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 Why Nutrition is Important: radically sensible eating. Image shows a birds eye view of a collection of vegetables stacked on a wooden table. Carrots, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, beets, and more.

Why Nutrition is Important: Understanding Food as Information

nutrition Nov 17, 2022

The Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), or sometimes referred to as the Western Diet, is woefully lacking in nutrients. In this video, Carolyn Denton explains why nutrition is important and how we can understand food as information for our bodies. Carolyn talks through the importance consuming vitamin- and mineral-rich foods to encourage and support metabolic processes.


Full transcript available below the video.  




  • Nutrients are nourishing substances that provide information to the body about how it will function.
  • The concept of food as information shifts our focus to foods to include rather than foods to exclude.
  • If a nutrient is not present over a period of time dysfunction occurs leading to symptoms, decline and the development of disease.
  • Nutrients or “information” are needed to restore function and thereby reduce risk of chronic disease.
  • This information is more than individual dietary supplements.
  • Food synergy is a perspective stating that more information can be obtained by looking at whole food rather than single nutrients. For example, eating whole orange has been shown to have more beneficial activity in the body than taking a supplement of vitamin C.
  • Describe mutable functions of fruits and vegetables, whole grain, protein and healthy fats.
  • There is a growing area of research focusing on the power of food called Nutrigenomics which  is the study of how different foods may modify the risk of common chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. 
  • Food is pleasure, but food is also a tool for a healthy self.


Full Transcript

Carolyn: [00:00:00] Hi, It's Carolyn Denton back for the next installment of Radically Sensible Eating. The topic for today is food as information. On September 28th, 2022, the White House held a conference on food, nutrition, and health. In an executive summary, the White House stated the following:

"It has been more than 50 years since the first White House conference on food, nutrition, and health and the US has yet to end hunger and is facing an urgent nutrition related health crisis.

The rising prevalence of diet-related diseases such as type two diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and certain cancers. The consequences of food insecurity and diet-related diseases are significant, far reaching and [00:01:00] disproportionately impact historically underserved communities. Yet, food insecurity and diet-related diseases are largely preventable if we prioritize the health of the nation."

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently stated that dietary risk factors for disease and disability now exceed the risks associated with smoking. Dietary risk factors are what we are eating, The standard American diet or the SAD [S. A. D.] diet, sometimes referred to as the Western diet, is woefully lacking in nutrients.

Processed foods are low in fat, but high in sugar. Processed foods contain artificial colorings and flavorings. Processed foods are chemically altered. There are fats and sweeteners that are not real food. So to begin [00:02:00] describing the concept of food as information, I wanna share a definition straight out of a nutrition 1 0 1 textbook.

Nutrients are the nourishing substances in food that are essential for growth development, and everybody understands that. But what I'm mostly interested in is maintenance of body functions. Nutrients are essential, meaning that if a nutrient is not present, aspects of function, and therefore human health decline.

When nutrient intake does not regularly meet the nutrient needs as dictated by cell activity, the metabolic processes slow down or even stop. So nutrients are nourishing substances. Each nutrient has a specific job or function in the body. Nutrients act as co-factors, co enzymes, triggers of other processes. And as the definition states without [00:03:00]nutrients, metabolic processes that depend on those nutrients will slow down or even stop.

Now let's just consider one nutrient; magnesium. Magnesium's function in the body, is as follows, just to name a few: magnesium is needed for healthy bones. We think so much about calcium, but magnesium is equally important. Magnesium is in, uh, anti-spasmodic, so it allows muscles to release. Um, and that's why it's such a great nutrient for the heart, because the heart is a big muscle that's contracting and hopefully releasing, contracting and releasing.

Magnesium promotes healthy blood vessels. Magnesium may lower blood pressure. Magnesium's involved in temperature regulation needed for serotonin production. Involved in nerve transmission, activates energy synthesis, inhibits platelet aggregation, [00:04:00] increases HDL cholesterol, helps with blood sugar and enhances immune system function.

Just to name a few. And if we go back to that definition of nutrients, and if optimal magnesium is not present, then function declines.

Which of these functions will slow down or even stop when magnesium is not at an optimal level? So food is information by providing nutrients. Food contains messages or directions to the systems of the body about how they will behave. Not only influencing single systems, but interconnected, interdependent systems. The concept of food is information then, shifts the focus foods to include, rather than foods to exclude.

In this view, if a nutrient is not present over a period of time, [00:05:00] aspects of dysfunction then give rise to symptoms, decline, and the development of disease. Therefore, dysfunction can be seen as sort of a pre disease state for which the intervention with nutrients or information is needed to restore function and thereby reduce risk of chronic disease.

This information is more than individual dietary supplements, however. There's something called food synergy, and it is a perspective stating that more information can be obtained by looking at a whole food rather than single nutrients. For example, a whole orange has been shown to have more beneficial activity in the body than say, uh, taking a supplement of vitamin C.

The orange contains fiber and oils and bio flavanoids, which are found in that pith, in addition to [00:06:00] vitamin C. The concept of food synergy leads to new thinking in nutrition science, and is influencing nutrition research. Now, in my practice and personally, I have found people really do know what a healthy diet looks like.

But knowing and doing are two different things. I think understanding what a food is doing in the body offers great motivation. So I wanna take a look at fruits, vegetables, whole grain, protein and fat, and their activity in the body. So to begin with, information from fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals to the body.

They are a source of fiber. Fruits and vegetables are major players in the detoxification system. They're major players in the immune system. Fruits and vegetables help the acid alkaline balance [00:07:00] in the body, in fact, most alkaline in our diet comes from vegetables and fruit. Uh, so for instance, for bone health, uh, fruits and vegetables are very important because when alkaline is low in the body, maybe because we're not having enough fruits and vegetables,

when alkaline is low, the body will take alkaline out of the bone in the form of, of calcium. So very important for bone health among others. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients. And a phytonutrient is a compound in plants that really act as the plant's protection. A plant is planted, it, it can't fight or defend itself against disease or blight or radiation from the sun.

And so that's what a phytonutrient is, is the plant's protection. So when we eat the plant, come to find out, it provides the same protection for us. Phytonutrients have been found to [00:08:00] enhance immune response; enhance cellular activity; phytonutrients can alter estrogen metabolism; they possess many, many anti-cancer properties;

phytonutrients repair DNA damage; they aid in the detoxification system; they have anti-inflammatory properties; influence insulin and glucose balance. Fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and turnips; oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, red grapes, red apples, cherries, onions, and garlic, teas, even foods as diverse as chickpeas, asparagus, tomatoes, roaming, lettuce, radishes, celery, beets, and cucumber.

All, for instance, support the liver in its ability to detoxify. The predominant phytonutrient in a food is indicated by the foods color. So dark green foods have [00:09:00] certain phytonutrients, light green, yellow, orange, purple. So it's important that we get plenty of all of those different types of fruits and vegetables in our diet.

Now, moving on to the information we get from whole grain. Whole grain helps to regulate blood sugar. It's a slowly processed carbohydrate. Whole grain is fuel for the good bacteria in the gut. Whole grain contributes to satiety making us feel full longer. Whole grain has been shown to reduce cholesterol and remove toxins by way of soluble fiber.

Whole grain improves digestive system function, and involved in neurotransmitter synthesis for sleep, for instance. When whole grain is refined, 60% of the calcium is lost. 85% of the magnesium we just talked about is lost. 77% potassium, 78% of the [00:10:00] zinc, 75% vitamins, 95% of fats, and 95% of fiber is lost.

There are many, many types of whole grain. Whole rye, wheat, oats, brown rice, wild rice, spelt, amaranth, buckwheat, buckwheat groats, bulgar, kamut, millet, cornmeal, barley, wheat germ, and quinoa.

Information from protein: protein regulates blood sugar and insulin balance. Protein is used to make neurotransmitters such as serotonin for mood and sleep. Protein is a major player in the detoxification system. We cannot clear toxins from our body without protein. Protein is used to make connective tissue for skin and cartilage and bone.

Protein is involved in muscle and energy metabolism. Protein promotes wound healing and aids in [00:11:00] adrenal gland function and thyroid function. Many different types of protein, both animal and plant fish, poultry, meat, eggs, all different kinds of cheeses, all different soy based products. Peanut butter and other nut butters, nuts and seeds, canned and dried beans, protein bars, uh, hemp, pea, and soy protein powders. And there's many, many new plant-based meat substitutes available.

Now let's look at information from fats. Fats provide insulation for the organs. Fats transport fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamin A D E K. Fats are critical for the integrity of cellular membranes.

They protect nerves, brain, liver, and blood and skin. Fats are used to make hormones and fat can improve insulin sensitivity. If a person is fatty acid deficient, some of the symptoms that might [00:12:00] indicate this would be inflammation, lots of inflammatory issues, aching joints, arthritis, inflammatory bowel, like constipation or looser stools, dry mucus membranes,

fatigue, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, cracked nails, depression, dry skin and hair, weakened immunity. PMS in menstrual cycles can be due to a lack of fatty acids and very interestingly hyperactivity in children. There are many sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are the anti-inflammatory fatty acids.

Things like flax seed, salmon, and many other fish and seafood; seeds such as pumpkin seeds; soybeans and tofu. And there are eggs that are enriched with omega-3 fatty acids.

There is growing area of research focusing on the power of food called [00:13:00] Nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is the study of how different foods may interact with specific genes to modify the risk of common chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.

Nutrigenomics also seeks to identify the nutrients in the diet that affect health by altering the expression of genes. The premise underlining Nutrigenomics is that the influence of diet on health is related to an individual's genetic vulnerability, and that consequently, there is a dietary strategy to influence whether a gene is turned on or off.

And while food is pleasure in many ways, food is also a tool for primary prevention. Food is a tool for secondary prevention even once a health event has occurred. Nutrients in food support the body's natural healing capacity.[00:14:00]Nutrition is information for the cells regarding how they will express themselves, how they will behave.

Food is information. So until next time, inform yourself.

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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Consult your doctor or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program. See our terms for more information.

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