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We love food. LOVE it! But knowing what food is good for us, what is bad for us, and all in between can be difficult to find consensus on, and sometimes downright boring to investigate.

But a pair of researchers may have simplified this struggle of ours. And fortunately, it aligns with what we believe to be a rad-tastic approach to food.

Can we say what diet is best for health?

Two chaps from Yale University undertook a review of popular healthy eating styles.1 When lined up, investigated and compared, here is what they surmised lead to the reported health benefits of each:

Source: Katz & Meller 2014 in Annual Review of Public Health

Source: Katz & Meller 2014 in Annual Review of Public Health

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 no rigorous long-term trials comparing any of the above exist, at least without bias. And to undertake 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 then – so what can be considered the ‘guiding principles’ to be born out of this review, to help us along a merry-healthy-eating way?

Perhaps consider the commonalities shared by all the diets, which are:

  1. To encourage consumption of minimally processed foods, as close to the original source as possible, and foods made up of these ingredients;
  2. To comprise mostly plant foods, and;
  3. 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 us 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 ticket.

And as we all understand that over-eating is not good for us, by following these principles we then in theory can cover the nutrient spectrum and feel more satisfied, leading us to eat less overall.

Wanting the best for us all

We are all becoming increasingly aware of the impact food choice has on health outcomes, and efforts continue to seek the best way to educate and advise around improving the health of all.

Perhaps first and foremost we need to ensure we each listen to our body 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.

And I think we can all agree that 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.)

 

References:

  1. 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.
  1. 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>