The Difference Between Nutrition and Diet

Most folks tend to confuse the terms nutrition and diet, or at least think they are similar, when in fact they are two entirely different concepts. The short answer is that proper nutrition is essential to maintain healthy body functions and prevent disease; diet, on the other hand, is an attempt at weight loss by restricting certain kinds of food that often does not have a healthy outcome.

Let’s clear up the confusion and look at the differences between nutrition and diet and why focusing on one results in more healthful benefits than the other.

What is Nutrition?

Nutrition refers to the essential natural elements (called, obviously, “nutrients”) contained in food used by our bodies to properly function and maintain health. Which is why “nourishing” and “nutritional” are often used interchangeably. The basics of proper nutrition is to eat a variety of wholesome foods that help maintain healthy bodily functions.

According to the World Health Organization, “Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity.”

What are Nutrients?

There are six major categories of nutrients:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Fats
  3. Minerals
  4. Proteins
  5. Vitamins
  6. Water (yes, water is a nutrient, it accounts for at least 60% of your body weight!0

Nutrients in your food matter because they:

  • Provide energy, fueling the body to carry out necessary biochemical reactions
  • Build and maintain tissues, organs, bones and teeth, muscles
  • Regulate body functions, such as blood pressure and metabolism (fun fact: when all six classes of body functions are properly balanced, the body is considered in a state of “homeostasis”)

What is Malnutrition?

A related term to nutrition is “malnutrition,” getting too little or too much of certain nutrients, which leads to serious health issues, including eye problems, diabetes, and heart disease. While you might think malnutrition only occurs where poverty and other environmental conditions result in near-starvation and unhealthy weight loss, inadequate nutrition in developed countries has the opposite effect of contributing to obesity.

This leads to a significant crucial difference between proper nutrition and “going on a diet”: a diet’s focus on reducing caloric intake can possibly also reduce proper nutritional balance. Consequently, it’s not unheard of for people on a diet to actually gain weight!

What is Diet?

Diet is a general term to describe what people eat (“The traditional Japanese diet consists primarily of fish and rice, as well as unprocessed foods with little or no sugar”). However, for many of us, diet means reducing the quantity of what we eat, and, more specifically, reducing the number of calories we eat.

According to the Harvard Medical School, “At any given time, more than a third of Americans are on a specific diet, with weight loss as a leading reason. Most are going to be disappointed, because even when successful, lost weight is frequently regained within a few months.”

What are the Negative Effects of Dieting?

Many people do lose weight on a diet. But weight loss is often temporary. As noted by Psychology Today, “About 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it in 1 to 5 years.” After depriving themselves of certain foods and calories, people feel they can reward themselves and go off their diets, leading to weight gain. And then the cycle repeats itself.

In addition, diets can result in your body literally feeling starved. Your body’s response is to slow your metabolism. A slowed metabolism makes it harder to lose weight. And it can have serious consequences to your health. WebMD makes the point that, “Lost weight includes precious muscle and lowers metabolism. Drastic calorie restriction also causes a shift toward a higher percentage of body fat, which increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Which is why people often complain they’ve been on a diet, but aren’t losing any weight and, moreover, aren’t feeling all that well to boot. Which leads to frustration and low self-esteem and in many cases guilt or shame about eating. And since they aren’t losing weight, and your body is starving for food, this leads to binge eating. None of which is healthy.

This leads to a vicious cycle of dieting, going off the diet, trying a different diet, going off that diet, rinse, and repeat. And not only do they not lose weight, but their health also deteriorates.

How to Choose a Nutrient-Rich Diet

Let’s go back to the idea of a diet as what you eat, as opposed to restricting caloric intake through dieting. A nutrient-rich diet is a diet that will lead to lasting weight loss, but most importantly underpins good health and improved self-esteem.

Daily Nourish is revamping weight loss and healthy eating by advocating rejection of revolving-door diets and replacing them with delicious, nutrient-rich diets and meal planning. No counting calories, no hunger pains, no self-defeating cycles of dieting and binge eating. Delicious food, prepared using fresh ingredients full of healthy nutrients using simple recipes that don’t leave you hungry