I don’t know about you, but the constant bombardment of diet trends leaves me at times utterly confused. I read up on a particular diet, only to learn later about the negatives associated with that diet or find out about an even better diet. It’s hard to keep up! As a student in a holistic nutrition program, I am learning that food is more than the sum of all calories, it is about nourishing our mind, body and spirit. Everything we ingest has an effect on us—we don’t have to be perfect about it but even making small, consistent changes in our daily lives has a powerful impact.
An optimal diet should be individualized, depending on many factors such as culture, medical conditions, goals, ethical philosophy, etc. There is no “one size fits all” approach and it may be worth it to seek out a nutrition professional to figure out a personal plan. However, no matter the diet, there are two key concepts that always prevail: EAT REAL FOOD and ADD VARIETY. If you start with these 2 concepts, you are on your way to wellness!
EAT REAL FOOD
Michael Pollan defines real food as something that your great grandmother would recognize and that will eventually spoil or rot.
Real food should have ingredients that you generally recognize. It doesn’t have a long list of strange ingredients and chemicals and isn’t manufactured in a lab 1 (Deepak Chopra considers these as “dead foods”).
The less processed the food, the better.
The less chemicals, antibiotics, genetic modifications, the better (think organic when/if possible)
The quality of the food matters more than just calories. As Dr. Mark Hyman says: “if you choose quality, the rest takes care of itself”.
By eating real food, you will automatically reduce the amount of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, refined carbs and other harmful ingredients you consume.
This will ultimately lead to optimal health and wellness, including weight loss, improvement of diabetes and high blood pressure, looking and feeling better, and clarity of mind. 2
2. ADD VARIETY
Real, whole foods deliver specific benefits and nutrients so you need variety! 3
When we eat the same foods over and over, we risk becoming deficient in certain vital nutrients.
Foods can’t be narrowed down to a single nutrient and nutrients don’t work in isolation. 4
Eating a variety of whole foods is more effective than taking synthetic vitamins—we can’t simply rely on vitamins. 5
Therefore, for optimal health, variety is crucial.
That’s it! So during those times that you feel swamped with dietary advice to the point where you don’t know WHAT to do, you can fall back on these two important concepts. Get started in whatever capacity you can and don’t overwhelm yourself. Even making a few changes can go a long way!