I treasure my friends who are doctors, nutritionists, food scientists and anyone else with letters after their name, but they’re at a serious disadvantage. Some of them have too much knowledge and it’s blinding. Consequently, they are stuck in the “Age of Nutritionism.”
Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food gives us the tenets of the Age of Nutritionism:
- Focus on nutrients instead of food. (People now eat “protein” instead of “mea.t”)
- The need for nutritionists and food scientists to tell us what to eat. (They can “see” the nutrients under a powerful microscope, so we must trust what they say.)
- Continual battle of one nutrient over another. (Protein vs. Carbs; Omega-3 vs. Omega-6; the battle changes every few years.)
- Focus primarily on eating for nutritive value. (But the major reasons why people eat are culture, family values, food addictions, etc.)
When I understood those tenets, it became clear to me why we have so many health issues in this country. For example, I’ve been admonishing my client, Audrey, to give up dairy products for weight loss and other health reasons. She did so and had great results. Audrey then relayed my sentiments to her mom, who has a doctorate in nutrition but had never considered giving up dairy.
She teaches at the collegiate level, so she certainly has tons of powerful information in her head. However, she suffers from a lung ailment. It causes mucous buildup, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Audrey’s mom is 63 years old and has been suffering for decades. She always felt that dairy was safe; and of course, it has plenty of protein.
After mom defied her love affair with milk and cheese for only four days, her lung condition miraculously disappeared. She started breathing free and easy and didn’t feel as sluggish. With all of the knowledge she has and the pain she has suffered, why didn’t she see what was so clear? Of course, it doesn’t help that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lead national sponsor is the National Dairy Council.
The problem is our society does not understand that nature is wiser than man. The Age of Nutritionism has misled us. We’re so comfortable in it that we seek esoteric and scientific answers to our medical woes, while pushing nature aside.
Consequently, supplements and drugs have become our first line of defense against disease. Until scientists can rip an apple apart and put it back together, we must embrace what millions of years has provided for us in the form of fruits and vegetables.
More than 35 percent of U.S. adults are suffering from metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes), which is mostly due to what we eat. It’s costing us a fortune in health care. And unfortunately, the numbers are higher in the African-American community.
It’s time to focus on the “whole foods” that provide the best results, not the nutrients that we cannot see. By the way, all of those whole foods are in the first aisle of the grocery store.
(Kirk Charles is a personal trainer. For information, click here).