The proponents of low-carb, vegan and paleo diets, among others, each pose convincing arguments as to why you should follow their way of eating. But with so many mainstream diets to choose from, which one should you actually follow to live a healthy lifestyle?
What science says
In their paper which was published in the Annual Review of Public Health, Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?, Dr David Katz and Stephanie Meller from Yale University's Prevention Research Center did what everyone had been waiting for - they compared the medical evidence behind a whole host of mainstream diets including low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), paleo and vegan, to discover which one was the healthiest.
So, what did they find?
They found that, “if diet denotes a very specific set of rigid principles, then even this necessarily limited representation of a vast literature is more than sufficient to answer with a decisive ‘no’. If, however, by diet we mean a more general dietary pattern, a less rigid set of guiding principles, the answer reverts to an equally decisive ‘yes’.”
So while the researchers did not find a winning dietary system, they did find that there were general eating patterns shared amongst the diets which were conducive to good health. These included eating:
1. Natural or minimally processed foods
2. Plant-based foods
3. Animal foods (e.g. meat or dairy) in which the animals themselves have been fed pure plant foods
In short, we should eat foods that are natural and predominantly plant-based.
What your body says
While the research study mentioned above provides guidelines as to how we should eat to maintain overall health, it is important to note that each of us is different with different needs and goals, requiring different dietary requirements. Therefore, the ultimate answer doesn’t necessarily reside outside of us - it lies within us.
Esther Blum, the author of Eat, Drink, And Be Gorgeous, says, “learn to trust your own judgment. We can create our own rules and we do not need others to tell us what to do. We simply need to allow ourselves the time and space when we do eat to acknowledge when we've had enough.”
Let’s face it - most of us are ignorant as to how the food that we eat affects our body. Instead of feeling into the sensations caused during and after our meals, and reflecting on their resultant effects, we’re too busy interacting with others. And at a more subtle level, although we may be eating, our mind is often elsewhere.
At a coarse level, if you feel light, energetic or balanced after eating a meal, then that’s a promising sign that you’re nourishing your body with food that is conducive to good health. However, if you feel sluggish, bloated, itchy, or suffer from indigestion after eating a meal, then that needs looking into!
Blum recommends keeping a diet diary of what you eat, as well as how your body feels after each meal for five to seven days. Over time, you will discover your eating habits (good or bad), as well as which foods you should keep and eliminate. In essence, you’ll be creating a diet that is uniquely suited to you.
So rather than eating mindlessly, take back control of your diet for the healthiest possible you. Building upon the general dietary principles of eating natural foods and lots of vegetables, make every meal mindful and strive to gain a deeper understanding of how your body functions. It already knows what is good for it and what is not. Listen to it, nourish it and you’ll feel better for it!
Join the PurelyB community and sign up for free. An exciting array of products at our health and wellness marketplace awaits you - from healthy, gluten-free snacks, refreshing beverages to eco-friendly active wear, toxin-free personal care products, kitchen appliances and more! Plus, you'll get tips on beauty, nutrition, fitness and wellness!