Your Healthy is not My Healthy

Jessica Penner, RDNutritionLeave a Comment

Working in the nutrition field, people often ask me whether this food or that food is healthy.  Someone will say… “I don’t understand why I get sick all the time…. I eat so healthy.”

If someone asked you whether carrots are good for you, what would you answer? Most people would say yes, it is a healthy choice.

What if you knew someone who ate ONLY  carrots? Would you still think that this was a healthy choice?

It’s an extreme example, but healthy is a relative term. If you only ate carrots, you’d get a ton of vitamin A but you’d be severely lacking in calcium and other essential nutrients.

A healthy diet for you may not be a healthy diet for me.  I tend to become iron deficient, which makes me lethargic and sleepy.  Since the most absorbable sources of iron are from animals, a thick juicy steak is a healthy choice for me.  But for someone with a history of colon cancer in their family, eating a lot of meat is probably a bad idea: diets bordering on carnivorism are a major risk factor for this type of cancer.

Take milk as another example. Toddlers and young children are growing at such a rapid rate that their bodies need a lot of calories. Homogenized milk is a great way to boost caloric intake for children, whereas low-fat milk is a better choice for an adult who is more sedentary. So if you ask me whether low-fat or full-fat dairy products are healthier I’ll probably answer with “it depends”.

I’m sure I frustrate a lot of people who just want a straight answer to their simple question. “Should I buy  A or B? “  Nutrition is complex and individualized. In fact, the answer to “what should you be eating?’ may actually lie in your genes. Nutrigenetics is a field of study that looks at the interaction of genes and food. Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed laboratory tests that can analyze your DNA. The results can tell you whether your genetic makeup is at a higher risk for certain nutritional deficiencies or diseases. Isn’t that so cool and futuristic? I am thrilled that this technology exists.

Anyhow, I’ve shared a little about what my body needs at this point in life.  I’m curious; what does healthy look like for you?

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