Superstition, Sciencestition, and How to Stop Overthinking Your Food Choices

What if I informed you I begin my morning with a glass of lemon water?

Maybe you’d assume:

‘Who cares?! Why does it matter what Berardi drinks first thing in the morning?’

You wouldn’t be incorrect.

But in case you’re a sure kind of individual—the type who loves to geek out on diet science—it would spark your curiosity (and perhaps a little bit FOMO).

Perhaps you’d ask:

“Why add lemon? For digestion? Liver detoxification? Antioxidant protection?”

In different phrases:

“Does lemon contain some sort of biochemical superpower I haven’t yet learned about? And, if so, should I be including it myself?”

If you’re one other kind of individual—extra skeptical in nature—you could be much less curious and extra aggravated:

“Ugh—more detoxing BS?!? Detoxing isn’t even a thing. I thought you were evidence-based!”

If you’re tremendous up-to-date on the newest analysis, you would possibly even say:

“Lemons, really? Haven’t you done your research? Don’t you know that [enter nutrient/supplement du jour] has proven to be more effective?”

So, simply in case you’re questioning, right here’s the actual cause I drink lemon water within the morning:

I get up thirsty. And I just like the style of lemon in my water.

(Cue anti-climactic music.)

Yep, that’s it.

That’s the large secret behind my beverage alternative.

I’m not attempting to help liver cleansing or digestion.

Nor am I attempting to add antioxidant energy or alter my physique’s pH.

(I’m additionally not an “industry shill for Big Lemon.” Promise.)

I merely just like the style.

Now, if that reply disappoints you—otherwise you had been already midway to the shop to choose up some lemons—you would possibly want to hear what I’m about to say.

Because I feel it’s time we cease over-nutritionalizing our meals.

Before we go any additional, I’ve to admit one thing.

I’ve been responsible of the very factor I’m critiquing on this article. In truth, in case you like, you possibly can blame the entire drawback on me. 

Early in my profession, I wrote A LOT, maybe an excessive amount of, concerning the biochemical and physiological properties of meals.

I churned out article after article inspecting numerous signaling pathways in fats and muscle cells, and the precise vitamins that would alter them.

Now, I didn’t intend to begin a pattern of over-focusing on the scientific properties of meals. To be trustworthy, I didn’t actually assume a lot about my intention in any respect. (That was kinda the issue).

I used to be simply actually into biochemistry and physiology.

As a PhD candidate, publishers gave me a platform to share what I used to be studying, what I used to be experimenting with (within the lab), and what I discovered intriguing.

And once I co-founded Precision Nutrition, I used to be in a position to attain and affect much more folks.

Along the way in which, readers took a cue from me.

Coaches, trainers, and fellow “nutrition nerds” fell down the rabbit gap too. They adopted my pursuits. They began specializing in the biochemical and dietary particulars of meals. And, like me, they shared their pursuits, ideas, and experiments with others.

It began a sequence response.

Yet, as Precision Nutrition developed, my perspective modified. 

My understanding of meals broadened.

I got here to consider (as I nonetheless do) that food is not merely fuel. That no single diet is universally superior. And that there are much more concerns to consuming than “how does nutrient X affect pathway Y in my body?”.

Don’t get me incorrect: Understanding the scientific properties of meals is useful—to a degree.

There’s a cause why PN teaches the science of diet within the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification: as a result of it’s helpful to perceive the “why” behind diet suggestions earlier than you begin doling them out to shoppers.

But once I go searching today, I see lots of people hyper-focused on the biochemical and physiological points of meals. 

Call it over-nutritionalizing, over-intellectualizing, or over-sciencing. Whatever identify you give it, it’s characterised by an virtually obsessive curiosity within the dietary and physiological points of a given meals.

And we want to tamp that down. Or, a minimum of, stability it out.

People at all times ask me, “Why’d you choose THAT food / ingredient / supplement?”

Sometimes, I share photos of what I eat on Instagram.

Either a single meal or an entire day of meals.

People are at all times asking me how I eat so, often, I oblige by sharing my very own meals or what our family is eating.

But each time I do, the identical factor occurs: People ship a barrage of questions, most of them having to do with the physiological or well being worth of a selected inclusion (or exclusion). I attempt to reply the queries, however frankly, it’s onerous to sustain.

This is a photograph of my latest breakfast, with annotated captions to provide you with a small style of the again and forth. You can see your entire Q and A in my original Instagram post.

No matter how a lot clarification I present, the questions maintain coming. Here’s a sampling from latest posts of varied meals.

  • Why do you add lemon to your water?
  • Why don’t you eat yams or brown rice or (my favourite starchy carb supply)?
  • Why don’t you eat pineapple, watermelon, or (my favourite fruit)?
  • Why don’t you drink milk, eat cheese, or (my favourite dairy)?
  • I see you eat sauerkraut. Why not kimchi?
  • I see you employ collagen protein. Why not whey?
  • You take a vitamin or a protein complement or a probiotic? Which model? Which pressure? For what profit? But what concerning the analysis that claims X or Y or Z?

You get the thought.

Hence my lemon water instance from earlier. Every time I present a meal with a glass of water with lemon, persons are deeply involved with the “health value” of the lemon.

In essence, it looks like all the pieces the nutritionist eats MUST have a scientific cause for its inclusion.

Folks appear disillusioned or dissatisfied once I inform them I add it as a result of I just like the style. Or it’s one in all my favourite meals. Or it’s all I had out there that day.

Similarly, if I don’t embody a selected meals on a given day, like brown rice or mangoes or espresso, of us get actually wrapped up in whether or not I feel the lacking meals is someway “bad for you.”

Heck, all the pieces the nutritionist doesn’t eat MUST ALSO have a scientific cause for its exclusion.

But right here’s the reality:

Not each meals determination I make is grounded in science.

Sometimes I eat meals as a result of I like them. (Shocking, I do know.) Or as a result of they make me really feel good. Or as a result of our youngsters need me to share a selected meals with them.

Likewise, I typically keep away from different meals that I don’t like. Or that make me really feel dangerous. (Yep, even the “healthy” ones.) Or that aren’t simply accessible to me.

Here’s an instance I posted about recently.

I’ve discovered, by the method of self-experimentation, that tomatoes and peppers appear to trigger flare-ups within the osteoarthritis that bothers my knees.

So, more often than not, I keep away from them.

Even although I like to eat them. Even although there isn’t a lot knowledge to recommend that nightshades like tomatoes and peppers are problematic. I decrease them in my food regimen as a result of they make me really feel dangerous.

Now, simply because I’ve stopped consuming them…

Am I saying that tomatoes and peppers (or different nightshades) will have an effect on everybody with osteoarthritis?


Can I let you know for certain that it’s the biochemical properties of the tomatoes and peppers that have an effect on me and not one thing else (just like the placebo impact)? 


Am I suggesting that different folks ought to cease consuming tomatoes and peppers? 

Definitely not.

They simply don’t work for me.

So, what’s incorrect with nerding out on diet?

Like I stated, I’m a science man. There’s nothing incorrect with figuring out your info.

But this hyper-nutritionalizing might be problematic in a couple of methods:

#1: Your “research” might not be all that good.

It’s time to get actual about one thing.

Nutrition science is complicated, and comparatively early in its evolution. This means there’s a good bit of analysis on the market that’s open to interpretation.

(And only a few absolute onerous and quick guidelines that apply to everyone.)

As a outcome, it’s not onerous to discover analysis that justifies our personal preferences.

Imagine this…

Suppose I take pleasure in a glass of lemon water within the morning. So I feel to myself, “Hmm, maybe there’s a health benefit to this. Let’s find out.”

So I go to PubMed (the world’s largest index of biomedical analysis) and seek for scientific research that help using lemon water.

Or I Google one thing like: “health benefits of lemon water in the morning.” (Try it. You’ll get lots of results.)

Bingo. Now I can begin spreading the information of the virtuous lemon water—and give myself a pat on the again for having fun with my superior morning beverage.

See the issue right here? 

We’re biased. This kind of “research” is commonly a want to justify our preferences and pure inclinations by “evidence.”

That’s a harmful apply, one which breeds self-justification and a sure type of “evidence blindness” to analysis that doesn’t help one’s preferences.

It additionally indicators the top of curiosity, which is on the coronary heart of scientific inquiry.

And it occurs on a regular basis, even to sensible folks and good thinkers.

They let their private preferences lead their data search, as an alternative of legitimately attempting to get to the underside of what people do know (or can know) a couple of specific topic. Then, as soon as they’ve discovered the analysis that helps what they had been going to do anyway, they proselytize it as “proven” or “evidence-based.”

But “knowledge” that was gained on this trend is, at finest, incomplete.

At worst, it isn’t actually information in any respect.

#2: Food is greater than its biochemical make-up. (And so are we.)

When we get hyper-focused on the science behind our meals consumption, we miss out on different advantages of consuming, like:

  • Cultural practices/traditions
  • Enjoyment and pleasure
  • Expressing hospitality or spending time with household and associates over a meal
  • How they make us really feel, bodily or in any other case

Just as “health” is more than “not being sick,” meals is extra than simply vitamins.

And, for that matter, people are way more than our biochemical and physiological make-up.

Whether or not a meals “works for us” within the context of our each day lives has to do with extra than simply analysis.

It additionally has to do with our objectives, our preferences, our way of life, our cooking expertise, our cultural background, our consuming and residing scenario, our entry to sure meals, our style buds, our social determinants of well being, and a lot extra.

Sure, there are some common dietary fundamentals that work for many of us, however that doesn’t imply that somebody is doing it incorrect if they like common entire oats to steel-cut oats.

#3: It breeds judgment and the moralization of meals.

In a recent Instagram post, I discussed that I’ve been “zero alcohol” for 3 years now and that I feel it’s contributed, in small half, to some optimistic well being outcomes, notably round hormonal well being.

This assertion was interpreted as a win for these with a “clean eating” or  “virtuous health” or “why would you put that poison in your body?” mindset.

Many of us gave me a digital pat on the again for this alternative—as in, “Exactly! Alcohol is poison!”

Meanwhile, others took it as a private affront. Like I used to be attacking their determination to drink.

But for me, not consuming isn’t an ethical determination. Or a tribal one. I personally abstain as a result of avoiding alcohol appears to assist with my autoimmune illness.

And, to be trustworthy, I by no means loved consuming that a lot anyway. (Alcohol makes me irritable and sleepy which, alone, is annoying and, in social settings, makes me need to go dwelling.)

But simply because I don’t drink doesn’t imply I seek for all the information I can discover about why alcohol is dangerous for everybody and then proselytize in opposition to it. I perceive it serves completely different wants for various folks. And that a few of these, on stability, may very well be wholesome… in the precise context. (For examples, take a look at: Would I be healthier if I quit drinking?)

Bottom line: ⁠⁠I’m not anti-alcohol, nor am I pro-alcohol; I simply decided that felt finest for me. And my level right here is that this:

Someone else’s meals decisions—whether or not scientifically supported or not—shouldn’t ship you right into a tailspin. 

Nor ought to your private meals decisions be the premise for telling others what they need to or shouldn’t do, no matter what your self-directed scan of the analysis tells you is “right” or “wrong.”

If you end up doing both, it’s time to again up and acquire some perspective.

I can’t advocate a “best food” or a “best diet,” however I can advocate this.

Try to keep open-minded.

It’s up to you to discover meals that you just take pleasure in consuming, and that assist contribute to your objectives, no matter they could be.

And in case you’re a coach, it’s your job to assist your shoppers discover these meals—and these objectives—for themselves.

A wholesome relationship with meals doesn’t require you to nitpick over each small determination or have a scientific justification for all the pieces you select. 

In truth, when you perceive the fundamentals of how numerous vitamins work within the physique, a wholesome relationship with meals would possibly imply the precise reverse… broadening your perspective on consuming past the “scientific benefits.”

Yes, it may well take time and apply to perceive what works finest for you, your physique, your loved ones, and your way of life. And to take pleasure in these meals with out overthinking them.

That’s the stability right here.

To acknowledge that, at first of your “healthy eating journey,” you would possibly really need to spend extra time studying about your meals to assist facilitate higher, extra considerate decisions.

But then, at a sure level, you would possibly want to step again and attempt to combine that new information into the context of your actual life. To situate it inside a broader, extra sturdy framework for making consuming choices.

Because, in case you go too far right here, your concepts about meals can find yourself mired in superstition or “sciencestition.” When that occurs, it’s troublesome to be goal. Difficult to keep curious and open-minded. Difficult to study something, for your self or on your shoppers.

So that’s your first experiment.

Back away from the analysis database. Make your self a meal with out overanalyzing it. And whilst you’re at it, pour your self a glass of water. Lemon or no lemon? The alternative is yours.

If you’re a coach, otherwise you need to be…

You can assist folks construct diet and way of life habits that enhance their bodily and psychological well being, bolster their immunity, assist them higher handle stress, and get sustainable outcomes. We’ll present you ways.

If you’d like to study extra, take into account the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

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