What is the healthiest diet? Is the Mediterranean, DASH, or plant-based diet the way to go? It probably doesn’t really matter.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for optimal health. If you don’t like the idea of eating exclusively plant-based foods, you won’t adhere to a vegetarian diet. Perhaps you don’t like salmon, so a Mediterranean-style diet isn’t in the cards.
A lot of hair-splitting occurs when we talk about nutrition and a healthy diet. It’s easy to get caught up in specific nutrients or follow a rigid set of foods that you can or can’t eat. But at the end of the day, there are only a couple of things you need to know.
The first is that eating plant-based foods is generally healthy. This does not mean you must eliminate all animal foods. Meat, dairy, and eggs are all very nutritious and can contribute to a healthy diet. But eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes will lower the risk of heart disease.
The second is to limit your intake of processed foods. When food comes in packages and is packed full of chemicals, it’s generally less nutritious and more harmful to your health in nearly every way.
Processed food intake is closely associated with a host of chronic illnesses marked by inflammation. Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dementia, metabolic syndrome, and type-2 diabetes are all seemingly inseparable from processed food intake.
Another area where people get hung up is individual nutrients. Yes, there is evidence that certain nutrients can help specific functions in the body. But guess what? If you’re eating a variety of foods associated with good health, you’re getting what you need.
Unless your doctor has identified a specific nutritional deficiency, your focus should be on your overall diet instead of how many anthocyanins or grams of vitamin E you’re getting.
Knowing you’re making the right decision can be tricky. But remember, just looking at a food can help ease your confusion. If it’s free from packaging and the food itself is the only ingredient, it’s likely a safe bet.
Pick as many plants as you’d like and make sure they’re coming in a variety of colors. When you do that it doesn’t matter what your diet is called.