Saturday, October 1, 2022

Why a narrative of a healthy diet is as valid as the science supporting it

Written by Dandayi Mohan, CNN

Wholesome, healthy food is now simply food.

As a former food editor at ‘WSJ’ Magazine, it was part of my job to cross-check the claim and ensure I had confirmation that the claim was true. That, in turn, was just one small part of the larger task of journalism. Every piece had to be fact-checked and fact-checked, or else it was no longer news.

With health, that level of checking goes to another level. If something claims to be good for you, yet it is often difficult to pin down what is really going on in the ingredients list, or whether or not the claims are based on science, what are you to make of it? It’s an ethical problem, plus a data-driven one.

We now have a boatload of available information — via foods, supplements, medical tests, and the internet — but does that mean we can trust all of it? In some cases, no. But that doesn’t mean we should just throw up our hands and start spending our hard-earned money on processed food that’s bad for us.

1 / 16 Credit: A natural and tasty source of vitamin D, it is important to eat foods rich in the hormone. Credit: Shutterstock

In order to handle this conundrum, journalistic practices need to evolve. When we were researching the book, we decided to look at a different way of communicating and maintaining the trust that is so important in any health debate.

By using biochemists to guide us through the science behind some of our nutritional claims, we made it easier for us to communicate and the reader to understand. By giving the reader a story to follow, we created engagement and support for the claims we were making. The result was a seemingly solid medical argument.

Credit: Laura Lam, courtesy Laura Lam Nutrition

While the process of nutrition research sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, the science is actually incredibly sound and is a lot closer to science fiction than you’d think. Aspiring journalists: beware. No matter how crazy the question, you better follow the right steps.

First, decide what is important to you. It could be a simple step such as whether you want to believe in “flavored” salts. Or, it could be scientific proof that gluten is bad for you. Or, it could be a strong belief that eating clean is good for you. Is it all semantics? Well, that’s why it’s important to know your company’s founding values.

If you do decide to piece things together yourself, do so with a basic understanding of how the system works. For example, if you are investigating the common dietary waste in the U.S., do you look at calories or proteins?

A main goal of our book was to identify and explain the different ingredients that have been included in a healthy diet — especially to those who eat meals frequently and tend to skip portions of foods. This can be daunting, so we asked Dietician Patricia Sargent of GoodFood is So Good for an explanation of both, and the values behind each.

Lifestyle as medicine: Health-based choices have become a focus for many

Credit: GoodFood so Good Lifestyle

Sargent has more than 15 years of experience in health, nutrition and nutrition education. She has a master’s degree in Nutritionology and specializes in cutting-edge nutrition research with a special focus on food toxicology. In addition to consulting companies such as D and A, Sargent has appeared regularly on television and has appeared in articles throughout print media in the US.

Sargent shares her expertise for decoding the nature of ingredients by doing “Food Pedia” Q&As. By asking questions to decipher information on food labels and labels for ingredients used in plant-based diets, Sargent describes her mission as creating a better informed knowledge-base on the healthy benefits of natural, plant-based diets.

As readers of this book will attest, authors Diana Nagy, Laura Lam and Diana Lam have all had to overcome some hurdles to work through the science of certain food categories — notably gluten. The research they present is insightful and a testament to the extent of their professional and personal dedication to understanding this issue.

Other titles on nutrition and food would do well to study the undertaking. When dealing with medicine and health matters, the more active you are in determining what is right for you, the better.

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