Nutrition is an incredibly complex and largely mystifying science to us, even in this day and age. We actually know astonishingly little about why certain foods do or do not work well for the human body.
But that sucks, right? To think that a practice you engage in three times a day is barely understood?
It’s the 21st century, damnit!
This is why you’ll see so many people (and industries) treating nutrition like a religion, like a set of beliefs based primarily on theory and faith. (If you’ve ever met a particularly fiery vegan or awkwardly aggressive Paleo-enthusiast, you know exactly what I mean.)
Michael Pollan, one of the most esteemed nutrition-writers of our time, refers to this phenomenon as “Nutritionism."
What Nutritionism aims to do is reduce all nutrition to its requisite parts, meaning that instead of looking at a banana and concluding that it’s healthy because many cultures have subsisted and thrived on bananas for centuries, it decides that bananas are healthy because they’re comprised of vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C, potassium, biotin, copper, and are a good source of dietary fiber.
Sounds fair, right? None of this is untrue.
However, it’s undeniably reductionist and speaks nothing to why, when these particular vitamins and minerals are extracted and administered to a person outside of the food, that person doesn’t receive the same health benefits as the person who simply eats the banana.
This is all to say that a banana, or for that matter any food on this planet, is not the sum of its nutrient parts, but rather a food that, for some scientifically inexplicable reason, is healthy for us, and makes us feel good and live longer.
So while, like with any religion, we must respect other eaters’ beliefs, I also invite you to keep an open mind and a clear head when it comes to nutrition.
When people ask me what particular nutritional “camp” I fall into, I have no answer, since I believe that all sorts of diets work well for all different types of people, and to say otherwise would not be particularly humble.
Who am I, God?
So what CAN we say conclusively about nutrition, if anything?
The only thing that nearly every Nutritionism cult in the world can agree on is that fruits and vegetables are good, and processed food is bad. No matter who you are, if you follow these principles, you will be healthier, thinner, and, most likely, happier.
It’s important to keep perspective and remember that the nitty-gritty is less important than these basic, overarching principles.