Food for Thought

Why Nutrition Changes
By Catherine Saxelby

People often ask me why we nutritionists keep changing our minds! One year, carbohydrate is wonderful, the next year it’s not. One year, fat is a no-no, the next year, it’s only saturated fat the we should worry about, the other fats are ‘good’ fats that are OK to eat and enjoy. Protein was ‘forgotten’ for some years, now it’s back and considered important for satiety and weight loss. And the same happens with foods. Eggs make a good example. They were off the acceptable list for many years due to their high cholesterol. Anyone with a high cholesterol was advised to limit them to only 2 a week. Now it’s OK to eat an egg a day if you wish. As long as you don’t drown it in butter or cream! The body regulates the cholesterol it makes in response to what you eat. But it can’t cope with the saturated fat that’s already a big problem in our daily diets.

However I rationalise and justify these paradigm shifts, there’s no doubt that nutrition changes. It evolves, it twists and turns, it often swings back to an earlier position. This is confusing for consumers but hardly surprising for a new science that is blended from biochemistry, physiology, medicine, food science and the culinary arts. As new terms and new discoveries keep popping up, there are shifts in thinking on many issues.

Just 5 years ago, we dietitians were still talking ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ carbohydrates. How naive was that thinking?! Thanks to the GI research, we now have a better understanding of what happens to foods like bread, potato, rice and pasta once we’ve ingested them. Some are fast, some are slow. It’s got nothing to do with simple or complex – it’s much more complex than that.

So should you NOT take on board the latest advice? Even though nutrition changes at the edges, the basics remain similar and I often remind people of those ‘golden rules’ or ’10 commandments’ as I like to call them. For a healthy diet:
Sound familiar? It’s probably your Grandma would have told you.
—Catherine Saxelby is a dietitian and author of Nutrition for Life (Hardie Grant $29.95). For regular updates on nutrition as it happens, you can join her popular Foodwatch Club at

Catherine Saxelby