Nutritional recommendations and dietary fads are constantly changing. “There is widespread chaos in the world of nutrition,” says Andrew Freeman, the director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver. “It seems recommendations swing back and forth all the time.”
In an attempt to prove which food fads actually constitute healthy eating, Freeman, along with 11 other researchers, analyzed nearly 150 nutrition studies. In doing so, they were able to determine which food fads are backed by science, and which are not. Their results have been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Below covers fads ranging from gluten to juicing. Check out which ones are worth trying!
After being featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” acai berries received wide acclaim for being rich in antioxidants. Despite its growing popularity, acai has just as many health benefits as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, says Freeman. Acai possesses nothing special. Additionally, Freeman points out that there’s no evidence antioxidant supplements benefit heart health. If you want antioxidants, it’s best to consume them directly from fruits and vegetables.
Once shunned for being being high in fat, nuts are now making a comeback. Since they contain heart-healthy fats, nuts make a great snack. However, Freeman warns readers of the risks in eating too many nuts, which are high in calories. “A lot of people are eating loads — you can easily eat several hundred calories in one sitting, so people need to be careful that they don’t overdue it,” says Freeman.
Juice cleanses are so popular that many pay between $150-$200 for the high-end brands. Though consumers are investing in this trend, the verdict is still out on its heart health benefits. Freeman and his team hesitate to support juicing because it leads to a high consumption of calories and natural sugars before getting full. “Until comparative data become available,” the review concludes, “whole food consumption is preferred, with juicing primarily reserved for situations when daily intake of vegetables and fruits is inadequate.”
Not including the 6% of the population with celiac disease or other gluten related sensitivities, there’s little evidence supporting a gluten-free diet. Whether gluten causes negative health effects like weight gain is still in question. “There’s a lot of controversy, not a lot of data,” says Freeman.
For those without a gluten sensitivity, it’s best to eat unprocessed grains instead of removing gluten from one’s diet altogether. Gluten-free does not constitute healthy eating. For instance, removing the gluten from pizza doesn’t remove the carbohydrates and the cheese.
The Bottom Line about Food Fads
Ultimately, there is no magical “superfood” that can counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet. No food singlehandedly leads to weight loss. The key to a heart healthy diet is simple: eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and a moderate amount of nuts, lean meats, vegetable oils, and low-fat dairy products. Healthy eating is about moderation, says Freeman. It may not be ground-breaking, but it is backed by science.
For more questions about healthy eating, your best resource is a nutritional specialist. Before scheduling a visit, make sure the visit is covered by your health plan! Don’t have health insurance? Contact a licensed agent today to discuss your plan options!
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