When you hear the word “dietetics” you probably think about dieting, but it is so much more! Dietetics is the study of how the food you eat impacts your health and well-being. By studying this, we can figure out what food we need to eat and all the different benefits they provide us. This guide provides all the information you need to know about dietetics and healthy eating.
- What is dietetics?
- Getting to know your food
ii) Food groups
iii) Recommended serving sizes
- Diseases that can be prevented through healthy eating
i) Cardiovascular diseases
iii) Osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Professionals in the field of dietetics
i) What are dietitians?
ii) Why you should see a dietitian
iii) Our dietitians
What is dietetics?
Dietetics is the field of science that studies how food, diet and nutrition can affect health. We study this to learn how to make proper dietary choices to promote overall health and well-being.
Humans have been eating since the beginning of time. But when did we start becoming curious about what we’re putting in our body? The history of dietetics can be traced back to ancient Greece, with the word “dietetics” being mentioned as early as Hippocrates’ writing in 460 BC. We’ve come a long way since then, but none of this could be possible without major advancements in chemistry in the 19th century that led to huge progress in the study of dietetics. During this time, dietetics was studied mainly to find ways to cure diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies. For example, it was found that anemia was related to iron deficiencies and could be treated with iron supplements. These kinds of studies led to the study of daily requirements for different vitamins and minerals.
At this point, dietetics focused on not curing diseases, but preventing them. Following World War II, the importance of dietetics became recognized by the military and led to a major rise in its study. Fast-forward to today, dietetics is a huge field of study that is still growing. We can now find dietitians in nearly every country and in every continent, and they are now more accessible than ever before.
Getting to know your food
You’ve probably heard the saying “you are what you eat” – it means in order to be healthy; you must eat healthy. Your diet has a direct impact on your health in many ways, and therefore it’s important to step back every now and then and consider what you’re eating.
You can determine the benefits you’re getting from reading the nutrition label of the food. The nutrition label provides a list of the nutrients in the food and how much of each nutrient you are getting for a serving size. Here is a list of the nutrients that are listed on the nutrition label :
|Fats||Give you energy, helps your body grow and develop and absorb vitamins|
|• Poly-unsaturated fats||Can help lower your cholesterol and contain essential acids that your body needs for brain function and cell growth.||Nuts and seeds, fish and vegetable oils.|
|• Mono-unsaturated fats||Can help lower your cholesterol and develop and maintain your cells.||Avocados, nuts and seeds and vegetable oils.|
|• Saturated fats||Can increase cholesterol.||Dairy products and animal-based foods.|
|• Trans fats||Increase cholesterol.||Can be found naturally in some animal-based foods or industrially produced. Artificial trans fat has been banned in Canada and the U.S. In the past, it was used in hard margarines, vegetable shortenings and baked goods.|
|Carbohydrates||The body’s main source of energy.|
|• Sugar||Excess consumption can lead to tooth decay and weight problems.||Fruit juices, honey, syrups, soft drinks, candies and chocolate bars.|
|• Starch||Can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels.||Bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.|
|• Fibre||Helps with bowel regularity and lowering cholesterol.||Fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables and whole grains.|
|Protein||Helps repair and build body tissues and is a source of energy.||Dairy products, eggs, seafood, legumes, meat, nuts and seats and poultry.|
|Sodium||Found in table salt and is often added to our food for flavour and to preserve it. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure.||Baked goods, processed meats, cheese, sauces and condiments and packaged/restaurant food.|
|Vitamin A||May help keep skin health, improve night vision and aid bone growth.||Dairy products, eggs, seafood, and leafy vegetables.|
|Vitamin C||Helps body absorb iron, helps heal wounds and acts as an antioxidant.||Fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, guava, kiwi, strawberries, and sweet peppers.|
|Vitamin D||Helps body absorb calcium and builds and maintains strong bones and teeth.||Found in very few foods naturally, such as eggs, soft margarine and fish. The best sources of vitamin D are sunlight and supplements.|
|Calcium||Helps muscles work and forms the structure of your bones and teeth.||Tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables, fish|
|Iron||Helps transport oxygen in the blood.||Green vegetables, lentils and beans, nuts and seats, grains and dried fruit.|
Recommended Serving Sizes
|Serving per day||5 servings per day||4 servings per day||6 servings per day||1-2 servings per day||3 servings per day|
|Example of one serving||- 1 cup of leafy greens|
- ½ cup of cut up vegetables
- ¼ cup 100% vegetable juice
|- 1 medium whole fruit|
- ½ cup cut-up fruit
-1/4 cup of 100% fruit juice
|- 1 slice of bread|
- 1 cup of cereal
- 1/8 cup of uncooked pasta/rice
- ½ cup of popped popcorn
|- 3 oz cooked meat/poultry|
- 1 egg or 2 egg whites
|- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of yogurt
- 1.5 oz cheese
Diseases that can be prevented through healthy eating
One of the reasons dietetics is an ever-growing and ever-expanding science, is because it helps us determine what food to eat/avoid to prevent certain diseases. Here is a list of the five main diseases that can be prevented through your diet  .
1. Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is the name for disorders of the heart and blood vessels. There are many types of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, but coronary heart disease is the most common form. Cardiovascular diseases are often a result of unbalanced diets and low physical activity. To decrease your risk of cardiovascular diseases, you should eat less saturated and trans fat and reduce your cholesterol and sodium intake. You should also make sure you’re eating enough polyunsaturated fats.
Foods to eat:
- Fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore, tuna and trout) → improves blood flow and prevent clotting
- Vegetable oils (corn oil, soybean oil and safflower oil) → help lower cholesterol when used instead of butter
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, sunflower seeds, and flax seed/flax oil) → should be eaten in small quantities because they are high in calories
- Fruits and vegetables → contain antioxidants that protect against heart disease
Foods to avoid:
- Whole milk
- Fried foods
- Frozen meal dinners
- Processed foods
Tobacco is the number one cause of cancer, according to the world health organization, but your diet can also help prevent certain types of cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, eating more fruits and vegetables and regularly exercising are all ways to reduce your risk for certain cancers. The Mediterranean diet has been found to decrease your risk for cancer. This diet focuses on eating fruits and veggies and healthy fats. You can also lower your risk with antioxidants and fiber, while also cutting down on sugar, refined carbs and processed and red meat .
Foods to eat:
- Fruits → lower risk of stomach and lung cancer
- Vegetables (e.g. carrots, brussels sprouts and squash) → high in carotenoids reduce the risk of lung, mouth, pharynx and larynx cancers
- Non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach and beans) → can lower stomach and esophageal cancer
- Foods high in vitamin C (e.g. oranges, berries, peas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens) → can protect against esophageal cancer
- Foods high in lycopene (e.g. tomatoes, guava and watermelon) → can lower risk of prostate cancer
- Foods high in fiber (e.g. bananas, apples, dark-coloured vegetables)
- Foods high in healthy fats (e.g. fish, olive oil, nuts and avocados)
Foods to avoid:
- Avoid trans fat (cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pies, pizza, fries, fried chicken)
- Limit saturated fat (red meat and dairy)
- Cut down on refined carbs (soft drinks, white bread, pasta)
3. Osteoporosis and bone fractures
Unfortunately, fragility fractures become more of a problem as you age, and with this, your risk of osteoporosis increases. Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Thankfully, eating right can improve your bone health. By consuming calcium, vitamin D and protein, you can strengthen your bones and muscles thus decreasing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures .
Foods to eat:
- Foods high in calcium (milk, yogurt, cheese, green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts)
- Foods high in vitamin D (fortified milk, fish, egg yolk)
- Foods high in protein (dairy food, meat, eggs, nuts, fish)
Foods to avoid:
- Foods contain phytic acid (flat bread, raw beans, seeds and grains)
- Foods containing oxalic acid (beets, spinach, kale) → prevents absorption of calcium
- Foods high in sodium (salty foods, frozen meals and dinners) → interfere with calcium retention
**Sun exposure and regular physical activity also help to strengthen bones and muscles.
Obesity is a rising concern in all developed countries caused by individuals eating more calories than they are burning. This combination of high calorie diets and sedentary lifestyles is found common in adults, especially those who become less active over time. Obesity is a problem because it is linked to other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Thankfully, obesity can be largely prevented through your diet! Avoiding those high-calorie foods and increasing whole grains, fruits and veggies can go a long away.
Foods to eat:
- Foods low in calories (eggs, popcorn, Greek yogurt, soup, berries)
- Foods high in whole grains (barley, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread)
- Fruits and vegetables with high water and fiber content (apples, bananas, dark-coloured vegetables)
Foods to avoid:
- Foods high in calories (avocados, butter, cheese, white bread, beer)
- Foods high in fat (pastries, cookies, yogurt, pizza)
- Foods high in sugar and starches (pretzels, crackers, potatoes, soft-drinks, juices)
- Highly processed foods (candies, fast foods, bakery products, processed meats)
**Physical activity will also burn calories to reduce risk of obesity.
There has been escalating rates of type 2 diabetes worldwide, according to WHO, which is due to excess weight gain, obesity and physical inactivity. Diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and infections. Diabetes is mainly caused by high sugar consumption, which can throw off your glucose level. You can prevent this then by avoiding sugary foods.
Foods to eat:
- Healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, fish oil, avocados)
- Fruits and vegetables (fresh and colourful)
- High fiber cereals and breads made from whole grains
- Fish and shellfish, organic chicken or turkey
- High quality protein, e.g. eggs, beans, low fat dairy
Foods to avoid:
- Trans fats (heavily deep fried foods)
- Packaged foods (high in sugar, baked goods, sweets, chips, desserts)
- White bread, sugary cereals, refined pastas or rice
- Processed meat
**Increased physical activity and maintaining healthy weight will help reduce risk of diabetes.
Professionals in the field of dietetics
What are dietitians
Dietitians work with individuals and a variety of stakeholders in different industries to help make healthy food choices, influence food-policy decisions, and educate about nutrition and its health impacts. In order to become a registered dietitian, an individual must complete and undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics, provided a minimum number of hands-on experience and passed a rigorous registration exam.
Why you should see a dietitian
Dietitians are knowledgeable professionals that can offer you many kinds of services. They can help manage chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), eating disorders, digestive problems and help you gain or lose weight. It is also recommended to see a dietitian if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to figure out what diet is best for your baby. Parents of babies and children also benefit from consulting a dietitian to learn about nutrition for healthy growth and development of their child. Similarly, you may want to see a dietitian if you’re caring for an aging parent and want advice on food/diet or alternative nutritional solutions, such as intravenous feeding . But these aren’t the only reasons to see a dietitian – truthfully, anyone who wants to improve their diet and is looking for lifestyle advice will benefit from consulting a dietitian!
Our dietitians offer a variety of services that can be catered to fit whatever you need. Whether you are looking for advice on caring for an aging parent or trying to find the perfect athlete’s diet, Closing the Gap Healthcare’s dietitians can provide you with the service you need. Here are just a few of the services we offer:
- Counselling on nutritional needs
- Diet programs
- Supplement recommendations
- Advice on negative nutrients
- Information about diet and drug interactions
- Compatible meal suggestions
- Education about safe food storage
- Nutrition for healthy growth and development for young babies and children
Visit our dietetics page to learn more about our dietitians and book your appointment!
Dietetics is clearly a very important field of study that has provided us with many ways to better our health. It is said that health is the greatest wealth, and therefore it’s very important to look after it. Of course, there are some aspects of our health that we can’t change, but dietetics help us gain more control of our health – because your diet is always something you can improve to feel healthier! Now that you know everything you need to know about dietetics, test your knowledge by checking out our “Test your Knowledge” blog.