Food is not just the sum of its nutrients.

The nutritional value of a food should be evaluated on the basis of the foodstuff as a whole, and not as an effect of the individual nutrients. This is the conclusion of an international expert panel of epidemiologists, physicians, food and nutrition scientists.

“Researchers have become more skilful over the years, and we have acquired more methods for exploring what specific nutrients mean for digestion and health,” Tanja continues “But when we eat, we do not consume individual nutrients. We eat the whole food. Either alone or together with other foods in a meal. It therefore seems obvious that we should assess food products in context.”

Ultimately this means that the composition of a food can alter the properties of the nutrients contained within it, in ways that cannot be predicted on the basis of an analysis of the individual nutrients.

Tanja Kongerslev Thorning explains further “An example is almonds, which contain a lot of fat, but which release less fat than expected during digestion. Even when chewed really well. The effects on health of a food item are probably a combination of the relationship between its nutrients, and also of the methods used in its preparation or production. This means that some foods may be better for us, or less healthy, than is currently believed.”

Food is not just the sum of its nutrients. – University of Copenhagen

I wish more scientists thought like this and considered the entire living ecosystem that is our food, including the microbes they often contain. Instead we get studies that tell us the best way to cook that measure “nutritional value” like this one on mushrooms:

Effect of different cooking methods on nutritional value and antioxidant activity of cultivated mushrooms: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: Vol 68, No 3

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