Back To Basics
Fats, sugar and salt – are they good for you, or not?
Go Vita has been fortunate to have nutritionist, best-selling author and international speaker Cyndi O’Meara explain why we need to go back to basics.
There are seven main groups of nutrients, or macronutrients - fats, carbohydrates, fibre, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Cyndi says "With the exception of water, I have seen each of these macronutrients challenged - demonised, even - since I started studying nutrition in 1980. First it was fat, then sugar, then salt, and now animal protein is in the crossfire. But it’s not all bad."
The evolution of food
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I watched my mum make all our food from scratch. With supplies from a very basic pantry, we ate dinner and dessert every night.
Groceries were bought locally from the butcher and green grocer, milk and cream were delivered by the local dairy and flour, sugar, salt, spices, cocoa, nuts, and seeds came from the local general store. There were no large supermarkets, and most people had a small vegetable garden and a few fruit trees in their backyard.
There were no dietary guidelines back then, either – instinct and culture drove food consumption. The food we ate did not contain additives, flavours, colours, acidity regulators, synthetic biology products, bioengineered products, or GMOs; the food was real and there was very little packaging or rubbish to throw away. No glyphosate was sprayed on food (although other chemicals may have been present).
As a community we had robust health and there was very little obesity and few food allergies or sensitivities. Coeliac disease was rare and, for the most part, people had good gut health.
Along with exercise, sleep and connecting with nature, the food we eat plays a huge part in our overall health and mental wellbeing.
However, chemicals used in agriculture and in our food, along with food additives and preservatives, are contributing to health issues. For instance, sugar itself can be listed in over 50 ways on an ingredient panel - and that doesn’t include either natural or artificial sweeteners!
Good health relies on good food. For over 40 years, I have researched food ingredients and food processing in order to understand what people are really digesting, and how this affects the human microbiome and gut health. Foods in their natural form - including the macronutrients sugar, salt, fats and carbohydrates - are all important to the human body. Preparing food from its most natural form is how our ancestors survived; they also ate seasonally, which meant not all foods were available year-round in endless quantities.
When it comes to your health, some habits can be hard to change, but many only require a simple swap. For example, choose organic produce where possible. Swap white refined sugar for organic rapadura sugar, and refined salt for seaweed salt. These nutrient-dense products are an investment in your health, plus you will use less of them in recipes because they are rich in flavour.
Eating naturally-formed macronutrients will benefit your health, rewarding you with energy, fewer cravings and more meal satisfaction.
An unhealthy lifestyle is merely a series of unhealthy habits. You can change these step by step.
Chocolate itself is not a bad food - but eat only the best made from the finest ingredients.
Eat nature’s fats in moderation. Eggs, nuts, seeds, cold-pressed oils, fish and meats.
Always read the label of any packaged food, particularly the ingredients. If you don’t recognise a word, chances are it’s made in a chemical laboratory, not grown on a farm.
Cyndi O’Meara is a nutritionist, best-selling author and film maker, known for What’s with Wheat? (2016). She is also an international and TEDx speaker and founder of Changing Habits.