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The message that stands the test of time


By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

It's easy to be confused with so much conflicting information about diet and health, but one message that has stood the test of time is to eat more plant-based foods in the form of vegetables. (Fruit, pulses and legumes have fallen prey to some crazy dietary notions and some people suggest these food types should be avoided. I suggest you ignore that and happily incorporate them into your daily diet. ).

Compared to other science such as physics and chemistry, nutritional science is relatively young having been introduced in the mid-1950s. Those working in the field of nutrition over the past 30 years would have seen big changes to what was recommended in the early days. First all fat was bad and then saturated fat was singled out. Now some suggest saturated fat is not as bad as we once thought. Eggs we once thought increased blood cholesterol but now it's thought that they don't, while sugar which once helped the medicine go down is the poison of the new century.

So what should you believe?

Probably the most sensible approach is "everything in moderation" but since us humans like to hang our hats onto something tangible, the safest and healthiest place to start is by increasing consumption of fresh produce.
It's all to do with basic nutritional balance which requires vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Plant foods have all that and we've known that for decades. More recently however is the discovery of more complex physiological interaction between fibre, gut bacteria, and their role in diseases such as obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety.

Eating prebiotic soluble fibre like inulin (found in garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus), pectin (plums, apples, quinces, citrus fruits) and raffinose (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts) is crucial to promote diversity of healthy gut bacteria in the right balance. These foods are fuel for the healthy microbiome (A microbiome is the home of trillions of bacteria, pathogens, virus, and fungi which coexist within the human body and are critical to good health).
There is of course place in a healthy diet to include meat, poultry, fish and dairy but not in the quantities most people eat these types of food. A plant-centric diet with some amount of animal foods is without question the healthiest choice.

If we could narrow the message down to 4 succinct points they would be this.

  • Plant foods are extremely nutrient dense.
  • Plant foods contain fuel which essential gut bacteria need to survive and multiply.
  • Plant foods are low in energy (kJ) and help maintain a healthy body weight
  • Plant foods are more sustainable for the long term health of the planet.
    The cultivation of meat for consumption is far more resource-intensive than the cultivation of vegetables. By simply cutting you meat intake by half and replacing it with plant foods you will reduce your individual water footprint by 30 %.

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