I’ve read some great posts recently that I could really relate to about diet and exercise. About running and overcomplicating something that should be simple and pleasurable.
Thinking about these separate issues, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of cross-over. Because, like running, nutrition is an area which is made a lot more confusing than it should be.
For me, the one thing that really gets my goat is the term ‘natural’ where diet and nutrition are concerned. Whether it’s the latest brand of cereal bar or yoghurt touted as being all-wholesome, virtuous and natural. It just really winds me up.
I suppose I feel the word natural has been misappropriated and is just another marketing buzzword to justify premium pricing. A veneer to hide the fact that these foods are, well, far from healthy. Comparing the nutritional value of a so-called natural energy bar recently, it was pretty similar to a confectionary bar. But guess which one cost nearly five times as much as the other.
It’s also the fact that hand in hand with the natural eating rhetoric is the message that all things chemical or artificial are bad. Whether it’s nitrates, artificial sweetners or additives to prolong the life of products. I’m not going to wade into this area, as it’s something that a thesis could be written on. But the words chemical and artificial have become dirty words. They’ve become synonymous with processed and junk food at best, with cancer-causing substances at worst.
Chemicals aren’t intrinsically bad because essentially, everything’s a chemical. Whether it’s those that are created naturally and shaped by evolution or those made in a laboratory by the hand of a human (or machine). Once you get down to a molecular or atomic level, it doesn’t really matter who the creator was. Molecules are molecules. Atoms are atoms. There are chemicals that are naturally occurring in nature that can kill you – asbestos, snake venom, aflatoxin. And on the other hand, artificially made substances such as pharmaceuticals are pretty much vital for the survival of the human race. Modern medicine is far from natural and is built on chemicals and artificial substances.
Apologies if I’m getting side-tracked or being boring. I don’t mean to alienate anyone or wade into a subject when I’m not qualified to do so. I’m not a food scientist or nutritionist and this post is only intended to skim the surface of a wide range of complex issues. I don’t know if it’s the ‘bad science’ angle that frustrates me; as someone with a science degree I’m passionate about evidence-based research and this seems to be lacking in the claims made about these natural products being superior. It could be the fact that it’s the same companies that made un-nutritious food so cheap and ubiquitous in the first place and are now putting forward a cure.
As a runner and someone that’s always striving (but not necessarily succeeding) to eat healthily, I love discovering new recipes to keep my diet varied and fuel my body. But my healthy, my natural, is using fresh ingredients and preparing meals from scratch. Blending up some fruit to make a smoothie. Because, like running, diet doesn’t need to be made expensive or complicated either.