It seems every time you turn around, there’s a new trend in healthy eating. Now don’t get me wrong—there can be merits to all of these. Most of the time. But with some of these plans, it seems like one side argues all the reasons their food is the best and healthiest, and all other food is horrendously destructive to the body; while the other side is arguing entirely the opposite. Talk about food fight! To make matters worse, research itself seems to swing back and forth all the time. Dangers of eating this food, benefits to that. Pretty soon there is nothing left that is able to be consumed! So how is anyone supposed to figure out what is healthy, anyway?
I truly believe there is research to support all sides, so to make a choice here, I’m just going to step back a minute and look at all of human civilization. Food varies so widely across cultures. Entire civilizations have thrived with rice or flour as a staple, or on a hunting and gathering diet—so it seems the human body is highly adaptable and able to thrive on a variety of foods.
So, then, it seems the best way to eat healthy is to eat with variety. Unless, of course, you have a specific health concern prompting a special diet, there is a happy balance in eating all of these wonderful things we have available to us as food. Food as a whole is so fascinating! It’s so much more complex & involved than the food pyramid we grew up with or even the nutrition facts label on the side of the box.
I do think it’s safe to say these new trends pop up all the time because the standard American diet, as a whole, is generally not what we should be eating. This is apparent, as the average American is not thriving! The diet is so full of processed food and refined grains. Why is that not good for us? All this processing removes parts of the food we need to digest it well, like fiber and enzymes, and adds other ingredients that aren’t so good for us, like preservatives and artificial dyes and too much sugar. It depletes the nutritional value of food that is otherwise healthy. This is why you’ll hear most health recommendations to avoid processed foods, or at least to consume them at a minimum.
So if we can agree that the standard American diet is an example of what is not healthy, then a good, healthy diet should look like, well, the opposite. What you want is a variety of whole foods. Fruits and vegetables, minimally processed meats, a variety of grains, nuts, seeds, organic dairy—just keep it balanced. With this in mind, I like to incorporate low-carb or paleo or Whole30 recipes as a way to add variety to my diet. These eating plans are full of nutrient-dense foods and provide a great variety, especially when it comes to grains. For example, I prefer ancient grain gluten-free pasta because of the taste, and I know I’m adding variety to the foods I’m eating.
More variety means more vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, phytonutrients, and more—all the raw materials our bodies need to function well and to thrive.
So switch things up. Eat the rainbow. Keep variety and balance in your diet for healthy living.
And relax—healthy eating should feel like an exciting adventure, not a stressful discipline! Find the foods you love and always be sure to e n j o y .