Photo : Hilda Glickman
'Just eat a balanced diet' they say. Both ordinary people and health professionals will tell you the same thing. However, I often feel like replying 'What on earth is that?' The statement is practically meaningless. You hear it all the time and it even turns up in professional leaflets, health information sites and books. While it appears to be saying something important, sensible and even profound it is in fact telling us very little. This is because it does not explain what a balanced diet actually is. This means that people interpret it according to their own likes and desires.
So how is this statement interpreted? Many interpret it as having to eat a bit of everything in the supermarket. This might include cakes, biscuits and some junk food. If this is so then what they are eating is not balanced at all. The phrase is silly because it is not really telling us anything at all. It does not tell us what we should include or how much we should eat. How many portions of fish should we have on a balanced diet, how much meat? Can we have crisps and if so how many packets?
The Phrase Tells Us Nothing
Most people would say that a balanced diet includes vegetables or meat, fruit and so on, but do we need sugar on a balanced diet? Do we need biscuits? You can see therefore that if someone tells you this, they probably don't know much about nutrition. You can assume that they know little or they would not make such a simple and obvious statement.
Don't get me wrong I do know what a balanced diet should be. I also know what the best diet should be. However, in order to know this we would need to go and study nutritional tables to see if we are getting enough of everything. My point is that when people tell you to eat a balanced diet you would need to ask them exactly what that is.
'Everything in Moderation'
Again, you hear this statement repeatedly. It implies that you can eat what you like as long as you don't have too much of anything. But how much is 'too much'? What is 'moderation'? How much is a moderate amount? Again, people say this and the listeners make their own interpretation. So if they like chocolate they might say that a bar or two a day would a 'moderate' amount. Another might say that it shouldn't be consumed at all.
Why does it matter?
It matters because people who are ill or suffer from conditions like diabetes are sometimes told to eat sugar 'in moderation'. The problem is that this is often interpreted very liberally indeed. A diabetic person would be better off without any processed, refined sugar at all. There are much better ways of getting carbohydrates.
In logic there are statements called tautologies. They are statements, which appear to be saying something meaningful and are actually true by definition. They say the same thing in two different ways and don't add anything to our knowledge. An example of this is the statement, 'More than enough is too much'. It is telling us nothing new because 'more than enough' means 'too much'.
Some diabetics say that they can have sugar or other foods ' in moderation' and proceed to eat lots of cakes and biscuits having defined 'moderation' rather liberally.
'There are no bad foods just bad diets'.
This is not true. Some people make this statement meaning that we can have some bad food in an otherwise good diet and it is the overall diet that matters. There are bad foods and people should avoid these as much as possible. These are:
· Processed meat containing chemical additives.
· Processed oils and fats, such as margarine. This includes all vegetable oils except extra virgin olive oil, butter and coconut oil. It also includes all foods made from them.
· Refined sugar and products made from it.
· White flour and foods made from it.
Therefore, if someone makes statements like these, you will have a good idea that they know very little about nutrition and are just spouting platitudes. Don't listen!
Hilda Glickman is a university lecturer and author of the new bestselling book, Take Breast Cancer off Your Menu : How to Prevent Breast Cancer or Stop it Returning, New Evidence Reveals Amazing Protector Foods