Diet vs. Nutrition

There is a distinction between diet and nutrition that gets frequently overlooked in Western culture. However, knowing the difference and finding balance in-between is important. Diet is simply what you eat. Sometimes culinary and family traditions guide food choice, but all too many of us are left to choose what is on our plate based on popular notions of weight loss,“fueling up” for a “power-packed” day, and “building” strong muscles and bones. There are also specific lifestyle diets like Paleo or Vegetarian. It seems pretty straightforward, but sometimes intended results don’t match expectations leaving us with unwanted weight gain around the hips, low energy and the very big question that titles Mark Hyman’s new book FOOD: What the Heck should I Eat?

What to eat is a good question! It is an easier one to answer when we actually turn our gaze from diet to nutrition: the interplay between our diet and our body. It is what happens to our foods once they are broken down into nutrients by the digestive system. If you are looking to achieve specific health goals, knowing the right nutrients and from which foods they come is helpful. It is like having the right tool for the job. For instance, if we want to stay hydrated during the heat of Summer, we are going to reach for water. It is the most important nutrient for the body. Add a squeeze of lemon, and it is the best tool for the job. Certain things we know for sure. But what do we do when circumstance go beyond the ordinary course of events? I ask because last August, forest fires left our Willamette Valley covered in a blanket of smoke. What are the best tools to reach for when particulate matter rises and it is not always safe to go outside; how do we best safeguard our health?  

It is not just the smoke from fires. Mountain biking and trail running kicks up fine particles that go to the lungs too; especially if you are last in line. Parents please take care when running your toddler in the stroller down Amazon trail. Watch out for the dust and your little ones who are much closer to the ground! Eating right for respiratory health is just as important for trail blazers so make sure that whether you are staying low from poor air quality or going to hit the TRAILS this Summer that you have the right tools. If you already have a diagnosed lung condition, consult your doctor to find the best nutritional support for your specific case.

Generally speaking, unless you are sweating it out in the sun, try swapping out the cold drinks for warm ones. Herbal tea, soup, and warm water all promote hydration that helps your body flush toxins by enhancing blood flow and circulation. Keep it moving folks! My personal favorite anti-inflammatory and cooling tea for Summer is peppermint, but green tea takes the prize especially in terms of overall cellular protection. Drink it everyday! Ginger tea and turmeric found in “golden milk” are also yummy midday treats. With regard to soup, added chicken provides an amino acid profile which enhances lean tissue repair and physical strength. Other protein-rich soup additions include lentils and fish. Incorporating vegetables lends antioxidant benefits but stay away from creamy soups that interfere with mucus and congestion. And leave the popular fun-colored sports drinks at home.