The Fallacies of Nutritionism
and Food Nutrition Facts
Nutritionism is a fairly new term to describe a fairly new practice happening in science and health around the ever changing food nutrition facts.
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When food began to become a commodity, food nutrition scientists began to attempt to understand and isolate the nutrients in food that our bodies needed. But science, being a practice and a method of continually discovering, has shown us time and time again that when we try to pick apart something in order to understand it we miss the benefits of the integral whole.
What the heck does that mean? It means that we've begun to look for nutrients, things we can now create as a commodity in a lab, instead of nourishment of whole foods.
The term was first coined by Georgy Scrinis, but made popular by the author Michael Pollan. It says that it's the nutrients, not the food, that is healthy. And while food nutrition facts obviously show that nutrients are an important part of healthy food, it's still only a part.
Think about it: We used to think that atoms were as small of particles as there were. Until we found sub-atomic particles. Thinking the vitamin C in an orange is the most important part of the orange, or even the only important part, and creating vitamin C tablets to take instead commits the same error science has been known to comit over and over - assuming we know it all.
The big problem is that science keeps changing it's mind on food nutrition facts and what nutrients are good for what and what parts of certain foods are bad. So we end up with all kinds of cracy diet fads and trends that just work to confuse us further. Nutritionism has had us falling in and out of love with all kinds of foods, from eggs (is it the whites or the yolks that are best for us now?), to butter (because processed trans fat margarine was better), to steamed veggies or raw, high fat, low fat and no-fat diets.
The truth is that animals and humans evolved to eat food, not nutrients.
Try giving anyone a diet of only supplements and see how healthy they feel after a food weeks. It just doesn't work that way. We need food, not particles of food, to truly sustain our health.
A few fantastic quotes pointed out by my favorite nutrition e-course:
"No idea could be more sympathetic to manufacturers of processed foods, which surely explains why they have been so happy to jump on the nutritionism bandwagon. Indeed, nutritionism supplies the ultimate justification for processing food by implying that with a judicious application of food science, fake foods can be made even more nutritious than the real thing."
And as Nina Planck pointed out about food nutrition facts:
"Nutritionism has been good for the food companies and supplement sellers ready to profit from government- approved health claims. Orange juice with added calcium and chocolate with added probiotics would not exist if not for the nearly universal acceptance of nutritionism. But it has not been noticeably good for our health..."
Yes, lots of people benefit from an increase of "nutritionism". Except us.
If we're really interested in food nutrition facts, feeling healthy and living well, we get to turn our attention toward the whole foods our bodies are meant to eat according to Nature, instead of the nutrients we're told we need according to science.
Does This Mean You're Anti-Supplement?
Actually, no. I'm a huge proponent of supplements, especailly s we live in a toxic soup and it's really hard to get enough of what our body's need without eating nonstop. Our soil health and our food options have diminished a lot. So yes, I'm all for supplements, IF they meet a couple criteria:
- They are 100% whole-foods based.
- They are used to supplement a healthy diet.
If you're taking a synthetic supplement and still eating like crap, you're basically paying for really expensive urine. Do your homework and skip the crappy "once a day" versions.