lifestyle

Nobody knows what the f--k to eat anymore.

Want to eat healthily but confused by all the information? Welcome to the club.

Want to eat better but don’t know where to even BEGIN? Perplexed by paleo? Confused by carbs? Baffled by how to even pronouce quinoa, let alone eat it?

Join the queue.  Because a study has found Australians are confused as shit when it comes to overhauling our diets.

The problem?  Social media. Wellness warriors who Instagram their food, sign you up to their rejuvenation wellness programs, pen manifestos on the dangers of some food, or get around eating 30 bananas a day.  They’re everywhere. You can’t vaccinate against them because they don’t believe in vaccinations. And their messages are confusing us mere mortals to the point where WE’VE FORGOTTEN WHAT TO EAT TO BE HEALTHY.

A new study into Australians’ health and well being has found many of us want to eat better but feel like we are constantly being misled, and are not sure what should be in a healthy diet;  that healthy eating is out of our control.

The Medibank survey of 1500 Australians found that while 41 per cent agreed they should change their diet to be healthier, 19 per cent said they were unsure what to do.

Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University Tim Crowe said the reason we’re all confused is because the “rise of social media and some very loud voices in that space”.  That the sheer amount of nutritional informational available is muddying the (coconut) waters.

“The findings of this survey are not surprising at all,” he says. “It’s something I talk to people on a daily basis about. Misinformation, personal blogs, social media pages, they are prevalent. And it all adds to the confusion about nutrition and healthy diets.”

“Anybody can be considered an expert purely because they’ve lost weight.”

Most people think these foods are healthy. Most people are wrong.

The survey asked participants to select from a table what the healthiest diet was.  It included an all-vegetable diet, an all-meat diet, diets without grains and dairy, and the current Government’s prescribed diet guidelines: the recommended balanced diet.

Just 32 per cent identified the recommended balanced diet as the healthiest option.

With 60% of Australian adults and 25% of our children now overweight or obese, it’s a knowledge gap that needs to be filled. If current trends continue in Australia, it is estimated that by 2025, 83% of men and 75% of women aged over 20 years will be overweight or obese.

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But the report cites a Journal of Health Communication study that found when people are exposed to conflicting news about health benefits of certain foods, vitamins and supplements, it results in confusion and a backlash against scientifically backed nutrition recommendations.

Could one of the solutions lie in marketing? Crowe says the industry could benefit from some “sexing up” – that perhaps the Government and peak nutrition bodies could learn from the marketing processes of these wellness empires.

It’s a good point: if you can’t beat em, why don’t you join ’em?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines are available at eatforhealth.gov.au. It’s a very nice website with lots of sound, peer-reviewed nutritional information freely available to the public.

The social media presence, however?

My first search for Eat For Health uncovered a Polish food van:

Ah! but then I found it (under Eat For Health Australia) with 49 likes.

Compare its 49 likes to the social media presence of others in the nutrition sphere:

Not to mention the Twitter and Instagram reach of these wellness bloggers;  and even a woman whose promotes eating 30 bananas a day has arguably a bigger influence than our’s countries scientifically researched, up-to-date dietary advice.

With the major findings of this study being that 54% of people believe they should change their diet but don’t know how,and half of respondents considering their diet not within their controlCrowe says it’s a worrying result.

“We’ve got the most nutritious and available food supply in the history of human kind available to us today” he says.

“So for most people, the option is always there to eat healthy. There are a few barriers, like physical access to the food in remote areas, or financial issues, but the availability of wholesome food is not out of the reach of most people in Australia.”

How to eat well (when you really, seriously hate healthy food.)

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