“Eat Right.” “Eat Clean.” “Healthy Food Choices.”
Regularly, our visits to the doctor’s office include being questioned on healthy lifestyle choices and hopefully by now, the importance of nutrition as a foundation of health is gaining awareness in the public’s eye. Here in the beautiful state of Colorado though, topics and discussions of food and diet choices frequently come into the workplace, leisure areas, and home. What we eat and how we eat is a strong passion area for so many; however, when philosophies of how ought we to eat differ among two equally passionate people it can become incredibly challenging to get unbiased, objective information on what nutritional lifestyle choice is truly the best.
From the entirely plant-based diets of Vegan to the bacon and eggs with a buttered-coffee breakfast of the Paleo diet, there are a wide variety of diet and nutrition lifestyles for one to follow. The supporters of each respective nutritional lifestyle are passionate about the way they eat, and there is often evidence-based research backing and supporting the claims of these various diet choices – regardless of how much they differ.
My hopes with this blog is to examine three of the more commonly discussed diet options, and to shed some light on just how ought we to eat. One disclaimer though, this information is truly from a nutritional value perspective and does not take into account ethical, moral, cultural, or religious perspectives regarding food choices.
Three Common Diet/Nutrition Philosophies:
The DASH Diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
Consume a specific range of calories/day based on age, gender, and activity level
Fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods and low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
Encourages consumption of whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts
Discourages red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
Eating generous amounts of fruits and vegetables
Consuming healthy fats such as olive oil;
Eating a small portion of nuts on a regular basis
Substituting fish for red meats
Drinking red wine, in moderation, for some.
Discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils
High in fat (saturated fats like coconut butter, ghee, animal lard, avocado, olive oil)
Moderate in animal protein (red, poultry, organs, fish)
Generous amount of vegetables (including sweet potatoes)
Low to moderate amounts of fruits and nuts
Limits: Grains, Dairy, Legumes, Added Sugars, Vegetable Oils
So the question comes: which diet or nutritional lifestyle should I follow? Well, the answer is….
Ha-Ha, I know – the image is comical, but in actuality it represents pretty well what our meals would look like regularly if we tried to follow all of the advice we are consistently given by the media, health care professionals, co-workers, and friends about eating healthy. Fortunately, the true answer as to which diet or nutrition lifestyle is best is: All of the above.
A comprehensive, evidence-based review was published in 2014 in the Annual Review of Public Health that sought out to answer the very question I posed above. In this article titled, “Can We Say What Diet is Best for Healthy” the authors stated, “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely.” They concluded that: no one diet is clearly best; however, the authors did identify common themes among the eating patterns that are proven to have health benefits. The common theme for overall health benefits was identified as followed, ““A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”3
So there you have it. Whether it’s Vegan, DASH, Mediterranean, or PALEO – the research shows that as long we strive to make nutrition choices that reduce the amount of processed foods we consume and encourage eating a variety of plants and vegetables (a theme that all 3 of the previous discussed diets share in common) then we can relax and know we are taking the right steps in our nutrition decisions to maximize a healthy lifestyle.
Morris D, Kitchin E, Clark D. Strategies for optimizing nutrition and weight reduction in physical therapy practice: The evidence. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 2009; 25(5-6):408-423
Paleo Leap. Paleo Diet 101: 15 Paleo Diet Guidelines. Paleo Leap, LLC. 2015 Available at:http://paleoleap.com/paleo-101/. Accessed 17 December 2015.
Katz DL, Meller S. Can we say what diet Is best for health? Annu. Rev. Public Health. 2014. 35:83–103