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Sunday, July 15, 2007

An Introduction to Nutrition and Health

Nutrition as MedicineExciting nutrition research developments are occuring by the day, confirming the powerful effect of nutrition on health. Nutrition is perhaps the single most important decision that you will ever make about your health. Along with selection of foods to create a healthy body, advanced nutritional approaches to healthy ageing, energy management, and enhanced performance are crucial in determination of your health over the duration of your life. Nutrition is your first defense against many, if not the majority, of ailments associated with modern lifestyle and ageing. In many cases, nutritional strategies are essential in the treatment of ailments once they manifest and for preventing their progression.
Best Nutrition
Although there are very good basic guidelines, there is no such thing as "best nutrition". We are all different (including race, religion, culture and even income) and our needs vary throughout our lives depending on ever-changing factors like activity, illness, pregnancy and age. There is no ‘right way’. Good nutrition is a life-long journey with many paths you may choose to travel with equally good effect - Nutritional paths that lead to the same destination - good health. The nutritional advice that appears on this website and throughout my E-Publications is advice for a sensible, evidence-based journey. I will update these now and then as the journey continues.

The first thing we need to consider is that food is not just fuel, it is what our bodies are made of. It's fashionable to scoff at the cliche "you are what you eat", but it is literally true.

Get back to natural & fresh
It makes sense to start with plants & animals that have been raised in healthy ways (eg. free range and organic). Then we want them to be either fresh, or processed in such a way that the nutrients in them are preserved or enhanced. Look for fresh, minimally processed & organic foods like:
  • Fresh proteins - Meats, seafood, eggs, whole milk products
  • Unrefined carbohydrates - Whole grains or flours (in small amounts), legumes, vegetables, fruits
  • Stable fats & oils – Butter, coconut products, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil
  • Natural flavourings - Sea salt, herbs & spices, whole food sweeteners such as raw honey, pure maple syrup, molasses
We all need a balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, though the ratio is different for each person. So choose something from each of the above groups at each meal.

Foods to avoid
It pays, as much as is practical to avoid foods that are either empty calories or actually harmful to us. Most fast foods, or foods that are processed or pre-prepared, are unhealthy. A good rule of thumb is: the closer the food is to its natural state, the better it is.

If a food comes in a packet or tin, get into the habit of flipping it over and reading the ingredients. These are the main things you want to avoid:
  • Sugars – which means sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose, golden syrup, corn syrup and concentrated fruit juice. These have been depleted of their minerals, and require us to use our body's store of nutrients to metabolise them
  • Refined carbohydrates – such as white flour, white rice, grains that have been puffed or flaked
  • Grains that have been processed are like sugars in that many of the minerals have been stripped from them. Cereals that have been puffed or flaked have had their protein altered during the processing
  • Soy products such as soy milk, yoghurt or cheese; tofu; vegetable protein; soy flour & protein powders.
  • Soy contains anti-nutrients, which are not neutralised by standard processing methods. But fermenting does neutralise them, so fermented products such as tempeh, miso & tamari are fine.
  • Dangerous fats – such as margarines and commercial, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. When vegetable oils are procesed these ways, they turn into trans-fats which are detrimental to our health
  • Artificial sweeteners – eg. aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin, cyclamate, acesulfame-K. These are chemicals, not food, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of them being harmful
  • Additives – such as artificial flavourings or colourings, MSG (often called natural flavour) and limit preservatives as much as possible. Many children, in particular, are sensitive to food additives and there are many cases where cutting them from the diet has shown improvements in behaviour & learning ability
  • Pesticides or GE foods – Organic foods are free of both pesticides and GE materials. If you can't get organic, wash fruit & vegetables thoroughly. Pesticides are poisonous to pests, so can't be any good for us either. And there is still not enough known about GE foods, so stick to the natural stuff in the meantime.
To Supplement or not to Supplement
The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for nutrients is what has been calculated through research as being necessary to keep us healthy. Illness, injury, medications, environmental stresses, adolescent growth, ageing or hard exercise may cause increased needs for various nutrients. Furthermore, our over-worked soils may be deficient in various nutrients, principally the trace minerals. While the RDA may suffice in the case of good health and "normal" behaviour, it may be insufficient if one falls outside of normal. If a person has become depleted, then taking just the RDA for that nutrient will not restore body levels to healthy - it will only serve to keep the current status quo which may be very unhealthy.

I advocate supplementation in cases where need is either demonstrably higher or where it is known (usually through blood tests) there is a deficiency. In many instances, such as with minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron, it may take several months, or even years to fully replenish stores in organs like the liver, bones and muscles.

The Myotec Online Store has fresh quality supplements that are made from natural sources, rather than synthetic kinds and selected for value for money. The only supplements that are stocked are the ones that have good evidence for nutritional benefit and which fit well with the work I do with clients. I support these with ongoing advice.

A little advice to finish:
please don't get too tied up about what foods are right or wrong for you, healthy or unhealthy. My advice to you is to follow some general rules of thumb for a diet that is basically healthy, apply common-sense and relax! If you can't adhere all of the time - and who can - relax! The sun will rise in the morning. Get the basics generally right, exercise regularly, get some sunlight, be productive and enjoy life, including enjoying good food.


Katie said...

I saw your comments about the possible “harmful effects” of Splenda and felt compelled to respond. For both personal and professional reasons, this particular subject is important to me. Since joining the Calorie Control Council – a non-profit trade association that represents the light food and beverage industry - I’ve spent recent months reading up low-calorie sweeteners and fat replacers. Thanks to this research, I have also adopted a healthier lifestyle, which includes consuming more food and beverages sweetened with sucralose (marketed as Splenda) to help cut calories.

Despite the online claims of many Splenda critics, the safety of sucralose is documented by one of the most extensive and thorough safety testing programs ever conducted on a new food additive. More than 110 studies of humans and animals, conducted across a broad range of areas, clearly indicate that sucralose ingestion does not cause any adverse health effects, including cancer, birth defects, tooth decay, kidney pain and more.

For more information, visit,,, and

Gary Moller said...

Thanks for your comments Audrey. My advice re artificial sweeteners remains unchanged. There is no need for these sugar substitutes and there remains plenty of anecdotal evidence of possible harm, despite all the research to the contrary.
The body's senses adjust to a low "sweetness" diet with the result that just a smidgeon of natural sugar added to food tastes sweet. This is the better approach rather than lathering one's food with useless sugar substitutes.