Whether you are new to exploring nutrition and experimenting with diets or have been steeped in the contradictory advice given by practitioners in the field. Every single person relates to food and nutrition on a daily basis. While some view food merely as a fuel to keep them pushing on with a hectic schedule, others use food to balance complex biological systems. When defining food and further more nutrition it often is clouded with personal subjective ideas and opinions.
Let us look at the exact definitions of both food and nutrition given by the Oxford Dictionary.
Food: “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth”.
Nutrition: “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth”.
Both definitions reiterate one another but tell you absolutely nothing about what food and nutrition actually are. These round about definitions and reductionist thinking ultimately shroud nutrition in mystery. Walking into any beginning nutrition class you will almost immediately be thrown into a world of calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, and dietary recommendations passed down by the FDA. The problem with only looking at food through the lens of reductionist ideas such as calories is that it provides you with zero contextual information. It would be like looking at temperature only in degrees Fahrenheit and thinking that was the sole means to measure temperature. Only to realize temperature can be measured in Celsius or Kelvin. The way you measure temperature does very little to tell you about the actual weather outside. Just as calories do very little to inform you about the food that is being metabolized inside your body.
In order to have context put back into food and nutrition we must redefine the definitions of both. The food that we eat can be further explained by the kingdoms of life it originates from. The 5 kingdoms that we eat are Animal, Plant, Fungi, Bacteria, and Protist. Of those 5 kingdoms different species evolve and we as humans eat parts of those species. In order for those 5 kingdoms to exist they must gain nutrition from basic elements and one another. The basic elements can be defined as fire, water, wood, metal, and earth these are what make the complex ecology on our planet. Therefore our new food definition is
Food: “parts of species that are contained within the five kingdoms of life.” our new definition of nutrition is
Nutrition: “complex ecology coming together as a manifestation of objects we can integrate into our biology”.
These new definitions give the context needed for the actual understanding of what food and nutrition is. Nutrition surpasses food, just as plants, we to absorb nutrition via the sun UV-B, inferred light, and minerals. The issue that many people have with understanding nutrition is that they don’t actually know what nutrition is. Jumping right into reductionist ideas of calories and macronutrients is like starting a movie in the middle, of course it is confusing, without the context of what is being measured nothing makes sense. Unfortunately for most nutrition experts they learn all of their nutrition with little to no context. As complexity grows in learning about nutrition the bottom tends to drop out for most people. This leads to ideas such as calories in calories out. This is a non-contextual idea stemming from non-contextual education around nutrition. It leaves both the person receiving higher education in nutrition and the person seeking their advice at a loss. Ultimately leading to wild interpretations of what humans should be eating.