The amount of dietary advice that is available today can seem overwhelming; everyone seems to have an opinion about the best way to eat in order to maximize health and well being. This is understandable, because more than ever before, there is evidence detailing the importance of the role that lifestyle factors, including diet, play in the health we do or do not experience. So it makes sense that we should seek to optimize our diet with the means of achieving great health.
However, it gets confusing when you begin to factor in all of the different (and often conflicting) opinions about what constitutes the ideal diet. Ultimately, it seems as if you eliminated every type of food that every guru on the internet said was bad, you would be left thinking you couldn’t eat anything at all, because there is someone somewhere who espouses that every single food imaginable is harmful!
Instead, we should take a more nuanced and pragmatic approach to diet, because figuring out what the ideal diet is not nearly as difficult as many people think.
What Does Your Body Need?
First and foremost, your body needs fuel. Fuel comes in the forms of fats, protein, and carbohydrates––the three big macronutrients. The fats should come in the form of healthy fats, like monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and the omega 3s found in foods like fish and nuts. Carbs should come from non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits that are high in fiber and rich in nutrition. Protein should come from minimally-processed, lean meat, fish, and poultry, plus eggs and nuts.
Secondly, your body needs a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to run optimally. These are found abundantly in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and meats. All whole foods come with their own spectrum of vitamins and minerals, which it is why it is important to eat a wide variety of foods; eating like this will supply you with a wide spectrum of nutrition.
What Does Your Body Not Need?
There are certain things that should ideally be avoided if you want to maximize your health.
These include trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and foods like shortening. These are known to contribute to heart disease and poor health.
High Sugar Foods
This certainly includes foods with added sugar, which seems to be most package foods. This also includes starchy-carbohydrate rich foods, like breads, pasta, pizza, French fries, etc.
This is a broad category of foods, but most pre-packaged foods that look nothing like food that came from the earth fall into this category. Snack foods, pre-made dinners––most people understand what the term processed foods imply. These foods are often rich in things like salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Many of these are hyper-palatable, meaning they are designed with flavors that are crave-able, but often are not particularly healthy at all.
Basically, what we see is that whole foods which come directly from the Earth are the types of foods we should focus on if we want to improve our health; but is this all we should take into consideration when crafting the ideal diet?