If you asked a random sample of people what healthy eating was I’m sure you would get varying and often contradicting answers:
‘It means eating a gluten free diet’
‘Eating high fat and low carb foods’
‘Consuming plenty of plant based foods such as wholegrains, beans, lentils as well as fruits and vegetables’.
‘Eating paleo style with organic meats, natural oils and fats but no grains, beans or dairy’.
‘Low fat diets with lots of fruits and vegetables’
So who’s right and who’s wrong?
Well this will just confuse people even more…. They are all sort of correct.
I’m sure you know someone who follows a gluten free diet who is very healthy.
And I’m sure you know a paleo advocate who sings the praises of paleo.
And then there’s the healthy vegan (we all know about them).
Don’t get too close (aka. Halitosis) but there are low carb high fat (LCHF) fanatics who love to tell you that fat is back.
So how can all of these very different diets contribute to positive health for these people?
Now don’t get me wrong there are certainly unhealthy gluten free, paleo, vegetarians, LCHF followers but when these diets are followed thoughtfully in combination with other healthy lifestyle habits (regular exercise, healthy sleep patterns, stress management etc) all of these diets can contribute to good health.
How? Why? They are all so DIFFERENT!
But are they?
There is an abundance of science that supports the fact that healthy dietary patterns consist of:
Plenty of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, nuts/seeds, seafood, legumes (aka minimally processed foods) and smaller amounts of red meat and minimal amounts of processed meat, refined starches and added sugars (aka processed foods).
What’s more is the fact that many nutritional scientists and experts agree that there is no need to restrict any certain food group from the diet and that there is no one perfect dietary pattern to follow. They agree that this healthy dietary pattern can be flexible to suit an individual’s preferences, lifestyle, tastes and culture.
So you can see that all of the diets mentioned above when done thoughtfully can follow these guidelines.
A Paleo dieter can eat minimally processed foods including lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and seafood, minimise their red meat intake and choose not to eat legumes or wholegrains (they don’t NEED to eliminate these foods but they choose to hence being flexible and choosing food based on their preferences).
A vegan can eat plenty of minimally processed foods which include vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains and choose not to eat fish, meat or dairy (they don’t NEED to eliminate these foods but they choose to hence being flexible and choosing food based on their preferences).
A LCHF dieter can eat vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish smaller amounts of fruit, legumes, wholegrains and red meat (they don’t NEED to but they choose to minimise these foods hence being flexible and choosing food based on their preferences).
As well as minimising processed foods, refined starch and sugars and having other healthy lifestyle habits (as mentioned above) you can see that all of these can be considered a ‘healthy diet’ and contribute to good health.
So really all of these diets (when done thoughtfully) are actually based on the same healthy diet principles. Label yourself a paleo or a vegan or a LCHF follower or gluten free if you want to but you aren’t all that different from one another. You have just made a few flexible adjustments of the same healthy dietary principles to suit your lifestyle and preferences.