Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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The Best Diet? The Debate Continues


The debate about the best diet for health (not weight loss) continues with the latest report from U S. News and World Report. Winning top awards are three diets: the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet and coming in third, the Flexitarian Diet. These diets are basically saturated fat restricted and recommend the conventional wisdom of a more plant-based approach of whole grains and fruits and vegetables in order to prevent heart disease and diabetes.

On the other hand, there are critics of the report that include the proponents of the low carbohydrate, high fat ketogenic (LCHF-keto) diet that is lately gaining some attention at least for weight loss and claims to reverse diabetes. Many of these claims appear to be anecdotal on the Internet. By the way, the LCHF-keto diet came in last in the report by the nutrition experts. See my previous post HERE.

It still remains to be seen conclusively if  any of these diets can be protective against heart disease.  There is a great deal of research on the Mediterranean Diet and the lower risks of many chronic diseases.  To be fair, research on low carb diets is increasing due to interest on the LCHF diet claims for weight loss, diabetes prevention and lowering some risk factors of heart disease.  At the heart of the conflict is whether saturated fat is an unhealthy or healthy fat. The LCHF diet recommends using saturated fat liberally.

Partisans of both sides may be right or wrong. One fact is that  both are very restrictive and are very hard to follow for long periods of time, especially in our current food environment. There is fat and /or sugar (carbs) in almost every brand and type of processed food products. Often the food industry intentionally puts them there to increase the palatability of the product and to increase profits.

In the meantime,  the best diet remains to be the food choices you make and can incorporate into your lifestyle whether it is vegan, low fat or low carb.  One diet is not for everyone. It is important to consider your genetic background and health history. If you change your diet please consult with your physician for his/her opinions.



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Best Diets?

It is time for the U.S. News and World Report diet issue again. Rated by nutrition “experts,” this year the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet hold honors as most popular.  There are couple of “new” diets on the list this year. Conventional wisdom? The best diet is one that can become part of your lifestyle rather than following some gimmicky or faddish approach.

Bon appétit


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Here’s to Health?

Everyone wants to eat “healthier.”  The hype is often promoted by the food industry with heath claims on all their products they can possibly get away with. But what is the truth? No one knows for sure, but there are some foods that have gained this reputation with some degree of respect. Here they are.


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What is a Healthy Diet? An Update

The following post is an excellent source for links to the discussion of healthy diets.  It is a brief summary of what nutrition science “knows” at the present time.


For the complete discussion found in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (March, 2017), click HERE. It is a long article; however, it provides a lot of details on the latest recommendations about “healthy” diets and the research behind them. It can be read as a PDF.

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The Search for a “Healthy Diet”

By Sally Feltner, PhD, MS, RDN  March 18, 2017

Does your doctor often say, “Watch your diet” or have you noticed that most diet advice recommends that you eat “a healthy diet.” But honestly, why should we believe anything nutrition scientists have to say at this point? There’s been little consistency in the advice we’ve been given for decades. We have gone from hearing advice, to advice, that contradicts the first advice, and now we’re back in some cases to the original advice again. A lot of that advice has even turned out to be actually harmful. Remember the recommendation in the middle 1990’s to switch to trans-fat laden margarines

When I first began to study nutrition in the 1980’s, we knew little about the causes of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes as well as dementia, bone loss, you name it. I have been through the low fat, the low carb, the high fiber, the whole grain, the low fat dairy eras etc. . as well as just about any fad diet or gimmick you could think of. What have we learned? Not much. We are still searching for the perfect diet, the magic supplement, the best “superfood” to keep us healthy and increase our lifespan.

This is not to say that there have not been any important discoveries. Back in the early days of nutrition research, the discovery of vitamins and minerals saved thousands of lives. We have clearly eliminated the deficiency diseases, at least in developed countries, of scurvy, beriberi, pellagra as well as the prevention of goiter (iodine). More recently, we learned to prevent the devastating effects of neural tube defects with the fortification of folate in grain products.

Recently, the latest rankings of the U.S. News and World Report 2017 Best Diet Rankings were published. The three best diets overall as well as the three best diets for healthy Eating were:

These three diets are important because each one has been shown be associated with positive health benefits. The DASH diet benefits are associated with blood pressure control and thus an decreased heart disease risk. The Mediterranean diet has heart benefits and improved cognitive (Alzheimer’s) health, and the aim of the MIND diet is a combination of the other two diets – the DASH and Mediterranean that zeroes in on foods in each that specifically affect brain health. Both the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet won honors in easiest to follow, important with any diet attempt. There is no sense to attempt a diet you cannot feasibly follow. It  should not be a “diet”, but a lifestyle.

Nutrition professionals need to be careful about how we support what we say. Instead of “we know,” we have to just admit that “we think.” People often become resentful when we pretend to know more than we really do and tell them what to eat and then have to backtrack on that advice years later.

Fortunately, there are other says to assess diet quality. For now, we also can rely on the observational studies that look at the traditional diets of certain populations and cultures have shown us the many lifestyles factors including diet that confer health and longevity.

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A New Trend in Your Supermarket?


This is an excellent idea but just have to speak out here for the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN).  RD’s have been conducting supermarket tours for decades and many are employed by supermarkets. Most doctors are not well trained in the science of nutrition while RDs have undergraduate degrees in nutrition and graduate degrees in nutrition or related health fields. They are required to complete an internship and pass a national exam plus participate in continuing education activities.