breaking rules… again

08May13

You’d think that as a professor of nutrition, I’d be totally on board with the 6 servings per day of whole grains, 2.5 c of fruit, 3 c vegetables… etc etc that the USDA recommends that we get. I spend a lot of time reading nutrition and physiology news (I teach my passion) and, while we’re still in experimental phases, I’m beginning to think that, at least for some of us in the population, these rules are misguided.

There’s a new subset of nutrient, a recent discovery, called the phytochemical. You might’ve guessed based on the prefix phyto that they’re found in plants. Given their novelty, there’s not a ton known about their benefits… several of them are touted as anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory (hey, good news for me!). As I see it–this isn’t news to me–plant foods are good for us! And while they say that phytochemicals can come in any color (we’re most familiar with the bright ones, but garlic and onions contain ’em, too), I’m inclined to think that more colored foods contain more of these phytochemicals/phytonutrients.

And that means… maybe we should leave more room for fruits and vegetables in our diet, particularly the colorful ones? And eat a variety of colors? That’s where I’m shifting my balance.

So with a higher ratio of produce, what drops out of my daily calorie intake? I, for one, think Americans eat far too many grains. I’ve seen moderate research indicating that wheat contributes to chronic systemic inflammation, which leads to autoimmune disease. So for now, I’ve cut waaaaayyyy back in this category (not to mention having eliminated gluten). The tricky part about cutting back on grains and cutting down on carbs in general is that of the three macronutrients, carbs are digested the most quickly–they truly provide us with quick energy. And as someone who does a lot of strength and endurance training, I need that. Still, it’s unclear if my lower energy days are a symptom of my disease, or a symptom of diet mismanagement.

In any case, diseased or healthy, all of us can experiment with various eating regimens on our bodies. So far, this has worked out… and I’m confident that I’m consuming all essential nutrients!

(disclaimer: I am not an RD, merely a nutrition professor and nutrition geek.)

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