When it comes to nutrition, moderation simply isn’t sexy. What grabs our attention and our clicks are headlines like “Poison lurking in your kitchen,” as if we’re one bite away from death, and “Why you must eat this superfood,” as if we’re one bite away from a miracle.
Unfortunately, these alluring-but-false promises distract us from a more moderate, and more successful, path to better health. A balanced eating plan that offers nutrition and pleasure can help you be your best while allowing you to enjoy food — no extremism required.
What’s sexier — or saner — than that?
It was interesting to see the reaction to the September publication of two research papers that reinforced the wisdom of moderation. The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study looked at the habits and health of 135,000 people in 18 countries on five continents. Researchers found the healthiest individuals ate diets rich in fruits, vegetables and beans, but low in refined carbohydrates and sugar. Other than the surprising finding that health benefits of vegetables topped out at three to four servings per day, all of this is in line with a moderate diet defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Headlines about the research skewed the idea, stating the study “casts doubt” on conventional wisdom about fats, carbs, fruits and vegetables and that it’s “shaking up” the field of nutrition. Even the accompanying commentary that ran in the Lancet, the journal that published the findings, said: “PURE study challenges the definition of a healthy diet.”
Trouble is, the current definition of a healthy diet pretty much matches the PURE findings. The researchers did find that high-carbohydrate diets were associated with a 28 percent higher risk of dying during the study. But we’re talking 77 percent carbs, which has never been the definition of a healthy diet because it leaves little room for adequate protein and healthy fats. Speaking of fat, the PURE results suggest that total fat intake of about 35 percent of calories isn’t associated with risk of heart attack or death by cardiovascular disease, but the expert consensus for many years has been that low-fat diets aren’t the way to go.
The PURE data indicates a diet of about 45 percent carbohydrates, 35 percent total fat and 20 percent protein is associated with the lowest risk of premature death. The study’s principal investigator, Salim Yusif, said: “moderation in most aspects of diet is to be preferred, as opposed to very low or very high intakes of most nutrients.” So, what keeps us from the path of moderation? These are some common obstacles:
• Having no idea what you’re eating: Unless you are mindful and aware of what and how much you are eating — and many people aren’t — it’s easy to think you’re eating moderately when you’re not. For example, you may say, “I have dessert only a few nights a week,” but forget that you grab a cookie, cupcake or doughnut every time someone brings a box to work. Keep a food journal for a few weeks for an objective look at your eating.
• Not planning for the long journey: Healthy habits like good nutrition and regular physical activity takes consistent effort, especially if you have deeply entrenched unhealthy habits. It’s frustrating to feel you’re putting in the effort but not seeing a payoff. Start thinking of health as a lifelong journey rather than a race.
• All-or-nothing thinking: Feeling that anything short of perfection represents failure and isn’t worth doing. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Start small, start today and keep moving forward. You can’t go wrong with consistently eating more vegetables, cutting sugar and reducing distractions while you eat.
• Being swayed by diet trends: Moderate eaters suit their lifestyle to support health and don’t jump on dietary fads. They pay attention to nutrition news but examine sensational claims. If you have a long history of adopting, then ditching, the latest diet fad without seeing lasting improvement, why would you try it again?
• Having an unhealthy relationship with food: How you think and feel about your eating habits can be as important as the food itself. When food goes hand in hand with stress, guilt or fear, it’s not good for your body or your mind.http://www.dailytribune.com/health/20171010/eating-healthy-is-sane-not-sexy
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