One of the biggest barriers to good nutrition is…all the information about what constitutes good nutrition! Patients come into my office all the time expressing how confused they are by the sheer volume of information about nutrition out there, much of it contradictory:
“Eat fat!” vs. “Don’t eat fat!”
“Eat carbs!” vs. “Carbs are bad for you!”
“Be vegan!” vs. “Veganism will mess up your body!”
Unfortunately, a typical response to this feeling of being overwhelmed is just giving up. If there’s too much information, and if the advice is all over the place, what’s the use of following any of it? With the amount of nutritional information out there rising every day, it’s become very difficult for the average person to sort it all out.
But nutrition is much simpler than people think. It can be broken down into two basic principles.
The First Principle of Nutrition: Eat Real Food and Drink Real Water
This is the foundation of nutrition, and it’s a no-brainer. Eat real food. Drink real water. If it’s a food found in nature in the form you eat it in, go for it. That’s real food. In other words, if you can grow it, you can eat it. And “real water” is even simpler. Just water. Not tea. Not coffee. Not soda. Not flavored water. Not tonic or seltzer. Water.
If it seems too good to be true, that’s because people are constantly overcomplicating the principle. There are so many options available to us that they raise questions that can throw us off track.
What about frozen food? What about white rice? What about canned food? How about yogurt?
When questions like these show up, remember the rule:
Eat real food and drink real water.
If you’re not sure if it’s “real” then skip it. That’s all you have to do. You’re not going to mess your body up by not eating frozen foods or skipping white rice. If you have a question, avoid it.
This is not, by the way, to suggest that the above foods are “bad.” It’s just that overcomplicating leads to confusion and confusion leads to burnout.
When I tell my patients this, they often have supplementary questions: But what about buying organic? What about grass-fed? Raw foods? Again, questions like these are distractions from the baseline principle. They’re questions for the future, not for the starting point of eating well. Once you get back to a solid base of real food, then you can start optimizing.
One more time: Keep it simple. Eat real food and drink real water, and if you have a question about a food item, just skip it.
The Second Principle of Nutrition: Pay Attention to Your Body
Okay, so you’ve got the first principle down, now what?
The whole food rule is your baseline. But in that baseline you’ll find foods that your body dislikes. You might get digestive issues, acid reflux, diarrhea, and more. Now that you’re eating real food and drinking real water, it’s time to pay attention to your body.
This leads us back to the multiple versions of eat-this-eat-that and the contradictory information out there. Why? Because very often two sets of contradictory information about nutrition are both correct. But whether or not the advice is healthy depends on you.
Let’s use raw foods as an example. Most raw foods fall under the “eat real food” principle, and there are plenty of studies that show raw foods reduce inflammation, are high in nutrients, and help fight disease. And those studies are correct. But if you have a compromised digestive system —and many Westerners do — you will have trouble breaking down raw foods, which means you will end up gassy, subject to inflammation, and unable to absorb those many nutrients.
So pay attention to your body. When you eat raw foods, do you feel good? Do you feel light, clean, clear, strong, and energized? Or do you feel lethargic, foggy, rundown, bloated?
It’s as easy as that: How do you feel after you eat the real food that you’re eating?
These are the basics of nutrition. From there, of course, it’s important to refine further, particularly to slow the signs of aging, lose weight, have a sharper mental state, and more.
Rene von Gunten, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, is a member of the Age Management Team at The Body Well. To schedule an Age Management Evaluation, please call (323) 874-9355 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today.
René von Gunten, NTP CPT, aka “The Swiss Nutritioneer,” is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the Nutritional Therapy Association. He holds a diploma in Balancing Nutritional Science from the Westbrook University and is a graduate of the renowned mentorship program in functional medicine by Dr. Daniel Kalish. He is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Holistic Nutritionist practicing at The Body Well.