what's the healthiest diet?
There are hundreds of different types of diets out there, but what's the best one?
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Should we eat more protein, or more whole grains? Is saturated fat the enemy? What about being a vegetarian? Maybe we should follow that cave man diet, or that one from the beach. Wait, which beach - Florida or Europe? Or we could just do one of those pre-made diet systems. And we should definitely eat that new superfood - I heard it will solve all our problems..
See where this is going? There is no right answer.
Choosing the perfect plan is like choosing the right religion - if your plan is the right one, offering you salvation in the form of long life, health and happiness, then by definition everyone else is wrong. Lucky for you to have chosen the correct path, while they're all suffering from plagues and chronic disease before dying off in middle age...
Each diet plan has scientific studies to back it up and lots of testimonials from satisfied practitioners who can't wait to tell you how healthy they got, or how much weight they've lost, by following one diet or another.
5 Tips to a Good Diet Plan
The fact that you're considering making changes to your diet is a good sign. Here are my 5 tips for a high quality, common sense diet - one that can help you lose weight, maintain weight, enjoy life, and be "healthy".
1.) Portion Sizes
I wrote about portion sizes a few weeks ago (see size matters - portion size, that is). The only indisputable fact about weight loss and weight gain is that the number of calories you eat will affect your weight.
Start by knowing how many calories your body needs to get through the day without gaining or losing weight. (calorie calculator here - use the sedentary option.) Then keep track of what you eat. If you eat fewer calories than your body burns, you will lose weight. Period. The end.
And, once you start paying attention to how many calories you're eating, you'll find that an average meal has A LOT of calories. Keep your portion sizes small, and you'll keep your body small, too.
Our bodies evolved over history to use whatever food is available. Meats, vegetables, and everything in between. Proteins, Carbs, and Fats.
Eat a little bit of everything, and your body will absorb the nutrients from all of it.
The more you narrow your menu, the more likely it is you'll be missing out on a particular vitamin or sub-molecule that you didn't even know you needed, but that nature provides in abundance.
3.) Real Food
As a corollary to Variety and eating a little bit of everything - when I say everything, I mean all types of foods. I don't mean all types of chemicals and manufactured products.
Fewer ingredients is better. Ingredients you can pronounce is better. Food that came from food is better.
"Food" that came from a bag in the snacks aisle, manufactured by a big company in gigantic quantities, with a long list of ingredients that are hard to pronounce and you have no idea what they are, that comes in all different types of wild flavors and colors.. is worse.
Sure, an occasional bag of Cheetos and a Mountain Dew (probably) won't kill you, but that's not something I'd recommend as a daily snack.
4.) Food Journal
Each of us is different, and each of us reacts a little differently to various foods. Some foods might give you energy, while others might make you sleep better. And still others might affect your digestive system.
Maybe you have an easy time limiting your calories with some foods, yet with other foods you can't help but to pig out! (that's Mexican food for me..)
Keeping a food journal is a great way to gain an understanding which foods help you operate at your best.
5.) the Top 1%
The vast majority of us do and act within what would be considered normal throughout our evolution. We walk, maybe even jog or run. We might need to lift something heavy, or use a burst of energy. We gather together socially. Nothing more taxing than our ancestors did for thousands of years - without protein shakes and energy drinks!
suggested reading - 90 percent of weight loss is simple
Professional athletes, endurance training, and power lifting may require you to pay more attention to the food you're using as fuel.
For the rest of us, keeping our calories in check and letting our bodies work as nature intended is the best, and easiest, solution - one we can continue to use throughout our long and healthy lives.