Jack: First off, so what’s the deal with GMOs? Should they be avoided? Are they safe to eat?
Anne Penrose: Regarding genetically modified foods, they have had their DNA manipulated usually for some sort of production purpose. There are many GMOs and (as of now) there is not sufficient research indicating that they are less nutritional or harmful compared to their non-GMO counterparts. So basically, more research needs to be done.
JP: Artificial preservatives — how bad are they for you?
AP: This is a question that could be answered with quite a lengthy response. My recommendation, as usual, is to eat in moderation.
We do not need to fear artificial preservatives, per se, but I do recommend balancing packaged foods containing artificial preservatives with raw, whole foods.
Now, we’ve been conditioned to think “processed foods” are unhealthy foods. What people don’t realize is that most foods are processed to some degree; we rarely eat food straight from the source right to our plates without any processing. But this does not necessarily mean it is unhealthy; processed foods can fit into a healthy, balanced diet.
Now I do think we can try to limit artificial sweeteners when possible. I would recommend sweetening a drink with a small bit of real sugar than an artificial sweetener, for example.
JP: Let’s talk about the gluten-free craze for a bit. For people who don’t have an intolerance or celiac disease, is gluten-free food any healthier than food containing gluten?
AP: If you have celiac disease or suffer from gluten intolerance, then eating foods containing gluten will lead to you experiencing GI upset. In this case, you need to limit or eliminate gluten from your diet entirely. For the person without gluten sensitivity, it is not necessary to avoid gluten for health purposes. Basically, gluten is made up of proteins that give structure to grains and is not something to fear eating or eliminate for “health” purposes.
In my experience, I’ve seen two types of people who choose to follow a gluten-free diet when it’s not due to gluten sensitivity. You often will have the person who goes down the packaged food aisle at the grocery store and buys gluten-free labeled food items as his or her way of eliminating gluten.
They aren’t going to change everything — they’re still going to get crackers, but they will purchase the gluten-free kind.
Then you have the person who is going to try to eat gluten-free by decreasing packaged foods and gluten-containing grains while replacing those foods with increased fruits, vegetables and whole foods.
These are two different diets, but they’re both gluten-free. Now, the second person will probably eat more fresh produce, while incorporating the other aspects of a healthy diet.
This increase in fruits and vegetables is a great thing, but it isn’t the gluten-free aspect that is increasing this person’s nutrient intake. Again, for the average person with no reason to decrease or limit gluten, it is perfectly okay to eat foods containing gluten!
JP: How much do “cleanses” really help your body? Are you really flushing out toxins?
AP: (Laughing) No. That’s another one that I hear often in my office. Our kidneys and liver do this for us naturally. There is no cleanse that is going to flush toxins out of your body. Honestly, just sticking to a well-balanced diet is much better for you.
JP: Most importantly, is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
AP: Not technically, although it does help you to start the day with the fuel you need to think and move! But there’s nothing special about breakfast itself. You see, it’s really a matter of perspective.
The entire concept of meals is really a man-made idea. You could be someone who prefers to eat three big meals and 2-3 smaller snacks, or you could be someone who prefers to graze and eat 6-7 smaller meals throughout the day.
There is no one perfect way to eat; you need to figure out what works best for you. It’s just important to eat regularly and consistently each day while meeting your calorie and nutrient needs.
I would never recommend to skip breakfast and go all day without eating and then consume a huge meal at the end of the day. Because that’s not going to meet your nutrient needs, and you’ll probably overeat since you’ll be starving.
Plus, you’ll probably struggle to mentally function well in the morning, since you won’t have enough calories in you. My favorite saying: the most important meal is the one you’re eating right at that moment!