The Best Medicine

What's Up (or Down?) with Good Nutrition These Days?

Nutrition isn’t exactly my forte. Or, more accurately, good nutrition isn’t exactly my forte. Bad nutrition? I actually shine in that arena. But I’ve been trying to become more aware of what I eat as I get older, in large part because I would like to continue getting older, and my sense is that most of my food choices aren’t exactly contributing to that goal.

Unfortunately, nutrition can be confusing to me. For one thing, the rules always seem to change. I do believe that if I wait long enough, eventually chocolate-covered donuts––with sprinkles––will be on the “foods that are great for you!” list, so why wait until that list gets updated? I should instead get a jump on all of the health fanatics who need to see things written down first. Deep down I know my theory probably isn’t a good one to bank one’s health on, although it is a great one if you like chocolate-covered donuts. With sprinkles.

Recently a friend made the analogy that nutrition is similar to the things we put in our cars. He said that the automobile fluids we use, for example, impact the way in which a car runs. That’s why we put motor oil in the car’s crankcase, as opposed to other types of oil—such as olive oil—or, even worse, liquids like dishwashing soap or tequila. 

That was a very helpful analogy, in part because I now know to stop putting dishwashing liquid in my car engine, even though it’s always so much fun to see bubbles pouring out the exhaust pipe as I drive down the road.

So I decided to get more up to speed on nutrition. I started by trying to learn more about carbohydrates because I always hear people talking about carbs. When I went to the internet machine and looked up the topic on Wikipedia, I was greeted with this first sentence: “A carbohydrate is a biomolecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, usually with a hydrogen-oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 and thus with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n, where ‘m’ may be different from ‘n.’” Thank you, internet machine. That was very helpful, although I was left with the question: What if “m” isn’t different from “n”? Does that mean I can have the donut after all?

As is usually the case with life’s biggest questions, whether to eat or not eat carbs doesn’t have one simple answer. For instance, apparently there are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. Good carbs are things like vegetables and whole fruits. Bad carbs tend to loiter around the street corner after dark, selling drugs and breaking into cars. I read that potato chips are an example of a bad carb, although what a potato chip is doing hanging out on the street corner after dark, I have no idea. This is just one example of why I find nutrition to be so confusing.

Fortunately, this magazine has an extremely insightful nutrition article that includes information about carbohydrates. Helpful information. Information that doesn’t even worry about whether “m” is different from “n,” although I’m afraid it didn’t answer my question about potato chips roaming the streets at night.

I encourage you to give more thought to the idea of good nutrition. Think of yourself as a race car (even though I’m closer to being a moped). Give yourself the best fuels possible. Watch what you put in your body. And don’t drink dishwashing liquid.

Next Story

Physicians Perspective

What Exactly is a Gastroenterologist?