Nutrition for the Real World

Today, the flow of information is so fast and furious, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up, but we do try. The media outlets (television, radio, Internet) all provide us with information. While we need to be careful of the source of our information, legitimate media does do a good job of providing accurate and valid information. However, I believe we need to learn how to interpret what they give us.

Every day, new information comes out about nutrition and health. Research is constantly going on at universities and institutes, and it is (mostly) valid and science based. Researchers (I used to be one) work in their labs conducting research on very specific things. It is always exciting when new information is learned and can be added to the vast volumes of current knowledge. When something new is learned, the media rightly reports on it. We read or hear headlines like “Garlic fights heart disease!”, “Oatmeal lowers cholesterol.”, and “Fish oil is good for health”.

These are all very true and very scientifically based. However, because this new information is presented as such a manner, I get concerned that the “snippets” of information like this overshadow the bigger picture. We “don’t see the forest for the trees”! Just eat a healthy diet! An overall good and balanced diet will contain everything you need to be as healthy as possible. Like a beautiful, healthy forest, it may have a few trees here and there that aren’t so healthy, but overall the forest is nice and it is what we want to see after all. In the same way, an overall beautiful and healthy diet may contain a few foods here and there (treats on special occasions) that aren’t perfect, but overall the diet is healthy…what we want.

I know of many people who are very conscientious and want very much to improve their health. I say FABULOUS! We all should be striving for this. But many people focus like a laser on these “snippets” of information and rather than simply looking at their overall diet and making sure that it is healthy and well rounded, they go out and buy nutrition supplements containing the newest thing that is going to magically make them healthier. It simply doesn’t work that way.

By doing this, focusing on the “snippets”, we make nutrition far more complicated than it needs to be. Yes, the science of nutrition as a whole is complex and ever changing because of the research being done. So I’m not suggesting it is simple in that respect. However, we can simplify it if we don’t get caught up in the “snippets”, but rather look at the big picture. Yes, listen to and be aware of the “snippets” because they contribute to our knowledge, but don’t let them complicate your nutrition.

Nutrition professionals are constantly trying to help by synthesizing all the science-based information available into usable forms, such as the new MyPlate icon (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/). While it does not give a detailed picture of all we know about nutrition, it is adequate for its purpose: an overall guide to healthy eating. By using something like MyPlate, we can look beyond the “snippets” and instead focus like a laser on simply improving our overall diet and being as healthy as possible.

So, I would urge everyone to KEEP IT SIMPLE! Don’t focus on the trees and miss the forest.

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