How Do You Know You're Getting
Food is the third health essential after air and water. But how do you define
good nutrition? How can you sort through the myriad opinions that you come across daily in
women's magazines, newspaper articles and lifestyle television programs, not to mention the
ever-expanding range of nutrition books in your local bookstore?
In the 21st century, not only is choosing what to eat confusing, but there are
other factors that have a great bearing on our overall health. There's a whole range of
environmental toxins to consider, not to mention the questionable modifications made to our
foods to serve the interests of the marketplace. Then there are the problems inherent in
importing foods from countries whose standards of health, especially in the areas of
pesticides and food contaminants, are different from our own.
While it's tempting to throw up your hands and say, "I give up – I'll just eat whatever I like!",
these concerns make being informed about good nutrition more important than ever.So let's start
with the basics.
Without getting too heavily into the science of nutrition, traditional human diets include the
Good nutrition demands that we consume all of these foodstuffs every day. But, in addition,
our bodies also require the following micronutrients and liquids for healthy functioning:
Purpose: To provide the energy or fuel necessary for a variety of bodily processes. The heat or
calories released by carbohydrates is used to facilitate digestion, including fat and protein
metabolism, brain and nervous system functioning, and muscle movement.
Sources: plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains
Purpose: To provide building material for the body and thus maintain healthy tissues, bones,
nerves and internal organs. Protein is broken down into amino acids, each of which has specific
properties essential for maintaining health.
Source: Animal products including meat and dairy, seafood, eggs, plants (in smaller
Purpose: To provide concentrated energy (twice the amount of carbohydrates) and supply
essential nutrients. Fats also act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins, protect and hold in
place various organs, insulate the body and conserve body heat, prolong digestion to allow the
absorption of nutrients, and promote healthy skin and muscles.
Sources; animal fat, fish oils, vegetable oils, seed and nut oils
Purpose: To maintain the digestive tract by exercising the internal muscles so that waste
products are eliminated regularly.
Source: Carbohydrate foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains
Vitamins are organic substances that are essential in maintaining the body's health. Although
they're found in both plants and animal products, many people prefer to cover all bases by
purchasing them in supplement form from pharmacies and health food outlets.
Minerals are inorganic substances that can be most easily absorbed by the body in chelated
form. Dr Joel Wallach, author of the controversial book Dead Doctors Don't Lie, claims
our bodies need 87 minerals every day to perform all the functions necessary to maintain good
While there's no actual scientific evidence that you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day,
this seems to be the magic number agreed up on most of the nutritionists we've studied. Others
believe that you can cut down on that total by consuming more water-bearing foods such as
fruits and vegetables.
What The Experts Say…
What kinds of foods should you eat to guarantee good nutrition??
While nutritionists generally agree on the basics - carbohydrate, protein, fats and fibre - they
tend to disagree on the proportions of these foodstuffs we need to consume daily. Specific foods go
from 'good' to 'bad' and back again as the definition of good nutrition changes. Watching the
pendulum swings of expert opinion over the past several decades has made for an entertaining
sideshow. Some of the trends we've come across include:
- The High Protein Prophets:
Lelord Kordel, Gaylord Hauser and Adele Davies wrote a number of best sellers in the 1960s and
1970s advocating high protein meat-based diets that included substantial amounts of
carbohydrates. The exceptions were Robert Atkins and Herman Tarnower of Scarsdale Diet fame,
both of whom had phenomenal success with their high protein/low carbohydrate diets.
- The Vegetarians
Paul Bragg, Arnold Ehert, Paavo Airola and Bernard Jensen emphasized a semi-vegetarian diet
based on whole grains. Many writers have published best sellers on both vegetarianism and raw
- The Hi Carb Camp
The 1980s saw writers like Robert Haas promote high carbohydrate diets. The Haas diet was used
to train athletes and the phrase 'carbohydrate loading' came into usage as a result. Heavy meat
consumption fell out of favor and vegetarianism became more popular.
- Low Fat Diets
The 1980s also saw an emphasis on fat free diets, and a large number of fat free foods were
introduced into the market place. The result of these two developments – high carbohydrate and
low fat programs – was an alarming increase in the girths of many citizens in affluent
- The Low GI Gurus
The late 1990s and early 21st century saw the rise in popularity of the Glycemic Index (GI).
Robert Atkins came back into vogue, and Michel Montignac wrote a best seller called The
French Diet: Why French Women Don't Get Fat. Good nutrition swung away from vegetarianism
and back to red meat.
- Current Thinking
Over the past five years, expert opinion has rescued carbohydrates from the 'sin bin' and
encouraged the inclusion of small but regular amounts in each meal. Barry Sears' bestseller,
The Zone Diet, offers one method of doing this. And the GI offers a way to evaluate your
choices in terms of carbohydrates.
So Where Does That Leave Us With Regard To Good Nutrition?
A simple approach would be to follow the basic guidelines as set out by the USDA updated food
But in choosing which foods to eat in each category, you might also want to consider the
[click on image to see a larger one]
The proportions are roughly as follows:
Fats & Oils: 2%
Milk & Dairy: 23%
Meat & Beans: 10%
- How fresh is the food?
- Is it locally grown?
- Is it organic (pesticide free)?
- Is it overly processed (especially packaged foods)?
- Where does it rate on the Glycemic Index?
- How balanced are your meals (protein, carbs, fats and fibre in each meal)?
- Do you need supplements as well?
||Art Dragon has created the food balance wheel as a simple way of
understanding the food pyramid and other approaches to nutrition.
His book is called Balanced Eating Made Easy with the Food Balance Wheel, and
you can click on the graphic to read the reviews.
Obviously good nutrition entails more than what we can cover in a brief overview. To learn more on
the subject, visit our Good
Nutrition Resources page.
Health Essential #4: Detoxification
It's important that you consult with a qualified health professional before
embarking on any new dietary or exercise regimen.
Gathering information online is fine for research purposes, but you need a real
live professional to monitor your progress if you attempt to make drastic changes
to your lifestyle. Unless you're a health professional yourself, you aren't
equipped to objectively observe your body's responses to a new diet or exercise
program. So whatever your chosen course of action, please be sure you enlist the
support of a qualified professional.
Read our full Disclaimer here.