"The effect of individual nutrients was increasingly proving to be an inadequate explanation of the relationship between diet and health. Several studies show, for example, that protection against heart disease and certain types of cancer gained by consumption of substantial amounts of fruits or vegetables is not repeated with interventions based on medicines or supplements that contain such individual nutrients found in those foods. These studies indicate that the beneficial effects are from the food itself, and from the combinations of nutrients and other chemical compounds that are part of the food’s matrix, more so than from individual nutrients."This can be read in Brazil's new Dietary Guidelines (in English and in Portuguese) . The guidelines are a big rebuttal of the nutritionism that to a large extent is dominating discussions about food and diets. The Guidelines state that healthy diets comes from socially and environmentally sustainable food systems. The contain the following ten key recommendations.
The guidelines include ten steps to healthy diets:
- Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet
- Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations
- Limit consumption of processed foods
- Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products
- Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company
- Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods
- Develop, exercise and share culinary skills
- Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life
- Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals
- Be wary of food advertising and marketing
and further:"The nutritional needs of the body can already be reduced to chemically known substances that can be synthesized or extracted from natural products”, wrote Nevin S. Scrimshaw, a leading food scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize 1991. An important effect of the role that science and politics played in nutrition was that common people could no longer be entrusted to decide for themselves what they should eat. False needs expressed ignorance and should be cured by proper instructions from scientists. We have since been raised not to rely on taste or pleasure to determine what to eat, but to defer our selection of food to experts. I believe this view is mistaken.
Brazil shows the way ahead.Nutritionism has suited the food industry well. After all, the strength of the food industry is to mix standard components and create a constant flow of new products. ‘Now with omega-3’ or ‘more iron/antioxidants’, or whatever is temporarily in fashion are good marketing pitches. Vitamins, fiber, minerals and lately special proteins for body builders are all ingredients that can be mixed in never-ending combinations and marketed with nutritional arguments – and be marked up a notch compared to the same product without these extras. Dieting and nutritionism create their own industry, so the same companies that first earned money from making people fat, can earn even more from making them slim again. Americans spend between US$40 billion and US$100 billion on dieting. ‘Meal replacement’ shakes and protein bars are sold to those who have ingested too much Coke and too many French fries. In 2008 alone, Nestlé made changes to more than 6,000 products to cater for nutritional issues, real or perceived.