I feel like I talk about balance a lot. After all, it IS half the title of my website.
During nutritional coaching, I’ll often ask clients if they have ever tried any sort of special “diet”. Often, I hear about folks omitting entire classes of foods: “I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat fruit. I don’t eat carbs.” Why? Usually because some fad diet book or celebrity endorser did a great job of convincing normal folks to vilify certain foods.
What’s wrong with balance? The foods we eat don’t just contain one nutrient or compound. They may contain thousands. For example, many of the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are still waiting to be discovered. Do we eat meals composed solely of fat or protein or only carbs. Do you open the fridge and say “hey honey, let’s have a plate of pure lard for dinner”, or “ya know, a cup of pure granulated sugar sounds mighty fine right now!” Of course not! Our meals are most often combinations of fat, protein AND carbs.
In culinary school, one of the first lessons I learned was that “fat is flavor.” Studying nutrition, I learned that fat is not all created equal, but that doesn’t mean we should completely eliminate entire subgroups of fat, like saturated fat. In an enlightening article on fat by Dr. David Katz for the Huffington Post, he makes the point that while unsaturated fats dominate, even olive oil has some saturated fat. What about meat? While it’s often recommended to lessen our consumption of meaty products, he points out that you can’t compare a piece of freshly prepared meat/poultry to a processed meat product, like a hot dog.
Katz pretty much sums it up with the following:
“By choosing wholesome foods, you construct a wholesome diet–with a good chance of adding both years to your life and life to your years.” “Dietary fat was never all good or all bad; carbohydrate was never all good or all bad; and saturated fat is not now all good after having formerly been all bad. It depends on the specifics, which in turn depend on the foods you choose.”
Science often focuses on a single element or macronitrient, which then gets picked up by the media and public as the “hot” thing we should or shouldn’t be eating. Let’s look at the whole picture and ENJOY a balanced way of life.