“Most fad diets go something like this: Take a few foods, give them ‘superpowers,’ and set a plan to convince people that eating this way and only this way will promote weight loss,” says Alexandra Caspero, a registered dietician based in Sacramento, California. Caspero points out that following the latest diet craze might spur short-term weight loss, but many are difficult if not impossible to follow long-term, have arbitrary rules, and a few can even endanger your health.
If fad diets aren’t the answer, then what is? Beth Skwarecki — a writer for Lifehacker and author of “The Only Three Things Everybody Agrees on When It Comes to Nutrition” — shares three nutrition tips that represent consensus from scientists, physicians and even non-scientific folks like the Food Babe, an immensely popular food blogger and author as well as a food industry watchdog.
The only disagreement on sugar is whether it’s bad for you or really bad for you. The World Health Organization — a group that has linked sugar consumption to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay — says the evidence is strong enough to support a strict limit on the sweet stuff: No more than 10% of your daily calories. Five percent would be even better, the organization notes.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees with the 10% rule and has taken the sugar industry to task by mandating new food labels that contain a line for the amount of added sugars per serving in a product. And, to clear up confusion about what counts as added sugar, the FDA is asking food manufacturers to be straight with consumers about what constitutes sugar. For example, call “evaporated cane juice” what it is: added sugar.
Virtually everyone with any credibility agrees that sugar can be linked to all of the top chronic diseases. There is one exception to this statement: The Sugar Association would love for you to eat more sugar, saying it can be “part of a healthy diet.” Their best argument for sugar is the same as one of the strongest arguments against sugar: That it’s empty calories.
Avoid Trans Fats
The alarm has long been sounded on the dangers associated with trans fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Both the USDA and World Health Organization have put trans fats on their naughty lists. Virtually everyone (especially those who favor “natural food-based diets” — think paleo, vegan, and beyond (Food Babe: Check) recommends avoiding them and the processed foods in which they are contained.
Eat More Vegetables
This message has been running through your mind on a continuous loop since you were a child. The USDA has even drawn vegetables as the largest segment of MyPlate. So, even if you look really hard, there is no good reason to avoid eating your veggies. Speaking of good reasons to eat your veggies, most are naturally low in fat and calories and none have cholesterol; they are important sources of many nutrients, and they actually lower your risk for the chronic conditions described above.
The next time you are tempted to swallow that magical, fad diet pill, remember the three nutrition tips that everyone agrees on: Minimize sugar, avoid trans fats and eat more vegetables. Not only are these tips easy to follow, but they actually guarantee better health.
Kandy Childress can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.