The Key Principles of Nutrition

The Key Principles of Nutrition

A lot of people think that eating a healthful
diet requires a lot of time and it also tends to be quite expensive, so that they give up
before they even try, worried at the idea of regular trips to the farmer’s market
to select fresh organic, local and seasonal food only, and then spending long hours in
the kitchen to prepare everything from scratch and then clean up, while skipping any processed
food. Let me reassure you. Designing a balanced
healthful diet is much easier than that and does not require you to become an elitist
foodie. We all live busy lives, have limited time
to spend in the kitchen, need to eat meals at work, to sometimes rely on convenience
food, the Chinese restaurant down the street, or the indian take out. That’s perfectly
OK. Nobody is asking you to grow your own organic
zucchini or to soak dry beans overnight or to never again set foot into a fast food restaurant
chain. It is not necessary to change all of our eating
habits from one day to the other. Maybe our diet will not be perfect at once, but we have
to start somewhere. We may want to start by introducing a couple of little changes, and
that already will be a significant improvement. Doing something, is better than doing nothing. I’m also here to tell you that eating a
healthful diet does not imply any deprivation. We all agree that eating must be first of
all a pleasure, not a punishment. It cannot be a source of distress or require exaggerated
sacrifice. Imagine how frustrating it would be to balance risks and benefits before each
and every bite. There are many good principles in nutrition, but there are many popular diet
books and gurus that take some of these principles isolated from the rest, and carry them to
an extreme, proposing dietary patterns that will make miserable the lives of those who
follow them, and those who don’t will be left feeling guilty that they aren’t doing
enough. Luckily, we can eat a healthful diet without
making our lives miserable, without enduring tremendous deprivation and without carrying
good principles to an extreme. Let’s never forget that eating is not just
a matter of survival, we also have every right to enjoy good food, discover new tastes, meet
new cultures, have opportunities for social interaction and in short enjoy all of those
instances traditionally associated with eating. A healthy diet is based on three key principles:
variety, moderation, and balance The first principle is variety. No single
food contains all the nutrients we need in just the right proportions, or is so complete
that it can be the basis of our whole diet. Any food can contain substances that are useful
or protective, but at the same time it can also contain other substances that may be
detrimental or toxic. Although we know a lot about food composition, the food we eat is
so extraordinarily complex that is made of thousands of different molecules, many of
which we still haven’t even identified, some of them occur naturally, some other come
from the environment or from contaminations. The more monotonous our diet is, the higher
the risk of nutrient deficiencies or imbalances, and the higher the risk of accumulating dangerous
of detrimental substances. Our best strategy to avoid deficiencies and
excesses is varying our food choices as much as we can, eating food from all the different
food groups, and don’t always get the same nutrients from the same foods. Don’t trust
those who propose you an “ideal diet”, in the form of list of foods to be eaten every
day or every week, because eating the same foods over and over again is not only boring,
but also dangerous. Being curious and creative with our food choices is the basis of variety
and a healthy diet. The second principle is moderation. Eating
everything does not mean overeating. We should never eat until we are uncomfortably full,
and eating small portions of many different foods is our best strategy. No food or nutrient is wondrous by itself,
outside of a generally balanced diet. And on the other hand, not even the junkiest food
can cause any damage if eaten every once in a while in the context of an otherwise balanced
diet. Like we always say in nutrition, there’s no such thing as good or bad foods, there’s
only good or bad diets. However, it is appropriate to make a distinction between foods whose
intake needs to be extremely limited, and foods that should be at the basis of our diet.
We will not classify foods as magic foods or killer foods, but we will definitely make
a distinction between green lights, yellow lights and red lights, so we can look for
the green lights most of the time, go through yellow lights with circumspection, and jump
red lights as little as possible. When it comes to eating, we tend to worry
a lot about breaking the rules, but we forget that what really matters is what we do habitually.
As the ancient romans said, semel in anno licet insanire. Every once in a while, it
is ok to go crazy. There’s no reason to worry if we pig out on Thanksgiving, if we
have one drink too many at our best friend’s bachelor party, or if we eat three slices
of cake at his wedding. What really makes the difference is what we do the rest of the
time. Most people eat three meals a day: breakfast,
lunch and dinner. That gives us 21 meals a week. If we have dinner out with friends twice
a week, it’s not those two meals that we have to worry about, but the remaining 19. The third principle is balance. Our choice
of foods should ensure a healthy proportion of all the different nutrients that we need,
and we will learn how to do this. Many people believe that applying nutrition
science means dealing with food composition tables and making long calculations of calories
and nutrients to come up with the perfect list of foods to eat, in just the right amount,
to have a perfectly balanced diet. Far from it! Let me tell you right now that nobody
will ever ask you to eat with the scales or the calculator, to weigh everything you eat
or to compute calories or nutrients. Studying human nutrition means becoming familiar
with a series of general principles, strategic objectives and guidelines that will help us
make the best dietary choices in selecting our foods and creating our meals.
Sure enough, we will use some numbers and make some energy and nutrient calculations
in this course, but it’s only to become familiar with the composition of the foods
we eat and with some basic nutrition concepts. We want to have an idea of the caloric density
of food, what is their protein content, what kind of fats they contain, what are the best
sources of a particular vitamin, or which food have a high glycemic index. But when
it comes to our everyday life, in order to eat well, it is completely unnecessary to
make calculations of calories of nutrients. It is much more important to understand and
keep in mind some key general principles. By applying the principles of variety, moderation
and balance we will be able to steer clear of dangerous radicalisms, we will not condemn
or fear any food or nutrient, much like we will not trust those who idolize one particular
food or nutrient, or those who place all of their bets on one single idea. For example, as a nutritionist I am well aware
that eating an excess of animal food is very detrimental to our health, especially if we
don’t balance it with enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains. For this reason, I consume
red meat very sparingly. Some people decide not to eat meat and fish
at all, and become vegetarian. Some other decide not to eat animal food all together,
and become vegan. Some go even further, and limit their food choices to only fruit, they
become fruitarian. Some only limit their food choices to raw food, they become raw foodists.
I think this is a very dangerous path. Where is the limit between healthful diet and dietary
extremism? There are paleo-fanatics who abominate grains and legumes much like some dogmatic
vegans fear meat and fish. I have respect for all of these choices, and I will tell
you right now that our body is so extraordinary that it can perfectly thrive both on an animal-free
vegan diet, or on a grain-free paleo-diet. However, there’s absolutely no need to go
to any such extremes to maintain health. We may have cultural, religious, ethical or
environmental sustainability reasons to decide to abstain from eating specific foods, and
those reasons are all valid. But if the concern is our health, then, as we will learn in this
course, we can design a perfectly balanced, healthful diet that promotes health, well-being
and prevention of chronic disease, by including foods from each and every one of the following
five groups: fruits, vegetables, seaweeds, and mushrooms; nuts and seeds; whole grains;
legumes and animal foods including meat, seafood, eggs, milk and dairy. With these principles in mind, our next question
now is, why do we need to study nutrition? What can it do for us? What are the goals
of nutrition? Over the next three lessons, I would like to explain this to you.

16 thoughts on “The Key Principles of Nutrition”

  1. dottor Vendrame tutto ciò che dici per me è vangelo.Ti seguo da sempre ,non trovo nulla di contestabile in tutto ciò che dici.Grazie per tutto il tempo che dedichi su you tube

  2. Complimenti da una vegana 🙂
    Sono assolutamente d'accordo che per stare in salute si possa mangiare onnivoro bilanciato e consapevole; infatti inizialmente fu quella la mia scelta, raggiungendo ottimi risultati in fatto di salute. Poi però è subentrata anche l'etica e non sono più riuscita a mangiare qualcosa di animale rimanendo in pace con me stessa. Ho quindi optato per una dieta vegana bilanciata e da 4 anni va tutto molto bene; esami, energia e salute sono ottimi, sono in pace con me stessa e sono consapevole che la mia scelta è sia salutistica che etica ma non l'unica possibile.
    I tuoi esempi sono gli stessi che cerco di fare a chi mangia e vive in modo inconsapevole e malsano (fumo, alcool, niente attività motoria, niente sole ecc) e crede che l'alimentazione e lo stile di vita non possano aiutare nelle malattie…è molto triste sapere che potrebbero cambiare in meglio la propria salute ma non vogliono neppure provarci.
    Ciao e ancora complimenti, continuerò a seguirti.

  3. Molto interessante questo corso, ho notato che solo i primi 3 video sono sottotitolati in italiano, volevo chiederti se verranno inseriti i sottotitoli in italiano anche negli altri video oppure se resteranno sottotitolati in inglese. Grazie

  4. just found this series of videos and I'm so glad I did! I'm loving it ☺ would you be able (at some point) to detail how one would go about doing their own nutritional research (besides the usual route of using Google search engine)? How do we find trusted sources of research? Are there journal available to the public? Who funds the research etc..?
    Thank you!

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