This chapter demonstrates that the conventional categorization of food components into “macronutrient,” “micronutrient,” “toxin,” “medicine,” and so on works well from a distance, but on greater magnification, the boundaries between these categories blur. When viewed through a geometric lens, however, a new structure falls into focus, which emphasizes not the chemical identity of the food component but the target-like perspective of optimal intakes. The chapter structures its argument around three interlinked themes: (1) the distinction between “nutrient” and “toxin” is fuzzy and sometimes imaginary; (2) the phenomenon of “self-medication” in nonhuman animals can involve compounds that are conventionally classified either as nutrients or natural “medicines”; and (3) even when a compelling case can be made for distinguishing a “toxin” from a “nutrient,” the biological impacts of the toxin depend on the levels of nutrients in the food relative to the intake target for those nutrients.
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