What does “eating healthy” mean? What are healthy diets to follow? Not for weight loss or weight gain, but just a healthy eating pattern? I recently heard a person say they were on an “anti-inflammatory” diet. They had given up fruit and dairy – 2 important food groups for good health so already not a good choice. Another person said they were eating healthy and following the Whole30 diet. US News & World Report gives the Whole30 diet a poor rating and a low ranking. Why? The diet is quite restrictive and excludes grain (an important food group), dairy (another important food group), legumes, even peanut butter. Any diet that excludes a food group, excludes nutrients that the food group provides, is not a healthy diet.
Each year, the US News & World Report evaluates the “Best Diets”. For 2017, they evaluated 38 popular diets and determined which ones are best for your health and fitness. What do they look for? They use health experts to rank diets on a number of parameters including how nutritious the diet is, how safe it is and whether the diet protects against diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
1. DASH Diet – this diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, thus the acronym, DASH. Although it was designed to help lower blood pressure, the diet is good for your health.
a. Nutrients – the diet emphasizes nutrients that help lower one’s blood pressure like potassium and calcium. It encourages more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and dairy – but low fat dairy products.
b. Foods to limit are red meats, and foods high in salt.
Although the diet was designed for lowering high blood pressure, it is a good overall pattern of eating healthy.
2. Mediterranean Diet – this diet has been written about extensively. Many nutritionists and health experts recommend this pattern of healthy eating.
a. Why good for your health? The Mediterranean diet is a good diet for disease prevention – prevention of cancer and diabetes. It is diet for healthy hearts and a healthy brain. Basically, a healthier you.
b. Foods to enjoy: fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fish.
i. Choose low-fat dairy – 2%, 1% or non-fat milk. Choose low-fat yogurt. Buy cheese that is made with low fat or skim milk like mozzarella cheese.
ii. Whole grains – as noted in last week’s blog, so many Americans have few or no whole grains in their day. Find a way to add whole grains to your daily food intake and to your kid’s diet.
iii. Fruit and Vegetables – 5 A Day is a start. More than 5 A Day is even healthier.
iv. Nuts – add a handful of nuts a day
v. Olive oil – buy some extra virgin olive oil and use it in cooking.
c. Foods to cut back on: red meat, foods with added sugar and foods high in saturated fat.
3. MIND Diet – this sounds like it would be a “quack” diet, but it is actually a combination of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. It emphasizes the foods in these 2 diets that contribute to healthy brains.
a. What are brain healthy foods emphasized in the MIND diet?
i. Vegetables – leafy greens, beans
ii. Fruits – berries,
iii. Oil – olive oil
iv. Protein – emphasis on fish and poultry
b. Foods to cut back on: red meat, fried and fast food, butter, stick margarine (choose tub margarine) and foods with added sugar like sweets and pastries.
So rather than going on some crazy diet plan in an effort to eat healthier in 2017, choose one of the above diets to begin modeling your own eating after. Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all the foods you like to eat, but adding some foods that promote good health like more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains.
Sources: US News & World Report, DASH Diet, Mediterranean Diet, mozzarella cheese, MIND Diet Image source: U.S. News & World Report