Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Food Myth - Part 2

I have received a number of positive comments about my recent blog The Food Myth. Some people were confused about my message. Thanks very much for the comments - I view all comments as positive. They help us to understand each other, and ourselves.  This post is a clarification of my position with regards to The Food Myth.

Myth: The best way to meet your nutritional needs is through a healthy diet.  eg, Eat the right foods.

Fact: Eating the right foods is an excellent start to meeting your nutritional needs.  However, it is insufficient and eating the wrong foods can be dangerous. 

First let's be clear what I mean by food.  I mean foods in their natural state - raw or cooked.  Non-supplemented foods. Many of the foods we buy in the store are 'supplemented foods', or invented foods. Even the basics like bread and meat, cheese and wine, often have additives that are nutritional, or perhaps not.

I love Gerry's comment that when she was pregnant in Japan - she was advised to eat small amounts of 30 different types of food every day.  This advice is very good.  We don't know for certain which foods are essential to a healthy baby, so we  try to eat many different foods to ensure all the needs are met. This is much healthier than binging on a single food - which probably only contains a small number of the essential ingredients to help a baby grow. The same is true for us as adults.  Every day we grow 'new cells', and they need nutrition.  But I'd guess that many North Americans don't eat 30 different foods in a week.

Fact: Eating supplemented foods is an excellent second step to meeting your nutritional needs.  However, it is insufficient, and sometimes dangerous. 

It is unfortunate that we do not have a good word to name 'supplemented foods'.  We have a very fuzzy distinction between foods and supplements, made worse by the huge quantities of supplemented foods that are now on the market. We need a word for supplemented foods, to distinguish foods, from supplemented foods, and from supplements. I propose the word 'sfood' for supplemented food, and 'sfoods' for supplemented foods.

Salt is supplemented with iodine, because most people cannot get enough iodine in the food they eat. Supplementing table salt with iodine improves the health status of most people in the general population. On the other hand, table salt you buy today is not just supplemented with iodine - it is also contains non-food products to keep it flowing smoothly.

If you buy rock salt, or sea salt, it is not normally supplemented with iodine. Table salt is supplemented, therefore it is a 'sfood'.

or is it?

According to many people, Mercola, for example, table salt does not contain 'food salt'. It contains a highly processed form of sodium chloride, and iodine supplement and some chemicals to help if flow freely.  The table salt in my store also contains sugar.  Mercola says that table salt is very unhealthy and upsets your normal fluid balances.

So, according to Mercola, and others, table salt is not a food, and not a sfood.  This makes it is a supplement.  Eg. it is a non-food, containing a supplement that is essential to your health.  Supplements normally have 'additives' in the package.  As does the iodine supplement that is sold as 'table salt'.

Politicians, health professionals and product manufacturers can argue for decades about table salt.  Is it a food?  A sfood?  A supplement. Who is right?  The only important decision is your Personal Health Freedom decision.  You can decide for yourself and act on your decision - as long as sea salt and rock salt are available as alternative purchases. But, when you buy a processed food product containing salt, in most cases, you don't know what kind of salt it contains.  So, if you want to avoid table salt, you must take severe actions.

There are many valuable sfoods.  Breakfast cereals, breads, margarines and many other foods are supplemented with essential nutrients - changing them from foods, to sfoods.

Fact: Meeting your nutritional needs by choosing the right supplements is an excellent first step to optimizing your health status.  

There is a huge difference between 'meeting your nutritional needs' and 'optimizing your health status'.  Vitamin and mineral guidelines are generally designed to prevent illness.  To quote the Nutrition Information Resource Centre "Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) – the average dietary intake level of a nutrient that prevents a deficiency in 98% of a population."  There is a huge difference between preventing a deficiency, and optimizing your health.  If you just 'meet your nutritional needs', you may suffer many deficiency related illnesses that are just 'below the level of diagnosis'.  And few people have diets that regularly meet the RDA recommendations.

"Optimizing your health status" is the primary goal of Personal Health Freedom.

'Meeting your nutritional needs' is similar to getting 50 percent on an exam.  A pass mark. Sufficient - but hardly a worthwhile goal.  We can easily reach 70 percent, 80 percent or higher with some research, study and effort.

We need to ensure that the food myth is busted - to free ourselves, to move our health forward, personally, and as families, communities and societies.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: