The number of food diets in the world is mind-boggling. According to Wikipedia, there are over 100 types to choose from. If you’re looking to improve your health through food, how do you determine which diet is best for you?
Unless you have a health condition that requires you to eat a specialized diet that includes or avoids specific foods, the choice of diet is yours based on your lifestyle, goals, and interests. This still leaves you with a lot of options…
That said, there are ways to eat based on scientific research that can serve as a guide to decide which diet will be a perfect fit.
Foods To Eat For Good Health
Fruits and Vegetables Are Your Friend
Many diets advocate a high intake of vegetables and fruits, and with sound scientific backing. Veggies and fruits are high in fiber, which makes you feel full, a great advantage for weight management. They are also packed with essential nutrients like Vitamin C, potassium, and many others that help stave off disease. For adults, the USDA advises eating at least 1 cup a day of each of these food groups.
Protein, Grains, and Dairy in Moderation
There are some diets that omit protein, grains, or dairy entirely. However, these are staples of many Americans’ diets, so it may not be desirable to eliminate these food from your diet, which is perfectly fine. What’s important is that if you do chose to eat these foods, eat them in moderation. Excessive protein, dairy, and grains consumption can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease among others. Eat a 1/2 cup of protein and grains each day on average and 1 cup of dairy, depending on your size, age, and gender.
Challenges to Healthy Eating
Limiting Sugar, Salt, Saturated Fat, and Alcohol
These items are the four horsemen that can wreak havoc on our bodies. Overindulging in any of them can lead to major health issues as they mess with our blood sugar levels, increase our blood pressure, clog our arteries, and add calories with no nutritional value. Take a look at the USDA for more information on how to safely consume them.
Processed Foods and Meals
The biggest challenge for many people trying to eat a healthier diet is processed food. Oftentimes, sugar, salt, and saturated fat are used in excess to make these items taste so good—the very things that we need to minimize to be healthier! To be more mindful and discerning consumer, review the nutritional labels on processed foods and meals before you purchase them. Check out the FDA for guidance on interpreting the information on a nutritional label.
Controlling Portion Sizes
Ultimately, weight management and good health are about only eating the number of calories your body actually needs. Unfortunately, portion sizes of meal have grown incredibly over the past several decades. This quiz from the National Health Blood and Lung Institute shows that the size and number of calories in a muffin has more than doubled! To estimate how many calories you need in a day, check out this calorie calculator.