Personalized Nutrition: Food Quality

With my 5th blog in this series about personal nutrition, I’m talking about food quality.  You can check out the other articles in this series here:


Food Optimization 

When I teach people about food quality, I start with the concept that there are no good or bad foods.  Foods are not “good” or “evil”, they are just fuel and nutrients.  Instead of thinking about foods in black & white terms, I encourage people to think about food optimization: choosing the right foods for the right person at the right time, depending on their goals and priorities.

  • The Right Foods = The foods that are most suitable to you living your best life.
  • The Right Person = Eat for yourself, your own body’s needs, your own preferences and tastes, and for the things you want to accomplish.
  • The Right Time  = Our nutrition needs change throughout our life times, from year to year, seasonally, and even from day to day.
  • Goals = Performance goals, training goals, health goals, aesthetic goals, all will necessitate different eating plans.
  • Priorities = These come from your personality and the things that are important to you in life in general; priorities also affect what and how you eat.

If you consider all those factors and how much they differ, you can see that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet, or even a ‘perfect diet’ that will suit one person for their entire life.  Food needs vary widely between individuals and change constantly within one individual’s lifetime.

The Quality Elevator

The next big concept I teach is to imagine that there is a scale of food quality, taking into consideration the amount of nutrients in the food versus the amount of toxins in the food.  Food will provide the most nutrients when it is fresh and local and organic.  Food will contain the most toxins when it is chemically-raised, heavily-processed, transported long distances and stored for long periods of time.  We could get into some debate on each of these assertions, but the over-arching concept should be obvious.  Plant foods grow from soil, water, and sunlight.  Animal foods grow from high-quality plant foods, living off that same soil, water, sunlight, and fresh air.  Whole foods are superior to foods that have been heavily processed, preserved, and packaged.

So, with this concept we can build something like the 5-point scale that is ubiquitous in online surveys:

  1. The Best
  2. Pretty Good
  3. So-So
  4. Not Good
  5. The Worst

Now, if we plug human food choices into this, you’ll see the quality scale that I’m talking about:

  1. Your own hunted, fished, foraged, or organically-gardened foods
  2. Foods from the farmer’s market or the co-op
  3. Regular grocery store food
  4. Food that comes in bags, boxes, cans, jars, or bottles
  5. Fast food, cafeteria food, and MREs

Of course, we could put a lot more than 5 points on this scale, we could even talk about a 10-point, 20-point, or 100-point scale of food quality.  The point is, there are many gradations along the scale and just a little bit of critical thinking will allow you to rate any food as either ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ quality.  This is the skill I want you to walk away with.  I want you to be able to internalize this concept and get on the ‘quality elevator’.

The quality elevator is your life-long nutrition journey.  The more you think about and practice this idea of a food-quality scale, the better choices you will make.  You’ll take the elevator up a few floors.  Over days, weeks, months, seasons, and years, you will elevate your food quality choices, bringing your overall nutrition practices out of the basement of “the worst” and into the upper floors of “pretty good” or “the best”.

Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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