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When Did People Start Eating Nutrients?

food-salad-healthy-lunch For as long as I have been a dietitian, I’ve been taught to educate on nutrition. Teach people why it’s important to get enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to maintain their health. Little did I know, I was wrong all along.  People don’t eat protein, people don’t eat vitamins; people eat food. Duh.

 

Over the last few years, my approach as a nutrition educator has taken a 180 degree shift from where I used to be. As much as I still believe it’s important to explain the ‘why’ to people, I realize that the science is not what is ultimately going to change behaviour. What is going to change behaviour is giving people the tools to do it; and when it comes to eating our number one tool is food. So, give tips on how to incorporate certain foods into our daily lives, pair different foods together for optimal absorption, or give quick and easy recipe ideas that make healthy eating convenient. Beyond that, providing tips and tricks to gain confidence in the kitchen and reinforcing that you don’t need to be a chef to cook great, nutritious meals is just as important.

Some of the most popular questions I’ve heard in my career are around what protein powder is best to include in smoothies, or what vitamin and mineral supplements someone should take. I’ve always wondered why people speak in ‘nutrients’ and why people don’t think of food first. What I dream of is someone asking me “what protein rich foods should I include in my smoothie?”. This would allow me to answer with food options that are likely more economical and include other important nutrients as well. (Note: I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for powders and supplements, as anything, there are always exceptions).

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; the power of nutrition all comes down to synergy. The way nutrients act together in a food is what makes them so powerful. As soon as we start to fragment and isolate nutrients, they don’t work the same in our body. This is why the conversation needs to come back to food. Both as nutrition professionals, and consumers, we have an opportunity to shift the way we think about food, and start talking about it as beyond nutrients.

My take away (and what I hope the take away for other educators will be) is that even though I will continue to educate on nutrients and why they are important, I will always make it my mission to bring the message back to food, so that it is practical and easily implemented by everyone.

In Good Health,

Raman

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