What I’ve Learned in My Studies: A Holistic Nutrition Point of View
In this day and age, we are presenting with a ton of conflicting evidence regarding what types of & how much food to consume. Having first hand access to this information in my holistic nutrition studies, you can imagine how confused I was when it came to which diet I should follow and apply to my life, especially that there are studies and testimonials supporting most of these diverse eating habits/plans.
For example, there have been an abundance of widely different diets introduced with a number of enthusiastic followers (including professional athletes) that claim it is the ultimate answer to achieving overall health. Yet some of them are completely opposite in what they recommend. For example: Paleo (high protein) vs. Keto (high fat) vs. Vegetarian/Vegan (high carb).
How Do We Know Which is the “Right” One?
In my opinion, there is no “standard” dietary equation or “one size fits all” solution for everyone, and that’s ok!
We are all so incredibly different and unique in terms of physical appearance, cognitive function, emotional processes and personality (basically, how we look, think, act and feel). So why would we expect to all have the exact same needs in terms of what type of diet works best for us to fuel such a wide range of individual characteristics?
A Few Key Things to Remember:
- We All Operate Best On Certain Types of Fuel- We are all different and therefore all thrive off of different ratios and ingredients. While I am not an advocate for cutting out an entire food group (unless allergenic), I do believe that we each operate more efficiently on higher amounts of certain nutrients, be it protein, fats or carbohydrates (note: we do need all three to function!). Optimal timing and combination of meals may also differ based on our lifestyles and goals (ex: enhanced digestion, blood sugar balance, etc.).
- We are Forever Changing - It should be noted that just like the transition of the seasons, we go through phases. No way of eating is permanently set in stone and some diet styles may only be used short term/temporarily for specific purposes or life stages. We must consistently re-evaluate and adjust our eating patterns accordingly.
- We are Extremely Adaptable - Our bodies are incredibly intelligent, adaptive and will change depending on our internal and external environment.
- There ARE Universal “No-No’s” – There is no wrong “diet”, but there are wrong ingredients. It can be certain that no matter what types of food we thrive best on, none of us were naturally made to process unfamiliar chemicals, hormones and antibiotics as well as refined, allergenic, irradiated, pasteurized, processed and artificial ingredients. These are foreign, altered, deficient and fragmented pieces versions of whole foods that the body has trouble digesting, absorbing and eliminating.
- Emphasize Quality Above All Else –What is truly important is that you choose the highest quality ingredients! No matter what type of dietary ratios you follow, it is always key to choose the best versions of those foods. This means whole, raw, nutrient-dense foods that include healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Also, selecting fresh, organic, fair trade, sustainable, grass-fed, free-run and local ingredients is an important consideration.
- Apply The Principles of Health – Instead of focusing on rigid numbers and daily targets we should simply try to apply the principles of health to our personal lives to help us make it a permanent lifestyle and rely on natural hunger cues. These include balance, moderation, adequacy, enjoyment, consistency, variety, simplicity, etc.
Figuring Out What Works Best For You - Body Awareness Is Key!
Nobody knows what your body wants more than itself, so listen to it! Begin by being more mindful of how you feel before, during and after meals. Keeping a food journal may be beneficial to track patterns if you don’t recall things easily.
There are certain questions to ask yourself to determine which foods/eating style work best for you. These include:
- Do you feel satisfied after eating and for how long?
- Do you have unhealthy cravings?
- Do you feel gassy/bloated?
- Are you having regular bowel movements?
- Do you feel lethargic or energetic?
- Do you have brain fog or a clear head?
- How is your mood?
- Are you experiencing any external reactions (rash, redness, and swelling)?
- Are you having trouble losing/maintaining weight?
- Are you struggling with a health condition? Do certain foods aggravate/worsen it?
Pay attention to how your body reacts to certain foods and use trial and error to decipher what triggers the positive and negative outcomes. When we have given the body what it desires to rebuild itself and function properly, we can trust that it will reward us.
Studying in the field of holistic nutrition is highly rewarding as it allows one to look at each person’s unique biochemistry, history and lifestyle in deciding which diet works best for them. Essentially, wholesome, clean foods are the key to success but the amounts, types and ways we choose to eat these will vary based on individual factors, goals and preferences. In my personal opinion, what really matters is that the shift towards optimal health becomes a lifestyle and that we are giving the body enough of what it needs to thrive!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.