Shedding Myths

There is a definition of insanity that goes something like; believing that if you repeatedly do the same thing, eventually you’ll get a different result. We all know that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got, but how often have I come across people who say they are on a diet, following one regime or another, which although it hasn’t been successful in the past, they stick at it because it is what some authority has advised. If only they are stricter in the future, if only they do more exercise, if only, if only, if only. They know what they are doing isn’t working, but they so believe that it should. So they keep on with low fat, high carb foods in spite of the evidence.

Most people are a bit schizophrenic when it comes to nutrition. We have been told some things for so long now, that even though we hear of new studies that show something different, we can’t shake off the old ideas. The classic example is the balance or proportion fats and carbs in a healthy diet. We have been told for so long that complex carbs are good and fats are bad that even when we know better, we still can’t shake the feeling that the baked potato is a healthier choice than the nuts.

A list of essential nutrition includes omega 3 and 6 fats, but no carbs. That’s right, carbohydrate is not an essential nutrition. Of course you can’t avoid some carbs, and nor would you want to, they are in all vegetables and fruit, but if you focus on the most nutritious (high in proteins, vitamins etc) vegetables and fruits, you’ll have relatively fewer carbs, equally, if you focus on the highest carbs, you’ll have relatively less other nutrition. If you start your diet planning with the highest levels of essential nutrition, you’ll have all the energy/calories you need from fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals you need from low carb fruit and veg. Assuming you want an appropriate amount of calories for your needs, then any time you eat a high carb food, like biscuits or sweets, you are having to substitute it for a food that had much better nutrition, like fruit or nuts.

So why do we teach kids in school that the largest chunk of their food should be high carb food? That food pyramid that is in every kid’s school diary shows the largest section should be grain or starchy roots. While the food technology teacher will show them a list of essential nutrition without carbs and generally no one notices or comments, or at most it will be pointed out that the high carb food does have a tiny amount of other nutrition. This is the sort of schizophrenia I mentioned earlier. Like touching wood to stave off bad luck, (it used to be iron) when you don’t believe in luck. Like christening your kids when you don’t believe in its sanctifying effect. The stuff we’ve been told all our lives we can’t quite drop, even when we know better. The “low fat is healthy” and “carbs give you lots of energy” myths have been so embedded into our cultural norms that even when we know better, we still feel them to be true at a deep level.

Sometimes, even though it feels dangerous, we need to stop touching wood, genuflecting, throwing salt over our shoulder and we need to bring our nutritional understanding out of the realm of outdated and disproven mythology.

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