Though there is much debate in the scientific community regarding the role nutrition plays in development of health and disease, a few facts exist that are relatively certain and based on a body of good research.
Like everyone else, we’ve grown weary of the countless fad diets and claims about miraculous results just by eating one thing or avoiding x food. For that reason, we’ve assembled a list of nutritional facts that can be used to help assemble and/or supplement a healthy diet.
1) Low Carbohydrate Diets Reduce the Likelihood of Type II Diabetes
As Type-II Diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes) hits prevalence, researchers are constantly exploring different factors that could be contributing to this pandemic. Some focus on genetic factors (for which there is some support) and others focus on lifestyle choices (exercise levels, for instance).
But nearly all walks of science and common sense agree on one thing – eating too much sugar is a major risk factor, particularly processed sugars that have been separated from their respective whole foods. Soda is one of the prime culprits, sometimes containing over 40 grams of sugar in just a single can.
Diets low in processed sugars (or entirely devoid of them) have been linked to reduced incidence of Type-II diabetes and may generally lead to healthier outcomes. Conversely, whole foods high in fiber reduce the incidence of diabetes, most likely by slowing the absorption of sugar and improving gut health.
2) Setting Goals Helps Stay on Track in Life and Nutrition
Goal setting has always been an important part of success. Some cultures naturally orient themselves towards healthier diets, but that isn’t the case for everyone. The United States is one of the more obvious examples, where the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is plagued with chemically derived ingredients and artificial foods.
For those pursuing better nutritional standards, setting goals can be helpful in the same way it has been proven for other areas. Exact methods vary, but taking advantage of what technology has to offer may reduce the difficulty. Tracker apps such as MyFitnessPal or SparkPeople aid in keeping track of calories consumed, activity and food types eaten. They’re best paired with security apps such as VPNs in order to ensure privacy (among other things).
3) Unprocessed Foods Are Higher in Essential Nutrients
It’s no secret that eating whole foods is beneficial; virtually no sane person would argue the contrary. Yet exactly how beneficial a diet loaded with unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and meats can be is often lost on the public. Take the nutritional content of a sweet potato.
A single sweet potato contains over two times the daily requirement of Vitamin A, half the daily requirement of Vitamin C, and a host of B Vitamins. Eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes also incorporate a large amount of our daily fiber requirement.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli tend to be high in Vitamin K and Folate (absolutely essential for anyone avoiding enriched grains, particularly women who plan to become pregnant), while fruits such as berries or citrus are usually high in Vitamin C. Grass fed and free range meats are fantastic sources of complete protein (they contain all essential amino acids) and are higher in Omega-3 than their grain fed counterparts (especially the processed kinds).
Unprocessed foods, due to lack of added sugars, contain significantly fewer calories. Eating a mixed diet full of vegetables, fruits, and proteins make it difficult to overeat because the fiber, fat, and protein content help to trigger the “full” response in the hypothalamus and keep the stomach from emptying as quickly.
Those still new to unprocessed foods may want to consider supplementing at least initially. Particularly when it comes to eating leafy greens, it can be really difficult to develop a taste when coming from a previously high sugar, high salt diet. Have time constraints? A greens smoothie makes a quick, easy breakfast, lunch or snack.
4) Whole Foods are Devoid of Fillers & Additives
Another major concern we constantly see voiced is one regarding the “extra” ingredients added to so many different kinds of foods. Additives range from colors to artificial flavors and preservatives, all with the aim of making food sell better and stick around longer before it rots. Fillers, on the other hand, are there to cut costs (usually at the cost of vital nutrients). We see this done with sugar more than anything, especially in foods where fat is removed.
But whole foods don’t suffer from any of these pitfalls. Before hitting your table, they had everything needed to survive and this translates into better nutrient content. This has many benefits for us. For instance, watermelon seeds are actually highly nutritious (don’t worry, you won’t grow a watermelon in your stomach).
That’s not to say all whole foods are equal and able to be eaten in excess. Bananas taste great, but are relatively high in sugar and low in fiber compared to some other fruits and should be eaten semi-conservatively. But even at their worst, bananas will never lose out to packaged snacks and other premade foods.
5) Trans Fats Are Never a Good Choice
There are so many reasons that trans fats are terrible for you. Totally devoid of any real nutritional value, they are produced by a chemical process involving hydrogen and high heat to yield what is commonly labeled on foods as “partially hydrogenated [oil type].”
This is the type of fat you might expect to find in packaged sweets and especially in butter replacements like margarine. Consuming trans fats has been linked with heart disease, insulin resistance, and even the development of Alzheimer disease. In the interest of good health, there’s absolutely no reason to ever consume anything with trans fats in it.
That it is still allowed in food is nearly a mystery of its own. That said, if you use oil to cook, it’s recommended that you stick with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, as both offer relatively healthy mixes of fat (omega 9 and saturated fat respectively) and are readily available without breaking the bank. Just be sure your olive oil comes in an opaque container and isn’t used in high heat recipes, as direct light and high heat ruin its nutritional value.
For a Healthy Tomorrow
While researchers may continue to debate the merits of individual chemicals such as caffeine, there is no shortage of certain information regarding good nutrition. Other factors are certainly at play in determining overall health, but eating nutritious foods is one way to keep things in your favor.
Will you take steps to create a scientifically sound diet? Tell us how below.
About the Author: Cassie is a health enthusiast with a heavy focus on nutrition. While some of her knowledge comes from academia, much of what she knows is independently learned through a great deal of research.