We love food. LOVE it!
But knowing what food is good for us, what is not-so-good for us, and all in between, can be difficult to find consensus on, and sometimes downright cumbersome to investigate.
Fortunately, there are professionals who can investigate such conundrums for us, and it seems guidance on better food choices need not be overly complicated.
Ascertaining the best diet for human health
Two researchers from Yale University undertook a review of popular healthy eating styles.1
When lined up, investigated and compared, here is what dietary factors they surmised led to the reported health benefits of each:
Each type of diet claims health benefits, such as weight loss, lowering inflammation, and reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
However, the authors note that rigorous, unbiased, long-term trials comparing any of the above do not exist. And to undertake such a trial would be really difficult!
Therefore, can we even say what type of diet is best for health?
The authors state: “If diet denotes a very specific set of rigid principles, then even this necessarily limited representation of a vast literature is more than sufficient to answer with a decisive no. If, however, by diet we mean a more general dietary pattern, a less rigid set of guiding principles, the answer reverts to an equally decisive yes.”1
Okay. So, what can be considered the ‘guiding principles’ to be born out of this review, to help us along our healthy eating journey?
Focus on the commonalities shared by all the diets.
- To encourage consumption of minimally processed foods, as close to the original source as possible, and foods made up of these ingredients;
- To comprise mostly plant foods, and;
- If animal foods are consumed, then choose the best quality possible, as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish are all products of what they eat, live and breathe (just like humans).
Therefore, to promote health and prevent disease, eating mostly plants and minimally processed foods that are as close to their original form as possible is the way to go.
We all also understand that over-eating is not good for us. By following these principles, in theory, we can cover the nutrient spectrum and feel more satisfied, leading us to eat less overall.
Eating like this locally and seasonally has added benefit for the environment, too. Winning!
Wanting the best for us all
Food choice has a huge influence on health outcomes. Efforts continue in order to find the best way to educate and advise the general public on how to improve and support health through diet.
Perhaps first and foremost, we need to ensure we each listen to our bodies when we choose what we eat. The more finely tuned to our body’s signs and symptoms, the better equipped we are to make dietary choices that are right for us as an individual.
When you start listening to your body, you will no doubt agree you will feel better after a few months eating real foods than after a few months of eating only Maccas (cue Morgan Spurlock) or a diet high in added sugars (cue Damon Gameau).
Cut the crap and JERF it up!
We have briefly looked at several on-trend dietary patterns and came to a similar conclusion – eating food that’s not been messed with messes with you and your body less.
Eating food as close to its natural form until you are mostly full may also mean you can quit over-analyzing the nutrient and counting the kilojoule content, and simply just enjoy the good food.
So, in conclusion: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.2
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- Katz, DL, & Meller, S 2014, ‘Can we say what diet is best for health?’, Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 35, pp. 83-103 21p.
- Pollan, M 2007, ‘Unhappy meals’, NY Times, viewed 28 July 2016, <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>