There is no delicate way to put this, so I will just say it: nutrition is overrated. Not nutrients, but nutrition; there is a difference. A nutrient is something that is essential to life, such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Nutrition, on the other hand, is a gimmick perpetuated in schools based on some sort of government testing that showed that a good portion of our country is obese. Remember the food pyramid? It is a food pie graph now, but you get my point.
(Photo from unr.edu)
Health classes from elementary school to high school stress the importance of nutrition and dietary guidance. There is even a government website designed to provide you with all of the information you need to live a healthy lifestyle, but do we really need the government to tell us what we should and should not be eating?
The answer is no. Eat whatever you want, provided that you have the mental capacity to know when too much is too much. You should not eat too much cake in the same way that you should not eat too many vegetables or drink too much water. The thing is—as the old saying goes—too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. This is not to say that consuming vegetables is wrong, because it is not. Vegetables are an amazing source of nutrients, which why vegetarianism has become so popular. The main point is that nobody should dictate what we should and should not be eating. Michael Pollan brings this up in his book “In Defense of Food,” where he navigates through supermarkets to discover what we should and should not be eating. While Pollan ultimately sides with government mandated dietary guidance, he does what we all should be doing: research.
I know what you are thinking: you do not have time for research. In actuality, you do. Researching food is much simpler than researching whatever the government says nutrition is. I will put it simply: if it is being sold at a farmers market, it is good for you. If you do not have access to a farmers market, and you are at the supermarket, there is a rule to follow. First, read the label. If you cannot pronounce or recognize one of the main ingredients, it is safe to say that it is not the best thing to be eating.
This brings us to the question of cost. Yes, processed foods are much cheaper than “organic” foods, but “organic” is another myth entirely. True organic food is the food you pull out of the ground with your bare hands; it is not the food in the “organic” section of your supermarket. Granted, the cost of a tomato at Whole Foods is much more expensive than an entire pack of tomatoes at a farmers market, but not everyone has access to farmers markets or Community Sustained Agriculture (CSAs).
I have made this case time and time again: we are the only people who have a say about what foods we put in our bodies, and I stand by that case. I will admit, however, that it is not easy. In this day and age, we are constantly under financial stress. In turn, this means that we are going to buy food that is inexpensive. I applaud community leaders who create community gardens in cities and towns. In order for us to become healthier as a nation, we need to remember that food is something to be enjoyed, not dictated to us by a pie chart.
Nutrition has made us far too cautious of the food we eat. Yes, vegetables are good for you and meat should be eaten in moderation. Still, the point is that we are now terrified of food. We are constantly worried about whether something is good or bad for us. Studies constantly tell us that something is good for us one day, bad for us the next, and good again by the end of the week. No wonder we are confused.
My advice to you is this: determine for yourself what is good for you. Be an independent thinker. Do as much research as possible. Figure out what you like to eat and what you do not like to eat, and see if there is a way to make whatever you do not like enjoyable. Essentially, eat more of what is good for you personally and less of what is not. You alone should be in charge of what you eat.
As always: buona tavola é mangiare bene!