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The Great Nutrition Schism

Posted by Emily Beers on


By: Emily Beers

 

“One glass of red wine a night is good for you.”

This is what my mom always told me as she sipped her one glass of red wine before bed. I believed her. She didn’t just make that line up. She heard on the radio that, “They said red wine is healthy.”

But as I grew a bit older, I tried to start thinking for myself. But it became harder to know what to believe, as I got confused about the contrasting messages “They” were putting out into the world.

There are advocates and critics for every morsel of food on the planet. Bananas are a great source of potassium. Bananas are too high on the glycemic index. Coffee is a great antioxidant. Coffee is a carcinogen.

I have a handful of intelligent, educated friends. People who believe in their nutritional theories. Wholeheartedly.

I have a friend who is a Registered Dietician and promotes Canada’s Food Guide, which tells us sandwiches and pasta are great energy sources. I have a friend who drinks only rainwater, and a friend who owns a raw food restaurant. I have a vegan friend who believes a whey-gluten-corn dog is “a great protein blast.” And Lucas Parker sits around pounding quarter pounders from McDonald’s.

The vegan swears it’s the healthiest way to eat, and he has science to prove it. The vegetarian and the carnivore point to contrasting scientific evidence. And I even have a friend who showed me the science that shows that eating just one meal a day is the optimal way to live. He has lost a lot of weight eating this way in the last year, and he says his energy levels have skyrocketed.

I personally live in the CrossFit world, where people promote the Paleo Diet. Pretty simple; they tell me to eat like the cavemen ate. It's very different than the worlds I used to live in. As a gymnast, calories were the devil, and simply not eating was encouraged. And as a rower, we were told to carb load.

Today, I live in a world where people are obsessed with what they call “clean eating.” The newest fad is to get a food sensitivities test. The story always looks the same. My food sensitivities friend of the hour leaves the naturopath’s office with a discouraged look on her face. She holds up her card that boasts her precious results.

“What are you allergic to?” I ask.

“Everything,” she says.

I look at the card. She wasn’t kidding. It even tells her she should lay off the spinach and broccoli.

“You’re allergic to eggs? Do you feel physically bad when you eat eggs?” I ask.

“No, but I’m apparently sensitive to them.”

So there I am on a girls’ weekend in Whistler with six other girls; I'm at the table with a dozen scrambled eggs in front of me and I'm the only one willing to risk my life and dive in.

It’s actually mind boggling to think about how split we are on basic nutrition. There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. That’s about all we can agree upon.

How much of each macronutrient should we eat? We have no idea. Or at least, thoughts diverge so prolifically on this question that there isn’t a single prevailing opinion.

It’s as if the field of psychology were split on the most basic element of their field: the brain.

I can just picture the debate:

“We believe thinking happens in the brain,” says Psychology school of thought number one.

“We disagree. We believe thinking happens in the elbow…”.

Don’t laugh. That’s where we’re at when it comes to nutrition.

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