Is their such thing as good food and bad food

I started this rant a few months ago from an observation I made on Facebook, when I was seeing some current diet religions promote “anti-health” foods as the answer for fat loss or as a “mentally healthy” approach to dieting. There is already a big enough epidemic of obesity, directly related to the foods we eat. I firmly believe that the quality of food we consume attributes more to our health, weight loss, performance etc than calories or macro intake does. The first thing I do with an over-weight client is I typically feed them MORE than they were eating before! In fact, I feed them a LOT more! And generally, the more quality nutrition that I feed them, the more weight they lose; all of it from fat! You can read more here on why. I think the current view on nutrition is too narrow and a coach with any sense should understand that calories and macros are NOT the be all end all of nutrition. The longevity of your physical and mental health plus other possible long term health benefits and potential damage from the food choices we make, are hugely overlooked factors when it comes to diet.

The Good Stuff

Surfacing research is beginning to show the long term benefits of food that go beyond macro and micro nutrients. In modern medicine, plants like pomegranate, milk thistle, cranberries, blueberries and a host of others are used to treat all kinds of illnesses, these are known as nutraceuticals. A great example is in a very recent study from Professor Paul Spagnuolo (april 2015) on avocados that holds a great deal of promise for patients diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, or AML. Basically scientists have found a lipid and isolated the nutraceutical compound that works against these deadly cells. These compounds are different from extracts (commonly found in popular supplements) simply because of how much an extract can vary. What’s interesting, is you don’t currently hear much about patients being given actual foods or food derivatives to help with diseases – I think these findings are a huge step forward in furthering our understanding of our biological relationship with food.  I tend to agree with the statement made by Dr. Lonnie Lowery from the University of Mount Union that nutrition is moving beyond macros. I think there is  too much emphasis on macro and micro nutrients in the fitness industry and even in research. Dr Lowery explains it like this: your sodium, potassium, minerals and water have an effect over 2-3 days; your protein, carbs, fat and vitamins have a huge impact on what happens over the next 12-20 weeks; meanwhile, these phytochemicals have accumulative effects over years and even decades on your long term health. More evidence is suggesting that in the long run, they may be what’s keeping you from getting cancer, heart disease or preventing obesity – with the links that they have in the prevention of these diseases, I don’t think these chemicals are get the attention they deserve.  Could we possibly be missing out because of our narrow focus on nutrition? Currently there is an “anti-health” trend in the fitness industry where people outright ignore having anything to do with whole foods and literally promote eating junk for the sake of it (of course proving that it work by instagramming selfies of their abs).

The Bad Stuff

This is where my issue starts with a lot of dieting philosophies/religions who love to define their methods through passive aggressive ambiguity. Though they are not all bad and some can have valid points, as previously mentioned there seems to be a “unhealth” trend- personally I consider this unethical both in clinical and athletic settings. Not only do they completely overlook the positive effects of micro nutrients/nutraceuticals and/or disregard nutrient deficiencies, but they choose to disregard the potential long term effects of “bad” food choices. I came across a webinar (what is the role of GI microbiota in obesity) by Andrew Gewirtz, PhD and Lee Kaplan, MD, PhD (2015) on the American Society for Nutrition. They explained things in the food supply that could be working with the bad bacteria in your gut, and making you fat.  A study done by Chassaing and colleagues (2015) showed the impact of emulsifiers on gut bacteria. Emulsifiers work to change the hydrophobic properties of fat to become hydrophilic and are found most commonly in ice-cream, salad dressing, shakes, etc. to extend the shelf life.  Deemed by the FDA as “safe” these are found in most processed products. In the study, emulsifiers, even in low doses, induced low-grade inflammation and signs of early stage obesity/metabolic syndrome by destroying the mucus lining like a detergent, causing the gut bacteria to communicate differently with your intestinal cells and changing how we metabolise fats, how fat is deposited as adipose tissue and what foods we crave. Interestingly, these chemicals are found in a lot of products that are viewed as “healthy”, like low-fat baked goods, low fat dairy products, calorie reduced desserts and salad dressings – perhaps causing more harm than good. So is the old school way of thinking eating rice, potato, chicken breast, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs still the best way? I think so. If you think this doesn’t really have any impact, then think about this: recent research states that the populations of bacteria in your gut can predict obesity with a 90% accuracy compared to genetic markers which can only predict with a 60% accuracy. That’s a big deal! It seems no matter what you do, you just can’t cheat nature.

I still think these studies should be taken with a grain of salt, however they raise some serious questions and should at least be considered for an awareness. There are a lot of knowns and unknowns, so why take the gamble- stick to tried and tested sports nutrition as your primary protocol. That said, there has never been any harm coming from enjoying your favourite treats from time to time you just have to… I feel like saying ‘use your common sense’ but common sense is not so common.


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