What is the Best Diet for Health? A Nutritionist and Nurse Weighs In
Thank you to all of those that attended the webinar Obtaining Optimal Health Through Nutrition and Exercise on January 5. We covered a lot in the webinar… from the role of genetics in optimal health to the principles of exercise science. And if you missed it, be sure to sign up to take the on-demand CE course here: http://achs.edu/course/achieving-optimal-health-through-proper-nutrition
There were a lot of questions from attendees that we just didn’t have time to discuss in my short webinar. So, I wanted to take the time to cover some important health and nutrition questions that were brought up. Enjoy!
Q. What type of diet is best for health?
Many people wonder: which diet is best? First, let me say that the term “diet” essentially refers to the foods and beverages that we consume. But, we tend to think of a diet as something we follow to either lose weight or to achieve a certain health goal, so I will refer to these as specialized diets. The problem with specialized diets is that they are typically very limiting of certain foods and they are difficult to maintain over a long time period. In my opinion, it’s much more beneficial for people to employ three principles when it comes to their food choices: variety, balance, and moderation.
There are different health benefits from different types of food, so it’s beneficial to include a wide variety of foods. In addition, within a particular food category (such as fruits and vegetables), it’s best to practice variety. Think: taste the rainbow! And pick fruits and veggies from a variety of colors. This helps to ensure that a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are consumed.
Balance means including foods from all of the food groups. Some people choose to be vegetarian or vegan, which eliminates certain food groups. These diets can be healthy as long as you’re very careful about obtaining nutrients that are lost from eliminating meat and/or dairy products through other means.
I believe that any food group can be healthy when consumed in moderation, and any specialized diet that overemphasizes or deemphasizes certain foods can lead to problems and deficiencies of necessary nutrients.
Q. Should products such as whole-fat milk and sodium be avoided?
Whole-fat milk and sodium do not necessarily need to be avoided, but again moderation is essential. Whole-fat milk has been found to be beneficial for health, but it’s higher in calories than lower fat milk sources. So, individuals who choose to consume whole milk need to ensure that they are compensating for the increase in calories by decreasing the amount that they consume each day.
Sodium is incredibly important for the body. We would not be able to function without sodium. It’s needed for muscle contractions, including the functioning of the heart, fluid balance, and maintaining blood volume. Sodium becomes a problem when it’s consumed in excess. Too much sodium can cause an elevation in blood pressure and contribute to hypertension, especially in those genetically predisposed to the condition.
Q. Are supplements beneficial?
In my opinion, deciding to use supplements really depends on the supplement and the individual. If you’re getting all of the nutrients you need from the foods that you consume, there is no need for supplements. But, many people feel that their diet is lacking in one or more areas and choose to supplement.
Some people choose to individually supplement certain vitamins and minerals, but this can lead to problems. Certain minerals use the same receptors, and if one mineral is supplemented and not another, the individual can become very deficient because the mineral that is being supplemented is backing up the receptor sites. So, my recommendation is that unless you do a lot of research on how much to supplement of each vitamin and mineral, then a multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement is your best option.
Moderation + Balance + Variety!
I know it can be frustrating trying to follow nutritional advice when that advice is constantly changing. However, by employing the principles of moderation, balance, and variety in our dietary and exercise choices, we don’t have to be discouraged when advice changes.
Following these principles allows us to make healthy choices without focusing too much on any one particular food and missing out on nutrients that can be beneficial to our health. Nutrition experts are constantly performing new research that often proves that foods that were once thought to be dangerous for our health (e.g., eggs, butter, etc.), can be healthy when consumed in moderation.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a guest blogger for American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.
 Giles-Smith, K. (2016). Milk fat does a body good. Retrieved from: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/news/exclusive0912.shtml
 Conrad Stoppler, M. (2015). Electrolytes. Retrieved from: http://www.medicinenet.com/electrolytes/article.htm