New study proves you are what you eat
When it comes to what you eat, keep it simple. That’s the takeaway from a paper published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The review of nutritional studies indicated that what you probably already knew is, unfortunately, true. Dietary fads don’t work and aren’t necessary. The research paper cuts through the clutter of heart-health studies and concludes that the basics – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts – are best to eat for the maintenance of good heart health. Some cardio-healthy diets also include very limited helpings of lean meat, fish, low-fat and nonfat dairy products and liquid vegetable oil.
In other words, forget about juice cleanses, which rob your diet of needed fats and proteins, can be dangerous if you have diabetes, kidney disease or other ailments, and often have little or no fiber, which aids in digestion. As for the magical “detox” benefits of juice cleansing – that’s what your liver, kidneys and intestines are for.
“Juicing is okay, as long as you don’t think you can only drink juice for an extended period of time,” registered dietician Ana Reisdorf told Earth.com. “You also need to realize you can end up consuming tons of calories from fruit, depending on how you make your juice.”
As for the too-good-to-be-true benefits of the very popular high fat/low carbohydrate diets: too good to be true. That’s the verdict following a 25-year Swedish study that found that short-term weight loss is possible. But over time, the high fat/low carb diet increased blood cholesterol levels – and waistlines. Both are major risks for cardiovascular disease.
“There is a great amount of misinformation about nutrition fads, including antioxidant pills, juicing and gluten-free diets,” said Andrew Freeman, MD, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness in the division of cardiology at National Jewish Health in Denver and the paper’s lead author. “However, there are a number of dietary patterns that have clearly been demonstrated to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease.”
Freeman also explained some of the confusion in nutritional studies. He pointed out that some that promote the addition of other foods are funded by the food industry. Others might rely on the often unreliable memory of study respondents.
Here are some other conclusions drawn by the paper.
- Juicing can be a healthy dietary source, but the juicing process concentrates the calories, making it easy to over-consume. Going old-school – simply eating your fruits and vegetables – is better for you. And if you do juice, don’t make it a multi-day or multi-week cleanse.
- Olive oil is your healthiest cooking oil option, but go lightly on it since it’s also high in calories. And avoid coconut oil and palm oil since school is still out on both.
- Ah, gluten. While those with celiac disease should certainly avoid it, the health claims for a gluten-free diet are unproven for those without a gluten sensitivity. Which is sure to be a surprise to a lot of people. A survey by NPD Group indicated that 29 percent of American adults – some 70 million people – are trying to reduce how much gluten they eat. YouGov says that 60 percent of UK adults have bought gluten-free food products. Yes, gluten’s a threat to celiac sufferers, but that’s about one percent of the population in the developing world. And yet, seven percent of Brits claim an allergy or intolerance, and another eight percent say they avoid gluten as a healthy living decision. (Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, a private practice dietitian and nutrition consultant, points out another drawback of gluten avoidance. “A gluten-free diet, if not medically warranted, is not needed for weight loss and can even backfire and cause weight gain! The variety of gluten-free products lining supermarket shelves are full of more sugar and fat to help mimic the flavor and texture of products containing gluten and can even have more calories!”)
- Forget about your high-dose oxidation supplements. Just – once again – eat your fruits and vegetables.
- Nuts – yes. Good for you, but high in calories, so go lightly.
Earth.com caught up with several healthcare professionals to get their take on the new report.
Robyn Lanci – Certified Health Coach
“I think the paleo diet is one of the best out there, while a gluten-free one (unless medically necessary) is one of the worst. Although a paleo diet eliminates food groups like dairy, it doesn’t eliminate anything that’s actually good for your body — it can just take some getting used to. It’s a common assumption for example, that dairy is needed for calcium, but the reality is that you can find it in many fruits, which are paleo-friendly. Our bodies aren’t made to digest cow’s milk; the number of lactose-intolerant people serve as a testament to that fact. A gluten-free diet is marketed well, but not beneficial unless you’ve got celiac disease or another sensitivity like migraines. Fat-free diets are also quite similar in the sense that they’re marketed well but aren’t good for you. When a manufacturer removes the fat (or lowers it significantly) from an item, it gets replaced with something else. That something else is usually chemicals, sugar, or a combination of the two. So while the original version of whatever is being marketed as fat free or low fat isn’t good for you, you’re better off with that versus the alternative.”
Ana Reisdorf – Registered Dietitian
“I think the common belief one needs to “detox” is probably what annoys me the most. If you just stop putting junk into your body, it will naturally detox itself. So, its not necessary to buy any special product to do so.Juicing is ok, as long as you don’t think you can only drink juice for an extended period of time. You also need to realize you can end up consuming tons of calories from fruit, depending on how you make your juice.”
Mario Behrendt – Fitness Coach
“There is no special diet. You won’t magically lose body fat because you go vegan, or paleo or gluten-free. What’s important though, is how a person feels on a diet. Some people feel better on carbs, some feel better without carbs. There’s no one-size-fits-all-diet. Everyone is different, has different genes and enzymes.”
Chelsey Amer – Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Nutrition Consultant
“My favorite diet trending right now is eating for gut health! From kombucha to probiotics to the variety of fermented foods available, gut health has become sexy, hot and important for health and weight loss. We’re learning that having a healthy microbiome (which is the good bacteria in our intestines) is linked to everything from weight management to preventing chronic diseases. The worst diets that are trending to me are restrictive diets that have you cut out complete food groups when it is not warranted. Eliminating grains, legumes or fruit completely from your diet is unnecessary and can even be dangerous because you’ll be missing out on some very important nutrients!
I am definitely not a fan of juicing as a way to “detox” or lose weight because juice doesn’t contain all of the nutrients you need to thrive! Vegetable and fruit juices have the fiber stripped out and instead contain just sugar, vitamins and minerals. I would much rather you eat fruits and vegetables in their whole form because they contain fiber, which helps keep you full and because we are more satisfied when we chew real food!”
Dr. Keith Ayoob – Diet & Lifestyle, Nutritionist, Dietician
“Juicing always surprises me that people think it’s more healthful as a juice than as the whole food. The juicers that remove the pulp are removing what you need the most. My take on juicing: Your gut already has a juicer. It just works more slowly. No need to hurry. Smoothies can be a whole lot of natural calories. If the smoothie doesn’t have protein, it’s a missed opportunity. Zero-carb diets are absolutely ridiculous. Anytime you remove a food category, it can be a red flag for obsession or phobia. Your body needs carbs.
Best diet: Go for one with a boatload of science behind it and that’s also livable for the rest of your life: the “Modi-Med Diet”. It’s a modified Mediterranean diet (emphasizes fish, olive oil, nuts on most days, along with daily fruits and vegetables) that combines a Med diet with a DASH-type diet. DASH is “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and is basically loaded with fruits and vegetables, plus low-fat dairy foods.”
By David Searls, Earth.com Staff Writer