Is it time to step back from scare stories about nutrition?
There is an increasing amount of 'rules' around what it takes to have a healthy balanced diet. The media is quick to sensationalise each piece of advice or guidance presented from scholarly research and frequently singles out only parts of the research findings.
In general, making people aware of advances in our nutritional understanding is a good thing. No one would sensibly question whether giving the public more information to enable them to make informed decision about their diet is a good thing, but do we need to take a step back from the news headlines and go back to grassroots so to speak.
If we were to put all of guidance we are bombarded with into practice, it would be a complex and almost impossible task to find anything to eat at all. It’s easy to see why some people become despondent to the guidance, feeling lost in all the information.
Much as the world of fashion changes with each season, it seems increasingly the case that the focus of nutritional advice does too. This season sugar is the new black and taking the centre stage - especially for those concerned about conditions such as diabetes or wanting to manage their weight.
I don't see a problem with improving and expanding the range of information we give the public, but my concern is the information is presented in a way which many find confusing and conflicting with previous advice.
Many people have the view that the information about sugar equates to all carbohydrates. Some believe the switch to very high protein diets with almost no carbohydrates is the solution, and the message behind the advice being all carbohydrates are "unhealthy". This is certainly not the case. Eliminating a whole food group should never be done without strong reasons for it, and only when overseen by someone with enough knowledge and experience to ensure it is done safely.
Many clients feel totally in the dark about what all the information means. It is almost an essential process for nutritionists to unravel the knot of conflicting information they have absorbed and construct a more practical, accurate and beneficial overview of the advice, whilst providing the skills needed to do so.
Maybe it is time to take a step back and divert the focus from creating headlines designed to scare the public and establish resources to enable the public to develop the basic skills of reading and interpreting food labels and ingredients lists. This will enable them to make more informed, more educated decisions on how foods fit into their healthy, nutritious and balanced diet.
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