Sometimes the discussion about food and nutrition goes straight to the nutrients. What are the benefits for our body? What is it good for? Or in some cases, what are the detrimental effects in our body?
But I encourage folks to think about food in a more holistic view. Food is different things to different people and at different times in our lives. Especially when it comes to nutrition counseling, it is important to address the broader picture of food, go beyond the nutrients, and examine some of the social factors that often play the biggest impact on why we choose or don’t choose to eat certain foods in certain portion sizes.
Food is history. It tells us where we’ve been or where our ancestors came from, informs us of the past and can create a strong connection point to that past. Food is culture. It is frequently a direct reflection of where we come from the American South, African Diaspora, or the Caribbean, people in different places ate different foods based on geography. The food had cultural meaning, often ceremonially or spiritually, so Food is identity.
Food is love, and a way that many people express that intense emotion is by preparing, serving, sharing,or buying food. It is something that brings us together as a community. That community could be within the four walls of your home. It could be broader. Even in work spaces, food often brings people together and definitely as a global community. We’ve seen throughout the pandemic and natural disasters, and even in times of war Food has the power to unite.
Food is health and fuel for our body to operate at optimal levels. It can help restore when there are imbalances, and build up reserves of nutrients to help fight off diseases. So quite literally Food is medicine. Food can heal and lengthen our days and quality of life, conversely food can kill, slowly wearing down our body systems.
Food is complex and an integral part of our lives, and there is so much that impacts why, when, and how much we choose to eat. Whatever food is to you, I hope it is enjoyable, and fuels you to be your best!
At Better Nutrition, Better You, we work with clients to understand their cultural and social food choices, and help them develop strategies for healthy eating patterns while keeping that cultural connection.
Written by: Franciel Ikeji MS, RD, LD February 2022