Cycling & Health – Maximum Nutrition and Nourishment“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
(Pollan, Michael. Food Rules An eaters manual (Penguin Books, 2009)
Food is to be enjoyed as well as provide nourishment and health to our body. In order to provide maximum nutrition and nourishment for our bodies we need to become more educated consumers, understanding what we are eating and what is in the food we eat.
Our supermarkets stock over 30,000 items of ‘food’ and ‘drink’ with approximately 1,800 types of snack foods. Food by definition is ‘any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals’. The ‘food’ located in middle aisles of most supermarkets would struggle to uphold to this definition of food – welcome to the western diet!
The western diet is unique to say the least, it typically encompasses:
• High intakes of red meat
• Refined sugar products (foods and drinks)
• High-fat foods
• Refined grains
• Processed meat
• Foods containing numerous additives
• Foods low in nutritional value
• Numerous ‘fad diets’
Humans seem to be able to adapt to many different diets – EXCEPT the WESTERN DIET! Western diet = western diseases including:
• Coronary heart disease,
• Type 2 diabetes,
• Epithelial cell cancers
• Autoimmune disease,
Interesting to note that the above diseases are rare or virtually absent in hunter–gatherers and other non-westernized populations.
Processing food is the transformation of raw ingredients into food, or food into other forms with the aim of producing long shelf life and marketable food products. Processing food has been around for centuries but the extent and the level of processing in today’s foods makes you question if what we are consuming is health giving or a health hazard.
When choosing food it is wise to know the extent of processing.
• Has the food been: heated, cooked, reduced, pulverized, smoked, tenderised, cured, spray dried, freeze dried, irradiated, dipped in or sprayed with chemicals, physically or chemically transformed , or genetically modified?
• Does the food have any added: soy fillers, colors, flavours, binders, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents, conditioners, preservatives, texture enhancing agents, or other additives?
If yes, then the food is not in its natural raw state and therefore questionable in health and nutrients.
A guide to the level of processing in food
Source: Trenton Smith et al
Your aim is to consume mostly from the barely processed list, occasionally consuming from the partially processed and rarely if at all from the highly processed list.
Some keys to improving your diet and in turn, your health
1. Keep it simple!
2. Become aware – start to educate yourself and ask questions
3. Introduce or increase wholefoods in your diet
4. Avoid processed and refined foods
5. Avoid sugary and highly caffeinated drinks
6. Learn to cook – then you know what’s in your meal
7. Have a healthy relationship with food – don’t diet!
Becoming an educated eater allows you to become a more educated consumer enabling you to make wiser choices when purchasing your food.