Food Selection: Taking A Deeper Look

5 Jun



Nutrition can be a seemingly trendy topic in today’s society, but in actuality – nutrition is a science. The spawn of fad diets, latest food crazes, and non-evidence based nutrition theories have left many individuals in the dark when it comes to certain nutrition topics.

The purpose of this article is to shed some light on some hot nutrition issues currently surfacing today.

The Importance of Nutrition

If you are reading this article, chances are you currently in the contemplation or action stage of change and are making conscious nutrition decisions to improve your health and fitness. Did you know nutrition can play a more integral role than training for obtaining the results you want?

You simply cannot outwork a bad diet.

Diets of Exclusion

Diets of exclusion are becoming more prevalent with trendy nutrition followings. What is a diet of exclusion? A diet of exclusion is a diet that promotes the resounding message of food restriction.

Example: Don’t ever eat “food XYZ.”

Often times, we spend so much time focusing on what to exclude. We should be shifting our focus to the bigger picture – what to include.

When we arbitrarily label foods as “good” or “bad,” we condition our minds to interpret food items accordingly. Often times, this leads to a one-track state of mind – potentially leading to disordered eating patterns.

Nutrition and behavior modification are very closely interlinked. For every negative behavior, there is a balancing positive behavior that you can work towards changing.

In the fitness industry, diets of exclusion run rapid – perpetuated by misinformed health coaches, word of mouth, and mainstream media.

Focus on a diet of inclusion before wrecking your quality of life by restricting your food choices to an absurd level. Begin focusing on what you actually need. Focus less on what you don’t necessarily need.

Arbitrarily Labeling Foods

Joe and Jan are dining out at their favorite restaurant. Joe orders a white potato with his 8 oz. sirloin steak and steamed vegetables.

Jan opts for the sweet potato because her trainer told her it was “better” than a white potato.

Who is right?

White potatoes and sweet potatoes certainly have nutritional differences; however, one is not necessarily “better” than the other. White potatoes have a higher magnesium, iron, and potassium content. On the other hand, sweet potatoes have more vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant) and dietary fiber.

Fitness enthusiasts always bark at the fact that white potatoes are higher on the glycemic index than sweet potatoes. The glycemic index measures how quickly blood glucose levels rise after consuming a particular food.

However, it should be noted that baked white potatoes are RARELY eaten without the addition of toppings such as butter, cheese, or sour cream. All of these additions have a high fat content, which drastically alters the rate of blood glucose release from the meal – thus lowering the glycemic response.

Furthermore, take the whole meal both Joe and Jan ordered into consideration. The steamed vegetables will delay glucose release due to the dietary fiber. The 8 oz. sirloin contains both protein and fat – both of which can buffer the rate of blood glucose release.

Take home point: the form of the potato, what you add to the potato, and what food items you consume with your potato is more significant than the color of the potato.

Shortcomings of the Glycemic Index

Basing your carbohydrate selection entirely off the glycemic index can be problematic – as its validity and application is flawed. Interpreting the glycemic index as the be-all and end-all determinant of carbohydrate selection is another form of a dietary practice promoting a diet of exclusion.

What many folks do not know about the glycemic index is that the values are based entirely on consumption of carbohydrate foods in a fasted state. Furthermore, the foods measured in the glycemic index are ingested in a completely isolated state – meaning no other foods were consumed in addition to the tested food.

When was the last time you ate a plain, baked white potato by itself as a meal on an empty stomach?

The generalizability of the glycemic index to real world application falls short. The entire meal composition can alter the glycemic response and should be taken into consideration instead of targeting specific food groups. Additionally, the glycemic response can be confounding as digestion and absorption of previous meal should be taken into account.

Some of the most nutrient-dense foods are also rated very high on the glycemic index. For example, watermelon (a great source of Vitamin C), white potatoes (high mineral content), and carrots (Vitamin A) pack a high glycemic index value.

Simply avoiding these foods because of their high glycemic index value is rubbish.

Remember: diets of inclusion, not exclusion.            

Final Words

Perhaps the most important concept to recognize here is that all food items inherently possess nutrient profiles and characteristics that are specifically unique. Begin assessing foods based on their positive attributes.

Always consider the bigger picture.

There is no operative definition of “clean eating.” All foods can fit into a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. By labeling your eating patterns as “clean,” you are conditioning your mind to interpret foods as “good” or “bad.”

Shift your focus on inclusive habits rather than on negative and exclusive habits.

There are no bad foods. There are no good foods.

However, there are bad diets. And there are good diets.


3 Responses to “Food Selection: Taking A Deeper Look”

  1. Justin June 5, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Really good thoughts here. I really like it. I literally just wrote an article yesterday on the same concepts about how much I hate the “clean” and “cheat” terminology. Food segregation is unnecessary and has induced all sorts of problems and fears.

    Oh and btw, I’m sure you know this but those high GI foods: carrots and watermelon aren’t really… unless you eat a whole watermelon or 2 lbs bag of carrots. Low glycemic load 🙂

  2. britkelly89 June 6, 2014 at 1:22 am #

    Reblogged this on ASCENT Gym. We Train For Life! and commented:
    Diets of Inclusions rather than Exclusion.

  3. Michelle June 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Wonderful blog! Posted it in Thank you!

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