Why you are not the sum of the nutrients you eat



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Why you are not the sum of the nutrients you eat - The Guardian

The latest research is making us reconsider how we think about nutrients and food.

We all know the saying, “You are what you eat”, but in recent decades there has been a widespread belief that you are the nutrients you eat. Flip through any magazine or newspaper story about health, and it’s easy to see that individual nutrients, such as saturated fat, calcium and protein, have taken centre stage.

By focusing on specific nutrients within foods, it seems we’ve missed an important piece of the health puzzle. “Nobody eats nutrients in isolation,” says nutrition scientist Dr Tim Crowe. “If someone is deficient in iron, it’s perfectly fine to focus on nutrients, but when we’re talking about general health, we need to look at food as a whole.”

By looking at complete foods rather than their individual building blocks, we get a much better understanding of how the physical and nutritional structures of food influence how we digest and absorb the nutrients inside. This is known as the food matrix - the idea that a food product is more than the sum of its nutrients. “Dairy is a good example of the food matrix because the individual nutrients in dairy foods can’t predict the overall health effects,” Crowe says.