Three years ago, I graduated from university with a degree in nutrition. Around that time, I got married and happily started an entirely different, simple and slow life as a wife and mother. Other than my internship, I did not work in the field I studied, although I might, perhaps, do something in the future from home on a small scale. However, the subject of nutrition remains most interesting for me, both theoretically and on a personal basis, as a wife who provides daily meals for her family.
It’s difficult for young and inexperienced students to question the authority of professors, who seem infallible and all-knowing in lecture halls (and sometimes take advantage of that to promote their opinion regarding questionable issues), let alone wonder about the entire curriculum and how much time is dedicated to specific issues. Thinking back, I realized that we studied a lot about various rare medical conditions, and way too little about nutrition that would provide optimal (optimal, not adequate) health for normal individuals.
Biology and physiology in general, and nutrition in particular, are complex subjects and not everything can be known, currently. I think there is a tendency among scientists who deal with such imprecise matters to over-simplify things in order to prove a point they believe in, and perhaps to underestimate factors that cannot be calculated mathematically. And so, we dealt a lot with counting calories and fat percents, and very little with the healthful benefits of specific foods or subtle and/or questionable health effects of various food additives.
Even back then, something in me rebelled against the idea that the “right” diet we were supposed to promote (low fat, minimal amount of animal fat) seemed so unpalatable; that a person who is struggling with weight loss should choose zero-fat milk products, which are loaded with artificial sweeteners and stabilizers in order to make up for their lack of taste and runny structure. That artificially added vitamins and minerals are absorbed the same way as those occurring naturally in our food. No one argued, for example, against the fact that we need fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D and E – which are found naturally in animal fats. Somehow, this was at odds with the idea that the animal-sourced products we consume should be almost fat-free (lean meat, skim milk, etc). The solution, we were told, was to take the fat-free product and artificially enrich it with vitamins, to make up for the fact that most of their content was lost with the extraction of fat. To me, it always made more sense that if the fatty fraction contains necessary vitamins, then we should go ahead and eat it (in moderation and combined with a healthy lifestyle).
Not long ago, I’ve read the book “Nourishing Traditions” (about which I have done several blog posts), and it strengthened my view that it is safer to choose foods that are closer to their natural state, foods that did not undergo processing apart from normal cooking. That food should taste and smell like food, and be delicious and satisfying, not a pitiful substitute that always has us rushing for more in hunger that cannot be quenched, and that has nothing to do with what our grandmothers used to eat. I was amazed to find out how little we learned about such an influential component of modern diet as refined sugar. We were told sugar was harmful because it adds extra calories – “empty” calories, and that’s it. We didn’t learn that sugar causes actual mineral depletion, certainly when we look at the extent it is consumed. I ran to the grocery store today and was struck by how, it seems, most of the products in the store contain large amounts of added sugar.
Nutrition, without a doubt, is a topic that should be learned by every “family cook”, which is the mother in most of the cases, and also by daughters who are growing up. You don’t have to have a degree for that, today we have access to many wonderful fascinating books and the internet.
As a note to my readers, I am looking forward to the moment when I have internet access and can read some of your comments to my older posts. I appreciate that you continue to visit and write, and miss the dialogue with you. Thank you for your patience while I keep this blog running from my “offline” position.