Directly across from me sat a woman clearly at her wit's end with the enormous volume of contradictory information she had heard and read. She was frustrated, confused, and desperate for answers. "So orange carrots are good for you? Because I saw on the internet real carrots are purple and the ones we get are dyed." I explained to her many vegetables naturally come in a variety of colors but certain colors are more commonly found in our grocery stores. I wish I could say this has only occurred once. I really do. Unfortunately we, I raise my hand the highest, have complicated healthy eating with misinformation and even accurate information that is just more than we necessarily need to know. As much as I love the science of nutrition and hearing the latest finding about how one particular nutrient can affect one very specific pathway, knowing any of that has never changed what I know to be true: healthy eating is not mysterious, overly complex, or convoluted. Or at least it shouldn't be.
People are probably tired of hearing me say, "if it grows out of the ground and doesn't kill you, it's probably good for you." But it's true. A diet rich in plant based choices has been linked to a lower risk of developing a number of diseases and in some cases it has been shown to reverse disease. I am not saying you need to be vegetarian to be healthy, but fruits, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains are beneficial to our health. What most "miracle" diets have in common is they are based on eating real food in the proper amounts. When I say real food I am referring to unprocessed or minimally processed foods, not man made compounds mixed together to look and taste like something edible. No matter which food group or nutrient a diet restricts if you really look at why it works it is because it limits processed foods and reduces calories. Nothing less, nothing more. Simple.
That being said, the factors affecting our ability to make healthy choices are not so easily untangled. I acknowledge many companies constantly push new products in our faces and into our grocery stores labeling them with the newest health halo buzzword (I don't care if it is gluten free, organic, fat free, and made with natural cane juice, soda is not a "health food.") I am not denying that we are constantly bombarded media and marketing claims that make it seem like less healthy choices are in fact nutritious. And I am far from insensitive to the fact that many of us see healthy eating as out of reach because of financial constraints and other food access issues. And this is where I think our focus should be: how to overcome these very real challenges to eating more fruits, vegetables, and the like, not finding new ways to make healthy eating seem tricky and thorny.
How do you figure out what's fact and what's fiction about good nutrition? How do you keep it simple?