Author | DIAKADI Trainer Rachel Fiske A friend and colleague of mine posed the question recently, “what is good nutrition?” After giving it some thought, I realized what an important question this is to ask both myself and my clients, in order to really understand where one is coming from. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there when it comes to what good nutrition really means, and its easy for it all to get jumbled up! So, here are some points I would include in my definition:
1. First and foremost, realizing that what good nutrition is for me may not be the same for you. Our bodies are all biochemically different and have slightly (or, in some cases, very) different nutrient needs. This does not mean that some people really just need hostess cupcakes…but it does mean that certain people will do better with varying macronutrient ratios (more carbs, fat, or protein), for example. It is essential to remember that there is no one size fits all approach.
2. Eating the most real, nutrient dense foods available. Good nutrition should mean sticking to whole, non-processed foods that have the most “bang for their buck” in terms of nutrient density. The foods we eat are fueling our body for every task (physical, mental, and emotional) that we carry out each day, and we need all nutrients, all the time.
3. On that same note, VARIETY. Yes, spinach is a nutrient dense food, but if it is one of the only vegetables we eat, we are depriving ourselves of all of the vitamins and minerals found in other vegetables and leafy greens. Same goes for protein and fat sources. After we understand what good, whole food is, we must strive to get a wide variety of everything so that we are allowing our bodies to take in all of the essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, trace minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients that science may not even know exists yet! And, it simply makes eating more fun.
4. Decreasing our stress (especially when eating) and improving our relationship to food. We must be in our parasympathetic nervous state (aka, the “rest and digest” as opposed to the run-from-the-tiger sympathetic mode) in order for our body to divert energy to proper digestion and nutrient absorption/assimilation. Along with this, I feel that it is of great importance to examine our emotional relationship to food. Do we eat when we are emotional about something? Do we have feelings of guilt or other destructive emotions surrounding food? We have grown up in a society with some very skewed perceptions of body image and food (particularly for women) and this can seriously effect how we digest and assimilate our nutrients. We can eat the best foods, but if our digestion is off for either physical or emotional/mental reasons, we have work to do.
5. Eating for blood sugar stabilization. While there is no exact one size fits all approach, something that everyone can benefit from is eating a diet to regulate our blood sugar and, therefore, our energy levels. We all too often experience unnecessary dips and spikes throughout the day, which is a sign that we may not be fueling our body effectively. A sign of how well we nourished ourselves in the previous meal or snack is gauging how we feel going into the next…are we ravenous? Light headed? Really grumpy? This is not normal!
6. Eating anti-inflammatory foods. Inflammation can manifest in many ways, including brain fogginess, depression, allergies, insomnia, digestive problems, and more serious conditions like cancer and autoimmune disease. Visit my past article on inflammation for more details.
7. Eating a largely plant based diet with at least 5-9 servings of organic vegetables and fruits per day (heavier on the veggies than the fruit). Remember, 1 serving=1 cup cooked or 2 cups raw. This way we are ensuring that we get all of those micronutrients mentioned above that we need to thrive!
Well, here’s a start! I think this is an important and interesting question to consider for ourselves…I know I’m always adding to my own definition. So…what is good nutrition to you?
Rachel Fiske is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Personal Trainer. She works one on one with clients to create individualized diet and fitness programs to address a variety of concerns with whole foods, smart movement, and possible supplementation. Check out her website at www.madronawellness.org for more information.