Updated: Jan 27, 2019
"Can you please give us a more medical/scientific approach to nutrition. IMO, our body is a chemical reactor, and needs the appropriate intake of carbs, proteins, fats, fruits and vegs. How does this all interact? God only knows..." ~ A CF'er
I would start by asking you why you need to know this. Of course, you'll say "because I want to use it to make better food choices," but I would argue that it isn't necessary. Do you know how the human respiratory system works? And if you were to gain a better understanding of it, would it help you to breathe better? The natural world is replete with systems that most of us do not truly understand, and yet we make use of those systems every day.
How much do you really need to know about nutrition?
Food is an unfathomably complex subject - the best food scientists in the world don't really understand it. If PhD'd peeps who spend their whole lives trying to decode what lurks within our favourite fruits and vegetables can't find any meaningful consensus, what hope do you have? In the last few decades alone, we used science to take aim at protein, carbs, fats, bad fats, salt and sugar. There ain't much left to put between the crosshairs - and the source of these inconsistencies is a fundamental ignorance of the labyrinth which is food.
In his outstanding tome “In Defense of Food,” Michael Pollen lists the anti oxidants present in a leaf of thyme. Get a load of this garbage:
alanine, anethole essential oil, apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, camphene, carvacrol, chlorogenic acid, chrysoeriol, derulic acid, eriodictyol, eugenol, 4-terpinol, gallic acid, gamma-terpenine, isichlorogenic acid, isoeugenol, isothymonin, kaemferol, labiatic acid, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, luteolin, methionine, myrcene, myristic acid, naringenin, rosmarinic acid, selenium, tannin, thymol, tryptophan, ursolic acid and vanillic acid.
And you'd probably put that thyme with a dozen more ingredients, each comprised of their own shopping list of unpronounceables. Don't forget the acids and hormones from the stomach. What compounds will result? How many millions of nutrient combinations are produced when you cook a meal?
Things can get pretty complicated, pretty quick.
Why is a more medical/scientific approach to nutrition necessary?
If your answer is “to get in shape and fight disease,” consider the fact that there was a lot less diabetes, obesity etc. BEFORE we decided to combine food and science.
Science isn't the solution... it's part of the problem. Are cookies good for you? Not a trick question, and one that most people will get right. But what if I write on the packaging: “High protein cookies, great for lean muscle. Low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol, sugar free”? Voila. Junk food alchemy. Now it’s a discussion. What gave me license to rebrand those cookies? Science. Science is an incredible force for good in this world, but it's been highjacked by food companies and used as a tool to convince us that processed foods are, in fact, healthy. Which is why there are upward slopey lines when you look at the rate of scientific study, and increased incidence of disease.
Aside from taking a dump, food is perhaps the most intuitive, natural act in the entire known world. There are 8.3 million species on this planet. 8,299,999 eat just fine without science. A dung beetle - an animal whose entire lifecycle involves rolling round in turd - he gets it. Why are we such bloody idiots? We sent a man to space. We split the atom. We can do a real time video call with someone in on the other side of the world via a piece of glass a few mm thick and yet we can't figure out what to eat.
What you need to know about nutrition...
If you want to understand food, keep it simple stupid.
1) Eat real, whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible. 2) Don't stuff your face
3) Allow greenery to dominate your dinner plate.
With these 3 rules, faithfully followed, you'll never need to worry about food again.