By Louise & Rob Westra, Regular Columnists.
Thankfully these days no one is arguing whether diet is anything less than incredibly important to health and well-being.
However, the argument as to what constitutes the best diet continues! There’s a great deal of debate, and a lot of conflicting information so it can be hard to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating for health and longevity.
People often ask us what they should eat; naturally our clients want to know as often they feel so bamboozled by all the conflicting advice that they are ignoring it all and using it as an excuse to make dietary indiscretion after indiscretion!
I completely understand why some people do genuinely want to know what they should be eating, after all it is one of the main things we can control in terms of our health and wellbeing. And it is now so confusing, as the popular press spends its time filling magazine and website space with one extravagant claim after another about diet and the next lauded ‘super’ food.
One month we hear that something is good for us and the next month it’s bad! NO wonder it’s so tempting to just ignore it all and just eat whatever tastes best.
However, it’s a shame to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. After all, your food choices are definitely related to the amount of healthy time you spend on Earth.
Improvements in diet are clearly associated with significant lengthening of lifespan and a radical reduction in the risk of many chronic diseases.
Furthermore, the positive impact of food on your number of healthy years of life – a.k.a. your healthspan (which is more important but less readily quantifiable than lifespan) is even more compelling.
But what about superfoods, I hear you ask? And should I be vegan? Should I do keto? Does anyone count calories anymore?
Well, let’s start with the so-called superfoods. What even is a superfood?
Great question…there is no definitive criteria for a superfood. Certainly plenty of foods given this ‘honorary’ status are very nutritious – think blueberries, wild salmon, leafy greens – but they haven’t got any special powers beyond their nutritional content!
Should I be vegan?
Well, it depends…You can still end up eating more than your fair share of highly refined, processed, nutritionally deficient ‘food’ and call yourself a vegan! Removing animal products from our meals doesn’t automatically confer a healthier diet.
What about keto?
Yes, I know every man and his dog seems to be doing keto this year! Actually, it’s not new and dates back to the 1920s when doctors first started using it as a treatment to manage seizures for patients with epilepsy. It’s not something I recommend when someone still needs to take care of the fundamentals of their diet.
If you are in the position of needing to manage weight and body composition then using a calorie deficit is a good basis, but it isn’t an exact science. For instance the body uses more energy to breakdown 100 kcalories or kilojoules of protein than it does to break down 100 kcalories of carbohydrate so the net effect on your body isn’t equal.
So, how to make sense of the vast and ever-increasing body of knowledge and avoid getting bamboozled by the popular press?
Luckily for us all, two researchers, David Katz (the Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center) and Stephanie Meller did the work in 2015 to cut through all the hype. In what could be considered the most important nutritional study thus far, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” they reviewed all the data compiled thus far for the major diets of the day: Low carb, low fat, low glycaemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets.
Despite all the various claims of the self-proclaimed nutritional ‘gurus’, and their nutritional idealogues, here’s what they found:
“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.”
Nevertheless, although there is currently no ‘best’ diet, there are some common factors across the various approaches that are proven to be beneficial to health. And here’s number one:-
“A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”
That’s why we counsel our clients to make 10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day their predominant food-based goal. It’s also why it’s the foundation of the way we chose to eat ourselves and with our children.
So have a look in your kitchen cupboards and pantry to see how many man-made chemical compounds are lurking in there, masquerading as food. And stop buying them! Obviously, if you want a doughnut (or something similar) once in a while then eat one made of flour, sugar, milk, butter & eggs & NOT a hideously pro-inflammatory cocktail of 35 different ingredients (I kid you not!).
Louise and Rob Westra are the innovators behind The Health is Wealth Collective. Louise, an Australian trained Naturopath, and Rob, a UK trained Personal Trainer and Movement coach, collaborate with mature entrepreneurs and executive level professionals who want to truly up-level their health. Find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/368277613900736/