This semester I am teaching the class Nutrition for Health (Nutr 120) at UNM. On the first day of class I asked the students to write down a nutrition question they want answered this semester. Because they are such great questions, as well as common ones, I’m placing the questions and answers here as well. My class is a variety of students: many first year freshmen, some seniors graduating in December (no doubt to boost their GPA) and several in-between; some are living at home, some in the residence center (dorms), others live on their own and others are parents themselves.
Q: What is the most important part about nutrition?
I was highly offended by this question, and let the class know! How dare I be asked to prioritize my profession into what is the most important? All of it is important!
Nutrition covers so much from macronutrient distribution (i.e., how many carbs, fat, and protein should you have) to problems with digestion (GI disorders), healthy cooking to healthy food choices, pediatric nutrition and elderly nutrition, sports nutrition and diabetes, heart disease, and bone health and much more.
I reminded that class of the three basics that their parents were required to give them: clothing, shelter and FOOD. Food takes up every part of our life. It is one of the first things we demand upon birth, it stresses our parents when we are 2 years old, and it is part of our social life throughout lifetime. Food is not only essential to live, but part of society.
Ah, but I did my best to answer the question. I narrowed it down to three points. The three most important parts of nutrition (in my opinion) are:
- Calories count – too many can lead to being overweight or obese. Balance your calorie needs with calories expended.
- Plant based diet – whether one chooses to be a vegetarian or not, the basis if every diet needs to be fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The research repeatedly comes back to that.
- Lifelong habits – while it is never too late to start (almost), we need to have the habits if a healthy diet and daily exercise start as children, go through the teen years into early adulthood and throughout adulthood into older adulthood. That is what the research is telling us.
So, whether you are one of my colleagues, a RD-to-be, a fellow health professional, or a member of the public, what is your opinion of what the most important part of nutrition is?