you are chewing, the sugar that is released into the blood is done slowly.
Go for food that might still have a skin and hasn’t had its nutritional soul stripped out. Also make sure you have protein at every meal. You don’t need vast amounts, like a huge steak: nuts are protein, for example, so a small handful of nuts will help balance blood sugar.
To make good choices around food and nutrition, you need to know the structure and strategy that guide those choices and then eat real food. There are many different diets you could follow, but what unites the ones that deliver good health and longevity is the notion of real food from basic, fresh ingredients.
Top tip – nutrition is a four letter word – TIME. Prioritise food more and something else less, but only if you want to have kick-ass energy to do something in your evening rather than watching the telly.
Don’t over concentrate on what the food will give you, for example which food is high in what individual nutrient (or we would just eat oysters to get more zinc – yuck). Concentrate rather on cooking real fresh food, preferably bought from real people (like your local butcher and grocer – if you still have one).
What’s more, by prioritising eating together around the dinner table you will end up engaging more with your family, not just your food.
About the author
Kate Cook is a nutritionist, international speaker and food and community activist. She is also the author of Positive Nutrition, a new book in the Positive Wellbeing series.
To hear more from Kate, listen to her podcast with LID Radio’s host, Miro Illiev.