When it comes to facts about diets, do you know them all, or do you only know what you hear from random word of mouth conversations? While I may not be an expert on diets, I have participated in my fair share of diet fads. Each one proving or disproving their effectiveness in keeping myself or my loved ones healthy or at least healthier.
Nutrition is one of the most mysterious sciences. The amount of confusion both among the scientific community and the general public is astonishing. There still isn’t widespread agreement on what an ideal human diet should be.
6 FACTS ABOUT DIETS THAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW
With that said, there are facts about diets and nutrition that most people agree with. Let’s take a look at some of them in turn.
FACTS ABOUT DIETS #1: Eating Real Food Is Preferable In Most Situations
While taking supplements has become a regular part of life for many of us, researchers still believe that it is best to eat real food. The reason for this has to do with how all of the elements interact with our bodies.
When you eat an apple, you’re not just consuming a collection of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. Instead, you’re eating an object that embodies all of those things and more, becoming greater than the sum of its parts. The same goes for whole grains and beans. On the face of it, it seems like you’re just eating starches and a few micronutrients. But the effects on the body appear to be much better when you eat these foods whole than when you take the constituents in isolated form.
FACTS ABOUT DIETS #2: Supplements Can Make A Difference
While you shouldn’t rely on isolated compounds for the bulk of your diet, supplements can make a real difference in your overall well being.
Take curcumin, for instance, a yellow pigment extracted from turmeric. Numerous studies show that it can reduce the inflammation in joints of people living with rheumatoid arthritis.
The same goes for compounds like cannabidiol, which you can learn more about elsewhere. Even though it is an extract from the hemp plant, it offers powerful therapeutic benefits on the body.
Other examples include the EGCG from green tea or the anthocyanins in berries.
FACTS ABOUT DIETS #3: A variety of Foods is Important
Have you ever noticed that you tend to feel better on days where you eat foods from a variety of groups? It turns out that it’s not just your imagination. Nutrition scientists now have research showing that when people get sustenance from many food groups, they tend to feel better overall.
It makes sense for this to be the case. If all you ate were steamed broccoli and chicken, you’d only get a very narrow set of nutrients. But if you switched it up with beans, nuts, mushrooms, fruits, root veggies, and herbs, then all of a sudden, you’re getting a much greater variety of health-promoting compounds in your body.
FACTS ABOUT DIETS #4: Gluten Is Neccesarry (Unless you're Intolerant/Allergic)
The phrase “gluten-free” has become synonymous with better health. But that’s actually a long way from the truth. Gluten isn’t inherently bad for all people; it’s just bad for some, namely those with coeliac disease.
Coeliac is a condition in which the body mistakes proteins in grains for a dangerous foreign invader. When it detects gluten molecules in bread, for example, it mounts a response, which then damages the lining of the stomach and causes massive amounts of inflammation. Over time, this can lead to permanent destruction of the bowel and leaves the patient feeling dreadful.
Most people, though, aren’t coeliac and can tolerate gluten. A small minority might have a wheat intolerance, but, again, this is rare.
Gluten-free foods can be healthy, but, in general, they aren’t. Manufacturers will often use a wide range of highly processed and synthetic ingredients to replicate natural gluten, creating foods that are unhealthy when consumed in large quantities in the process.
Unless you have a definite gluten intolerance, eating whole grains ought not to harm you. In fact, it will probably boost your health dramatically.
FACTS ABOUT DIETS #5: Fads Rarely Work
The reason diets are so popular is that they seem to make intuitive sense. Eating less means less energy, which means burning of fat leading to weight loss. Simple right?
Unfortunately, when you study dieting outcomes, people rarely lose weight and keep it off. Instead, they lose a few pounds initially, and then, after a couple of years, they’ve gained it all back, and then some.
The reason this happens is something of a mystery, but it seems to be the result of both psychology and biology.
Let’s deal with the psychological element first. When people go “on a diet,” they typically see it as a short-term thing. The reason eating cabbage soup for a few months is bearable is that the dieter knows that they will be able to return to their regular fare once they’ve hit their target weight loss. What’s more, most people do wind up losing weight initially. So once they do, they allow themselves a treat – eating so-called “forbidden foods” that they couldn’t have on their diet. Unfortunately, once they open the floodgates, it is hard to close them again. They rebel against the salads and other foods and instead indulge in everything they wanted but couldn’t have on their diets.
Biologically, there are problems too. The body is very good at convincing the mind that it needs calories and has all sorts of methods for achieving it. Hunger signals, cravings, unpleasant sensations in the stomach – they’re all designed to get you to eat. You can only use your willpower to overcome these feelings for a finite period. Eventually, biology will win out.
The only approach that seems to work is allowing people to eat as much as they like but centering the diet on whole foods—eventually, the body self-regulates. Thus, diets aren’t something you can force. It has to feel voluntary.
FACTS ABOUT DIETS #6: Nutrition Is A Science
Nutrition scientists follow the scientific method. They develop hypotheses and test them in the real world, using observations to determine whether they are correct.
For people like us, this is important. When the field comes to a conclusion (such as people should eat lots of fruits and vegetables), it results from a careful collection of evidence. Thus, we should pay close attention to the broad lessons of the discipline.