The Nutrition Conundrum

“We are what we eat”, is a saying we have all heard, probably told ourselves or others the odd time or two over the years.

We have a plethora of diets in the marketplace. I say marketplace because generally someone is making money out of the various diets. Over the last month or so I have been astounded at the COMPLETE opposites out there.

I watched a couple of videos of lectures where it was “proven” (?) we are herbivores. We should never eat meat.

Then I have read and watched other qualified people swear we are carnivores, just live on meat.

Both sides all very convincing presentations, I have to say, in isolation.

We have LCHF (low carb, healthy fat), Atkin’s, Dukan, Paleo – the list goes on. Although not my usual reference material, Wikipedia does have a LONG list of diets.

It is 2018 – you’d think by now we’d have a consensus on what we should be eating! We’ve been to the Moon, we can do heart/lung transplants, but we can’t decide what to eat?

Then I came across this article, “The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right“. The opening paragraph echoed my thoughts beautifully.

It’s beyond strange that so many humans are clueless about how they should feed themselves. Every wild species on the planet knows how to do it; presumably ours did, too, before our oversized brains found new ways to complicate things. Now, we’re the only species that can be baffled about the “right” way to eat.

Well, we don’t see lions or sheep or elephants debating about what to eat, do we?

Time recently published “There’s No Such Thing as a Single ‘Best’ Diet“, a roundup of recent findings.

The estimated 45 million Americans who embark on one of these eating plans each year often do so to lose weight — a highly personal process that can lead to various results. One person finds success cutting carbs. Another swears by going vegan. A third fills up on healthy fats. Each one believes she’s they’ve found the elusive secret to weight loss.

An ever-growing body of evidence, however, suggests there’s no such thing as a single “best” diet — and that nutrition is a whole lot simpler than our fascination with fads would suggest.

The edit above is mine – removing gendered pronoun! Basically, the core of a lot of the diets is the same – the proponents tinker around the edges and give it a new, attractive, (dare we suggest profitable?) name.

Yes, too much sugar is bad for our health – here’s what the science says” is the final article in a very good series about sugar from The Conversation.

The World Health Organisation recommends limiting “free sugars” to less than 10% of our total energy intake. This equates to around 12 teaspoons a day for an average adult.

But more than half of Australian adults exceed this limit, often without knowing. “Free sugars” don’t just come from us sweetening coffees and teas or home-cooked dinners; they are added by manufacturers during processing.

It’s often a surprise to learn just how many teaspoons of sugar are added to popular foods and drinks: (My note: check out the graphic – scary stuff).

I’m not even going to address the current war of words about the sugar lobby in the old days putting all the blame on fat, or the debate about the cereal lobby essentially “controlling” the establishment of government dietary guidelines. Google it, there is plenty of content relating to those debates online.

There is no doubting there is money being made in trying to encourage people to eat a specific way. One particular high profile diet promoter appeared in my Twitter feed yesterday, complaining that a criticism of his diet “… threatens my business model“. Not a skerrick of concern expressed about client HEALTH, or actually addressing the criticism in any constructive manner. Nope, “business model”, I.E. MONEY, was the expressed concern. Interestingly both tweets were deleted shortly after: very disappointing as I wanted a screen grab!

As I followed that black line up and down the pool yesterday, I tried to put myself back in the earliest days of human existence. I didn’t want to be influenced by the massive amounts of “EAT THIS WAY” media reports and yes, I know the Australian Dietary Guidelines inside out. I wanted a blank slate.

I live in a cave, which my little wandering band of humans was lucky enough to find. Do I have hunting weapons yet? Painting my mental picture, spears appeared leaning against the front door rock. Yes, we had a front door rock! How do you think we kept the bears out at night? Are we pre or post fire? I couldn’t remember, while swimming, if spears came before or after fire in the history of mankind’s development. If I’m pre-fire, that means raw meat, something I’m not a great fan of. Oh, well.

Looking out of my cave, what do I think I am likely to see that I can EASILY feed on? Fruit probably (seasonal of course). Green, leafy plants definitely. Think wild spinach and silverbeet type plants.

BUGS! Oh, yes, plenty of bugs! “To feed two billion more people, the world needs a bug diet“. Mind you, that’s if there are any bugs left – humans dislike bugs, we spend a lot of time, money and energy trying to eradicate bugs. Cockroach or centipede for dinner, dear? Of course, there is always “Soylent Green” for the future. If you haven’t seen that movie, get it. No spoilers here.

Meat would actually have been quite hard for my family to get; probably highly prized. We are a small band, including women and children. Wild animals are faster than our little legs, moving in large herds. They are very good at dodging our spears too. Fish aren’t much easier to get and birds? OMG, those darn things FLY! Roast wild turkey is not on the menu this week! Oh, I forget – have I got fire yet? Maybe not roast.


I have read research showing ancient societies ate a lot of meat but that little evidence of meat eating was found in the analysed remains of different peoples in a different location. Could this be a question of timing? Herds of animals move – maybe these second group of people had no access to meat for a time before their untimely demise? Was it an area not well populated by animals? Lots of questions.

So what do I think I am eating in my cave days? ANYTHING I can get my hands on that keeps me alive! There is no bread, ice-cream or pastry. I am probably gathering nuts and grains when in season. Just because we wouldn’t eat raw grains NOW doesn’t mean we didn’t then. Maybe we soaked them to soften them, I have no idea. But if I am hungry and there is a patch of grains ripening, I’m likely going to eat them.

Yes, if I can get meat or fish or birds, you bet I’m going to eat meat.

What about food storage? Squirrels store nuts, why would humans not store nuts. Depending on location, perhaps fruits could be sun dried or dehydrated for storage.

I’m an omnivore. I’m a human. I eat whatever I can get my hands on to stay alive.

The National Geographic has a lengthy but interesting article about research into the evolution of the human diet, “The Evolution of Diet“.

These examples suggest a twist on “You are what you eat.” More accurately, you are what your ancestors ate. There is tremendous variation in what foods humans can thrive on, depending on genetic inheritance. Traditional diets today include the vegetarian regimen of India’s Jains, the meat-intensive fare of Inuit, and the fish-heavy diet of Malaysia’s Bajau people. The Nochmani of the Nicobar Islands off the coast of India get by on protein from insects. “What makes us human is our ability to find a meal in virtually any environment,” says the Tsimane study co-leader Leonard.

Scientists slam the caveman diet – and say early humans just ate whatever they could to survive and reproduce” is another article highlighting the hit and miss nature of stone age eating.

It said hunter-gatherers in cold northern climes would have had an almost exclusive animal-derived diet but those living near the equator would have eaten more plants and fruits.

While early hominids were not great hunters, and their teeth was not great for exploiting many specific categories of plant food, they were most likely dietary ‘jacks-of-all-trades.’

That article points out we’ve changed the nutritional value of the plants and fruits we do eat based on what we deem is “desirable” rather than nutritious.

Yet modern strawberries have been selected to be large and sweet adding: ‘The foods that we’re eating today, even in the case of fruits and vegetables, have been selected for desirable properties and would differ from what our ancestors were eating.’

The other obvious variable is VARIETY (see what I did there?). Due to seasonality and mobility I suggest the variety in our diet would have been far greater than it is now. We ate what was available, when it was available, to stay alive and reproduce. Sure, today we still have some produce seasonality, but generally speaking we can go to the local supermarket and get the same things week in and week out.


So where does all that leave you and I, us sufferers of various medical conditions? Are we what we ate? Maybe partly. What should we eat now that we are sick, trying to get well and/or manage our conditions?

There are medical diets. If you are on one, stay on it.

If you are like me and have calorie challenges as I describe in “Lighten Up to Limber Up“, we have to get the best value nutrition within our NET calorie allowance (given our reduced fuel burn rate). Remember to fuel your exercise, so it is NET calories as described in that article.

I’m not telling you what to eat. I am asking you to THINK about what you are eating. Are you eating what you know you should be eating, or are you eating quick, easy, sweet, fatty, processed foods with little nutritional value? Are you getting adequate iron, protein and other nutrients you need?

Give your body what it needs to help fight whatever condition it is you are fighting. Bugs are optional menu items at this time.

PS: Yes, I enjoyed the pancakes VERY much!

If you need guidance with exercise or nutrition to help you manage your conditions, please Contact me.

Additional References:

Carbohydrates & Cardiovascular disease – by Dr Zoë Harcombe, awarded a Ph.D. in public health nutrition in 2016.

Published by

Robyn Dunphy

I offer exercise guidance to those with chronic medical conditions where exercise is beneficial.

10 thoughts on “The Nutrition Conundrum

  1. I must eat gluten free. However I have found the LCHF to be the best for me. I cook from scratch…we have probably two meals a day, breakfast/brunch then dinner. No pasta, no rice. Lots and lots of vegetables with a side of meat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pretty much what I do, although I’m not gluten free (evidenced by the pancakes 🤣). I try to ensure I get a good variety. Meat, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts. I don’t like legumes, even though I know I should! Rarely eat rice, pasta, potatoes or bread, but I do on occasion. I eat 3 meals a day as meds must be taken with food, although on a holiday sleep-in day maybe just two.

      I do eat natural muesli because it is quick and easy, but I’m fussy about the fat and sugar contents.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Legumes don’t like me so I stay away from them 🙂 Love pancakes. My housemate makes them gluten free so yummy. with gluten free (home made) ice-cream and berries.oh and maple syrup mmmmmmmm

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love pancakes. I pretty much do not eat them, but darn they are good. I love fruit, but I don’t eat that much either, vegetables you ask yep I love those as well, my doctors say those are OK. I love beef, pork, chicken and mutton, my doctors tell me to limit those as well. In the end, I just eat popcorn.

    No I don’t, I am teasing.

    I am a person with diabetes T1, and RA,so I limit carbs, fat and and some proteins. But it is not all bad, I can have artificially sweetened water. Oh and broccoli. hey a man has to have some fun sometimes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But what about brussel sprouts? Just as a change from the broccoli? As diabetic you fall into the medical diet category. As an RA patient, you might be interested in the protein findings article on my Science Stuff page. I’ve found that very helpful.

      Nice to meet you!


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