You are what you eat. Nothing short of an exotic nuclear reaction can transmute refined starch into the minerals your body needs, nor can your organs manufacture every complex organic molecule your tissues require to stay healthy and keep you functioning at your peak.
Watching Your Diet is Sometimes not Enough
The connection between diet and health has long been recognized. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said Hippocrates around 24 centuries ago. Unfortunately, in the modern, industrialized world, the emphasis is on cheaper and faster rather than better and most suitable. Intensive farming depletes the soil of micro-nutrients while only the main elements needed for plants to grow are replaced. Crop varieties are selected for yield first and quality second, and the long-term consequences of modern farming methods are yet to be seen.
Most people who care about their health sufficiently, reading this will have a good general idea of what a healthy diet entails: not too much of anything, some fiber. While being aware of the role diet plays in well-being is certainly a good start, the subject is a complex one, and the more you learn about it, the less you realize you know.
Some individuals, whether through genetics, age or lifestyle choices, have different nutritional requirements from that which is the norm. Others, recovering or suffering from chronic illnesses, may require tweaks to their diet, while people struggling to lose weight without compromising their health can often benefit from some professional advice.
The Difference Between Nutritionists and Dieticians
While both professions focus on the relationship between food and health, there are some differences. In general, the requirements for dieticians are higher: all dieticians are nutritionists, but not necessarily vice versa. Teachers at a tertiary level, researchers, as well as analysts and designers at food preparation companies tend to be dieticians.
Depending on the country, anyone may be allowed to call himself a “nutritionist”. This does not mean that any given nutritionist is less qualified than some dietician, only that it is a good idea to check someone’s credentials and certifications before paying for their advice. Both nutritionists and dieticians can be found in hospitals or in private practices. They can advise on special nutritional requirements, such as those high-performance athletes have, run tests to identify deficiencies, design diet plans for weight loss or improved health, and help people deal with eating disorders.
In short, while the lines are sometimes blurry, a dietician can be thought of as a food scientist, while a nutritionist is more like a food advisor.
Who Can Benefit from Consulting a Nutritionist
Expectant and breastfeeding mothers have certain dietary requirements, particularly folate and higher levels of certain minerals. Clearly, any disorder related to the digestive system should be addressed with the aid of a nutrition expert, including ulcers, IBS, and acid reflux. Food allergies like lactose intolerance and Crohn’s disease often go undiagnosed for years, so if you suspect that some kind of food allergy is causing a health problem, a nutritionist can help.
People suffering from chronic diseases – diabetes, cardiac syndromes, hypertension, etc. – should certainly consult a nutritionist, not as an only form of treatment but to ensure that the root causes of their illness are addressed if these are dietary in nature. In fact, anyone who has recently been feeling off their game and are exhibiting symptoms such as tiredness, insomnia or depression might find it worthwhile to consult a nutritionist along with or even before a GP. Such symptoms frequently result from physical dysfunction, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A nutritionist can often address these without the need to resort to medication, and can suggest ways of altering a diet without it becoming tasteless and uninteresting.
Whether you’re trying to control your weight, eat more healthily, suspect you have a nutritional deficiency or simply making an investment in your future health, a nutritionist can suggest actionable changes to your diet and explain why they are expected to be beneficial, encourage you to make the necessary lifestyle changes and help to monitor the gains you make over time.