Frederico Porto was more than a special guest: he started in the organization team of lectures and was later invited to be one of the speakers, where he discussed about nutrition and realized he could contribute a lot with his experience and views. “Fast, but healthy,” Fred explained extremely complex ideas in a simple manner and changed the way we see our everyday food.
NUTRITION: WIDELY DISCUSSED, POORLY STUDIED
Articles and more articles are daily published discussing the power of food. One day, it’s a new diet, another day, a type of food getting the media’s attention. The truth is that worldwide studies on food and nutrition make a big confusion. Unfortunately, most of them show simplistic headlines, such as one article published in 2012 by one of the most important magazines in the world, which made a poor association, saying that “the number of Nobel prizes in a country was directly related to the amount of chocolate consumed.”
Well, food sells and media love to simplify everything. However nutrition means much more than what we see in the headlines around us and we still have a long way ahead to fully understand its importance and scope.
HOW CAN NUTRITION INFLUENCE GENETICS?
Here I mention two examples, two cases in the animal world that show, in a simple way, the direct relation between food and body development.
For instance, in bees; the only difference between a queen bee, which lives 6 years, and a worker bee, which lives 5 weeks, is food. The queen bee feeds on royal jelly, and the workers do nott.
Another example is the Agouti mouse, a type of mouse developed for studies; a researcher found out that, when feeding a mother of this species with folic acid, it generated a brown and small mouse, unlike the typical larger orange mouse.
How can a food, like a nutrient, which is so simple, change the genetic expression of a being? It happens thanks to the highly complex interaction between what we eat and what we are.
OUR GREAT CHALLENGE IS OUR EATING HABITS
Is it possible to change the reactions of our body by changing the food we eat? Frederico’s lecture inspired us to try. To achieve that, it is important to change our mind when talking about food.
We should understand why we eat. We do not eat only to survive. Biology is surely an important point – we depend on food to survive. But factors such as psychological and sociocultural context are also essential. We project our emotional baggage onto our food. We are social beings and should take into account that food is also a source of social pleasure and getting people closer. Likewise, food is an important factor that distinguishes societies and lifestyles, from small urban tribes to large societies and religions.
We should understand how we eat. Our body feels satiated in two ways: when the stomach is full or when we get enough of a certain flavor (for instance, we eat salty food until the salt papillae are satiated, but there is still room for sweet food).
One of the secrets to eat well is related to the concept of mindfulness: we should eat slowly. The maxillary bones should set the pace of eating, and not the fork. We should sense and feel each flavor and enjoy it.
We should understand how much we eat. We eat a lot – today more than ever and more than we need. For reasons of simple comparison, the annual consumption of sugar in Brazil per capita in 1700 was 2kg a year. In 1800, it increased to 9 kg. In 1900, 45 kg. In 2000 a staggering 180 kg. For a caveman to consume the amount of sugar present in one liter of soft drink, he would have to chew three meters of sugarcane! Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that, to improve our health, we should only reduce the amount of food we eat. The calculation is more complex than just adding or subtracting calories, which takes us to the next item.
We should understand what we eat. There are three major sources of energy: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The two first groups contain essential nutrients and substances not naturally found in our body and, for this reason, we should eat to ensure proper body function and a healthier life. However, the great news that will change how you see your bread and butter is the following: there are no essential carbohydrates. Every type of carbohydrate needed is produced in our body and this group should be consumed in much lower amounts than we consume today. In theory, we do not need to seek carbohydrates outside from our body. And what’s most complicated is we live in a society where carbohydrates and sugar are the kings!
READING LABELS IS ANOTHER CHALLENGE
We are used to the culture of calories. The idea looks simple: the lower the content of calories, the lighter the food, right? Wrong! It’s much more complex than that.
Yes, it’s good to read calorie contents. However, remember that calories were created in a laboratory; it’s only a measurement to be used for reference.
The nutritional content is more important than the calorie content. Remember that a cookie may have fewer calories than certain fruits, but fruits have more nutrients and it is these will truly feed us.
The glycemic index is the most important indicator in our modern society.
This index is nothing more than the speed with which food is absorbed by our body. It is responsible for overweight, triglycerides and many diseases in modern society. Why? When a food is absorbed quickly, it produces a lot of insulin, so the level of insulin increases very fast, blocking the cell’s ability to eliminate fat and so it is converted into glucose. With the constant consumption of these foods day after day, at is stored, so we gain weight. The result: a person with much stored fat also but constantly hungry. It’s a true snowball effect.
BE REALISTIC, EAT REAL FOOD
Today, much is said about problems such as gluten and lactose intolerances. These topics have caused controversial debates, since no study has demonstrated an increase in the number of patients with these problems recently or an increase in the number of diagnoses instead. But there is one point of concern: consumption of industrialized foods has increased more as well as the amount of gluten and chemicals in their slices, boxes and cans. This favors the development of both allergies and sensitivity, and who knows what other diseases.
Dr. Frederico Porto does not support a specific diet as the correct diet to be followed for ideal nutrition, but he emphasizes: simple and pure foods, involving fewer industrialization processes and, above all, presenting lower glycemic indices and thus are better for our health. However, reducing foods in the refrigerator and adopting diets that are hard to follow do not work out in our life style. A diet should be convenient. Above all, we need to feel pleasure in food. You should know that pleasure is a hedonic adaptation. That is, the first bite of a chocolate ice cream is the most tasteful. The second and the third are not so tasty. This happens because we soon get used to them, the first impact of pleasure has already gone. The ideal is to eat only this first portion with more attention when it is most delicious. With that in mind, it’s easy not to eat excess, as it’s not so pleasant. This way, you can eat better perhaps who knows, we can start a mature life with the wisdom of age, the cognitive ability of experience, and the energy of a young person in a healthy body. That is the perfect combination.