Monday, November 28, 2011

How Can I Tell What's Good to Eat??

I'm a young male who has a very sedentary job. Although I don't weigh a lot and I do get exercise, I know that my diet isn't very healthy. I've seen my fair share of documentaries, researched on the internet, and been given advice by friends and family. Almost all of it seems to contradict each other.

Saturated fats are bad, then they're good, and trans fats are bad. Don't use butter use margarine (can something so artificial really be better?). Only eat raw uncooked food. Cut out all the dairy and meat. Lower your carbs. Buy 99% fat free food, no don't, they just substitute it with sugar. And so it goes on.

My own gut feeling is that we have evolved to crave the foods that are good for us. We cooked our prey from the hunt over fires. There was no bread, fruit juice, soy milk, olive oil etc.

To put it simply, I'm looking for the truth. I want to do the right thing for my body, but I just don't know what that is. Has the scientific community actually come up with a consensus on what a healthy diet is? Is all this contradictory and misinformation just being fed to us by people with a vested interest and an agenda? ---Nat G.

Hi Nat,
You are right! There is a ton of information out there. The key is knowing who to listen to.
If you look at our health agencies, there IS a consensus. The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, and USDA, etc all say "Eat more fiber, less fat, less sodium (read: less processed food), more whole grains, and less sugar". You won't find anywhere on these sites that says to cut out an entire food group, eat low carb, or eat all your food raw. And none of them are promoting some food group to sell (such as, say the American Dairy Council or the Pork Board).
Unfortunately we have not evolved to crave what is good for us: we still crave very calorie-dense foods like sugars and fats because without this biological drive there is the chance we could starve to death. And I think cave-men very well may have baked bread over the fire, juiced fruits from the trees, and pressed olives for their oil!
The motto of dietitians is "everything in moderation".... you can't win if you're jumping from one diet fad to the next, chasing the latest 'good for you' food group and eliminating entire food groups, such as all dairy foods. Our food guide pyramid still makes sense: choose a variety of foods from each group every day, limit your intake of fats and sugars, and get some physical activity to balance it all. (see  ).

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