A common occurrence this time of year is the resolution to better oneself through improved eating habits.
A nutritionally sound diet comprises five characteristics: adequacy, balance, calorie control, moderation, and variety. In essence, making sure your foods provide all of the nutrients you need, not crowding-out certain foods (or food groups), obtaining all of the nutrients you need without consuming excess calories, eating foods within a set limit, and obtaining your nutrients from many different foods. The omission of any one (or more) of those properties of a sound diet may very well set the stage for failure to achieve your goal and not promote long term health.
There really is no singular food (or supplement) one could eat that will promote long-term health. Along those lines, there is no singular food to avoid eating that would promote long-term health either. It is the diet as a whole and the diet over time.
One also needs to be vigilant against nutritional quackery. Perhaps one of the endearing qualities of human beings is that we want to believe. Unfortunately, that may also predispose us to gullibility. It is the latter that the nutritional supplement industry may attempt to exploit.
There are a number of free diet analysis computer programs available on the Internet. Before ever making a decision to consume a dietary supplement, one should really first determine if their use is warranted by analyzing their current diet. Should a nutrient deficiency be identified, it is best to fill that void through the consumption of foods. There are certain chemicals in foods that provide benefit beyond the classical nutrients that you may not be able to obtain through a dietary supplement.
A word of caution when it comes to testimonials and anecdotal information: They commonly have not undergone scrutiny or been subjected to a scientific procedure to assess the veracity of the statement. Accordingly, they need to be taken with a grain of salt (no pun intended). This is especially true when it comes to what is referred to as “fad diets.”
Over the course of humankind, I am sure there have been numerous fad diets and will continue to be well into the future. Improving our eating habits comes back to the five characteristics of a sound diet. If they are not being followed, be wary.
Proper nutrition and dietary habits are not necessarily the magic bullet; there are other lifestyle choices that come into play when trying to promote long-term health. Nonetheless, a sound diet can indeed play a role in the betterment of oneself. Before making any change to your diet, you may very well want to discuss your thoughts with a physician.
Christopher Wendtland is an associate professor of biology at Monroe Community College.