What is healthy eating? Do you ever feel confused about this? If you get your nutrition information from the main stream media, I agree, it is VERY confusing.
But when you spend time looking at the scientific research for yourself, the muddy waters begin to clear. You discover that an overall consensus does actually exist.
Because of the sensationalistic nature of reporting on health related “news” today, the truth about good nutrition (to the extent that we have been able to discover it scientifically) gets distorted.
A lot of people are left wondering – what IS healthy eating? What should I eat, what shouldn’t I eat? Let’s examine these issues by first looking at the areas of healthy eating that go pretty much uncontested amongst nutrition experts.
- The more whole fruits, vegetables and legumes we consume, the healthier our diet is, and the healthier we become as a result. Amongst the best vegetables (though they are ALL pretty great) are the leafy greens such as kale and collards.
- Refined sweeteners (white & brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) and refined carbohydrates (white flours, white rice, etc.) add nothing beneficial to our health, and if consumed in too great a quantity (and therefore take the place of more nutrious foods), will have negative consequences.
- In order to maintain a healthy weight (which is essential to our overall health), we must consume the amount of calories that we use in our activities of daily living. It is simple math really – calories in = calories out = weight maintenance. Excess calories (regardless of where they come from – fat, carbohydrates or protein) will result in weight gain. Insufficient calories will cause weight loss.
- High protein – high animal fat – low/no carbohydrate diets (aka “Atkins”) meant to induce “ketosis” are harmful and dangerous.
- Trans-fats are harmful to health and should not be part of a healthy diet.
- Saturated fat and cholesterol are significantly correlated with heart disease. (There does exist a group of people who generally disregard the science in this area and insist that saturated fat and cholesterol have nothing to do with heart disease. The bulk of the immense body of scientific literature, however, strongly supports this connection.)
- Fiber (only found in plants) is a non-caloric nutrient that is essential to our health. We should strive to eat a diet high in fiber from whole, unprocessed plant foods.
- Extracted oils (oils removed from their source such as canola, olive, peanut, flax, soy, etc.) add a very large amount of calories and fat to the diet without a comparable amount of nutrients. Therefore, their use should be severely limited, if not eliminated altogether. Even though they are plant-based, oils are not WHOLE foods. Wherever possible the WHOLE food (the olive, the nut, the seed, etc.) should be consumed instead.
So What Is Healthy Eating? Can We Arrive At a Conclusion?
So these are the major points that, by and large, are agreed upon in the nutritional scientific literature. Beyond these “truths”, there is some controversy.
But instead of focusing on the controversy, why not craft a diet that meets these criteria, in droves?
The whole food plant based diet is one that embraces all that is known about healthy eating. By it’s very definition, it is high in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Also, it is low in saturated fat, trans-fats, cholesterol, processed foods, refined sugars and refined carbohydrates.
You need never ask “what is healthy eating” again if you follow the guidelines above. I hope the confusion has lifted. As they say – “don’t sweat the small stuff”. If your diet is derived mostly from whole, plant foods, the small percentage that is not won’t hurt too much in the long run.