The Science of Food, Part One

By English: United States Department of Agriculture Español: Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos (MyPlate Graphic Resources (converted from PDF)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By: United States Department of Agriculture (MyPlate Graphic Resources (converted from PDF)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As a self-proclaimed science enthusiast, I feel obligated to cover more than just space. After all, I’m not a NASA lackey (Hey NASA, if you read this, I’d love a job as a science communicator). So to expand my coverage, I thought I’d discuss another topic near and dear to me: food.

People have to eat, that’s a given. But with so many diets out there, who knows what to listen to any more. Just look at some diet trends in the last year alone. Then there are the “trends to avoid,” from Huffington Post. And of course, the huge collection of cooking books available the public. Oh, and did you catch that Oprah has joined Weight Watchers?

It’s not surprising that people have a lot of anxiety surrounding food and diet. I’m one of them. The idea that I might be doing something wrong—that I might be judged for what I eat—paralyzes me in anxiety.

Not only do I have a lot of anxiety, I also have terrible headaches almost daily. So, for a month I went off sugar. There was no benefit to this. I felt lethargic and I couldn’t keep it up. I stopped that crazy diet and tried giving up caffeine. Again, no noticeable benefits. I gave that up, too, and resumed my normal diet of coffee, sugar and bacon.

What did I learn from those two months of fad diets? Well, besides not listening to BuzzFeed videos? I learned to trust myself. I need to trust the science and listen to my body.

Healthy eating isn’t about following arbitrary rules set down from Kim Kardashian. It’s about listening to your body’s signals and understanding what your body needs to survive. This is about basic biology. It’s also about getting in touch with your body.

It’s easy to get so caught up in trying to eat “right” that we stop eating in a way that’s right for us– Nia Shanks

The science is simple: human life require just over 20 nutrients to stay in good working condition including protein, carbohydrates, potassium and sodium. Obviously people have specifics needs based on dietary restrictions and conditions, but it looks simple to me: eat a balanced diet.

Funny. Isn’t that what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been telling us for years? When I was younger we learned the pyramid. Now the USDA has ChooseMyPlate.gov. But the premise is the same: a balanced diet is a healthy diet.


(Look! I can get through a whole post without talking about space news.)

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