Food plays a role in shaping our physical health- sure, but food is also engrained in our culture- think of celebratory birthday cakes, Christmas lunch or other religious celebrations, market trips, friend’s BBQ and the chats around Grandma’s kitchen bench! We don’t just eat food for the sake of nutrients, we eat foods for stacks of reasons! Consuming food for reasons beyond the nutrients they provide can also form part of a really healthy diet and foster a great relationship with food.
Despite this, for decades, we have been told that foods are either good or bad based on the nutrients they provide. When we put moral judgements on food we cloud our innate feelings towards them including those of hunger, satiety and fullness. As we are letting external cues dictate what we can and can’t eat. It’s warping our true internal senses!
We don’t deny the role for therapeutic diets implemented by health care professionals in cases of specific diagnosed medical conditions eg: avoid peanuts if you have an allergy and skip the gluten if you have coeliac disease. Or for conditions like heart disease, we would still absolutely advocate for medical nutrition therapy (aka nutrition care that helps to support the underlying disease). However we would always practice with a weight-neutral approach that isn’t rooted in diet culture. There is absolutely still diet-disease relationships, no doubt.
In this case specifically, people who consume a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet (aka a diet higher in fats from extra virgin olive oil, fruits/vegetable, nuts/seeds/legumes, and a moderate amount of breads/pastas, fish/meat) have lower levels of heart disease. This diet however is very aligned with many health and nutrition guidelines across the globe that we would in essence still recommend to all people, not just those with heart disease.
All foods provide some form of nutrition so can why can’t we start to reframe the way we refer to them! If we can put a stop to ‘good & bad’ labels and try to reframe our thinking into including more variety and in abundance plus shifting our focus on the enjoyment, flexibility and satisfaction that food brings rather than the nutrients within the food itself. Heck, we all might just improve our relationship with food…who’d a thunk it?