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Nutritional value of food - a limited view

Many healthy diets are based on the nutritional value of food, which tells how much nutrients - protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals etc. - a food contains.

This seems an obvious and logical way of finding out whether a particular food is good or bad for health. If a food contains plenty of nutrients, it must be healthy, right? And if it has little or no nutrients, it must be bad for health?

No. Unfortunately. Food chemistry is extremely complex and the nutritional value of food only tells us part of the story.

It tells only a small part. For while the science of nutrition tells us what a food contains, it does not always tells us the more important part - what happens when we eat certain foods?

For example, nutritionists have asserted for over 200 years that "fiber is useless" - because fiber is not absorbed by the body during digestion and therefore has "no nutritioonal value".

As recently as the 1980s, prominent nutritionists, doctors and other health experts were still arguing that the health benefits of fiber were unproven. It is only now that, with better understanding, those who consider the nutritional value of food can accept that fiber, despite having "zero nutrition", plays a very vital role in promoting health.

The problem is both in understanding and knowledge about the nutritional value of food. Because of this, serious mistakes had been made in the past and they continue to be made today.

Nutritionists don't really know

The science of modern nutriton is nearly 300 years old. But despite the long history, scientists and nutritionists still do not really know much about the nutritional value of food and what nutrients are important. For example:

Nutritional value of food vs effects of food

What a food contains is different from what it does. And so the bigger problem with looking at the nutritional value of food is that it does not always tell us about the effects of eating these foods.

Fiber is a good example of a food (a component of plant foods) with positive effects on health even though it has "zero nutrition".

A lesser known example is kuzu, the starch of a huge (human-size) root that is used for medicinal purposes in Traditional Chinese Medicine and macrobiotics. Among other things, kuzu is known to be an effective remedy for alcoholic hangovers and this has been confirmed by modern medical research. From the perspective of the nutritional value of food, however, kuzu is often described in nutrition textbooks (if at all it is mentioned) as "having negligible nutritional value."

From the perspective of the nutritional value of food, items like milk and eggs have very high nutritional content. They are packed with nutrients. But does this mean they are good for health?

THREE EGGS GOOD? In the case of eggs, nutritionists are still unsure. They used to say eggs are good for health. Then, because of concerns over cholesterol, they say eggs are "bad" and recommend that we do not eat more than three eggs per week. (But if eggs are really bad, why not avoid them altogether?)

Wait... it's not over yet... Eggs also contain lecithin, which helps lowers cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, some sceintists such Uffe Ravnskov - who, being an independent researcher, has no vested interest in anti-cholesterol drugs - are arguing that cholesterol is, in fact, good for health.

HARM OF MILK: In the case of milk, nutritionists continue to recommend it highly even though milk has been linked to scores of health problems, including increased risks of diabetes, female cancers (breast, womb, etc) and osteoporosis.

From the perspective of the nutritional content of food, milk contains calcium. In theory, this makes it good for preventing / reversing osteoporisis. But just because milk contains calcium does not mean that the calcium is absorbed in milk. It is not. A number of scientific studies show that the calcium in (pasteurized / processed) milk is very poorly absorbed comapred to the calcium in, say, green leafy vegetables.

The effects of drinking milk is another matter altogether. Because milk is a high-protein food, milk actually contributes to bone loss! Milk, meat and other high protein foods cause osteoporosis. The Eskimos and North Americans have the world's highest rates of osteoporosis even though they consume lots of calcium in their diet - because they eat lots of meat, milk and other dairy foods.

Click here to learn more about the harm of milk.

Nutritional value of food vs food processing

The problem with milk is actually not milk per se, but due to the fact that it is almost always pasteurized, UHT (ultra high temperature) treated, or processed in other ways. Raw milk, straight from the cow, is ok and does not cause many of the problems associated with milk.

This brings us to another limitation of looking only at the nutritional value of food - it does not consider how a food is processed and how food processing changes its effect on health.

MARGARINE + TRANS FATS: A good example is margarine. For decades, nutritionists have recommended margarine as a healthier alternative to butter - because margarine does not contain much saturated fats, which are wrongly believed to be harmful.

However, the process of making margarine, called hydrogenation, involves high heat and high pressure which distort the structure of the fat molecules. These distorted fat molecules, called trans fats, are now known to be extremely harmful, causing problems like heart disease, cancer, obesity and so on.

In the past 100 years or so since margarine became widely promoted, billions of people have suffered and died from the adverse effects of trans fats. Yet nutritionists are slow to acknowledge the dangers. They continue to recommend products like margarine, except that they modify their recommendation to "soft margarine" with less trans fats.

Visit my Stop-Trans-Fat website to learn more about the dangers of trans fats and follow this link to understand why saturated fats are not harmful, but good for health.

RANCID OILS: Another example is the continued advice by nutritionist to cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, etc. They only consider what these oils contain - mostly polyunsaturated fats which are, again, wrongly believed to be good for health.

What nutritionists fail to take note of is the fact that, during the manufacturing process involving high heat to extract oils from seeds, the oils have already turned rancid. And rancid oils are poisonous!

Even if cold-pressed vegetable oils are used, they would turn rancid during cooking. They are suitable only as salad dressings or, at most, very gentle low-heat sauteeing.

CANOLA OIL: Probably the worst case involves canola oil. From the perspective of the nutritional value of food, canola is viewed as the "best" cooking oil, with the "ideal" proportions of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats.

But when you read about how Canola oil was artificially created through genetic modification, how iin animal experiments it causes problems such as growth retardation and is not allowed to be used in infant formula... you will not be so enthusiastic about canola oil. Click here to learn more about canola oil and the problems it can cause.

Nutritional value of food - natural vs artificial

Just as canola oil is an artificially created food, many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are artificial. But to nutritionists who consider the nutritional value of food, it does not matter. To them, all nutrients are equal, whether they are natural or artificially produced in a factory.

The commonly cited example is vitamin C and it so happens that natural vitamin C appears very similar to synthetically produced ascorbic acid. But this is an isolated example. When it comes to other nutrients like Vitamin D or Vitamin E, or the trace element selenium, there is sufficient scientific evidence to believe that synthetic versions are not as beneficial - and possibly even harmful.

Still, most nutritionists don't bother. To them, as long as certain nutrients are present in food, that's good enough.

The nutritional value of food is meaningless

There are just so many mistakes that arose from looking narrowly at the nutritional value of food, that i would even say nutritional science is the main reason why billions of people are suffering degenerative diseases today.

Some mistakes were made hundreds of years ago, others continue to be made in this modern day and age. If not for these mistakes, and if people continued to eat the way their ancestors had eaten traditionally, the world population would be much healthier today.

Ultimately, the biggest mistake is to attach importance to the nutritional value of food. Because this idea is ultimately meaningless.

ALL FOODS contain nutrients. Even an "empty food" life refined white sugar, for example, contains carbohydrates, which is a nutrient. In this sense, all foods can be said to be "nutritious".

This is how some nutritionists can declare, in all seriousness, that "junk foods" are "nutritious". Because if you analyse hamburgers, fries and soft drinks in terms of the nutritional value of food, you will inevitably find some nutrients in there, never mind if eating these foods make you sick.

Click here to read why I consider the macrobiotic philosophy superior to the nutritional value of foods.

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Cooking oils
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Diet plans (13 articles)
Fiber (3 articles)
Fish (3 articles)
Grains (17 articles)
Pasta (10 articles)
Pasta recipes
(>40 recipes)
Salt (11 articles)
(11 articles)
Soy products
(14 articles)
Vegetables (1 article)
Water (6 articles)
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Flu treatments
Stop Trans fats

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Macrobiotic philosophy
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