The importance of our dietary approach has often been downplayed, yet it was in 420 B.C. that our infamous father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, declared: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
In this article, we look at what some of our most prestigious institutes are saying about diets today.
- The dietary approaches to enhance health and prevent disease.
- The fundamental components of healthy lifestyles.
- The model plate in a cancer preventative diet.
- Guidelines and tips from the American Heart Association on a healthier dietary plan.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that 340,000 cases of cancer in the United States could be prevented every year simply by (“The Real-World,” 2017):
- Eating healthier
- Moving more
- Being a healthy weight
The American Heart Association website has an abundance of information on the importance of eating healthy and in the Healthy Eating menu in the “Nutrition” (2017) section they state:
“At the heart of good health is good nutrition.”
“Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do for your body. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease.”
With varying dietary approaches and health issues rampant, the following question begs to be answered…
What Is Healthy Eating?
There are endless options and, at a glance, some diets seem polarized such as common interpretations of a Paleo diet in relation to a Vegan diet. Rather than hitting head to head on dietary approaches, let’s consider what reputable institutions like the AICR and the American Heart Association (AHA) have to say. Given that cancer and heart disease are the top two killers in North America, the guidelines they offer are most worthwhile to take notice of.
Ideally our diet would include the most sustainable sources of foods available that enable quality of life as well as longevity. Instead of the ever abundant, results-oriented, quick weight loss and muscle gain diets, a truly grand and sustainable health-focused, long-term approach would:
- Promote health
- Enable weight management
- Adequately fuel people of all ages
- Address and adapt to various lifestyles demands
- Prevent, treat, and help reverse disease
Is this an omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, or plant-strong approach? Does each approach have its merits? Perhaps!
Today’s research has us looking at how the healthiest countries/cultures are eating rather than at the past where food quality, lifestyle and environment were nothing like our present-day experience.
On their website, the AICR has developed what they call “A Model Plate for a Cancer Preventive Diet” which they have named “The New American Plate” (n.d.). What’s noticeably different with this dietary approach is its simplicity. Contrary to many of the industry’s norms, the model plate doesn’t include counting calories, fat grams, and carbohydrates. What it provides is clearer guidelines on the suggested foods, proportions, and portions.
- Ideally meals are to be made up of 2/3 (or more) vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or beans and 1/3 (or even less) animal protein.
- Given that most of us overconsume, we are advised to refer to their online “Serving Size Finder” (n.d.). to identify standard servings. With this info, it’s further suggested to gradually reduce those quantities in order to achieve weight loss.
- The AICR's “The Expert Report,” Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, found that eating a plant-based diet – as in the New American Plate – may reduce the risk of cancer.
- In addition, the AICR reported “that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.” (“New American Plate,” n.d.).
To summarize, the strategies for cancer prevention are:
- To eat mostly plant-based foods, which are low in energy density.
- Be physically active.
- Maintain a healthy weight (via steps 1 and 2, as well as reducing portion size).
The AHA also has guidelines that reinforce those provided by the AICR (“Eat Healthy,” 2017).
The tips they provide suggest a healthier dietary plan include:
- Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, skinless poultry and plant-based alternatives, low fat dairy products and healthier fats.
- Sodium, saturated fats, sweets, added sugars and red meats are to be limited and trans fat avoided.
The AHA also highlights the health concerns related excess protein which is often contradictory to the general esteem of protein in the fitness industry: “The main problem is that often the extra protein is coming from meats high in saturated fats, which can add to elevated cholesterol levels of the LDL — or “bad” — cholesterol.” (“Protein,” 2015).
Suggestions for protein quantities are taken from the Centers for Disease Control with the recommendation for 10 – 35 percent of caloric intake or about 46 grams for adult women and 56 grams for adult men. An important reminder is to factor in protein grams from all sources and not just conventional animal proteins.
Determining a healthy dietary approach is not found in trendy dietary approaches, quick fix/fast results programs or biased and self-serving pseudo health advisors with a fitness and diet package to sell. Instead, tap into reputed resources providing evidence-based science as a preferred path to better health.
The information in this article is intended for educational purposes ONLY and is not intended to replace a physician’s advice.
A Model Plate for a Cancer Preventive Diet. (2017). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.aicr.org/new-american-plate/cancer-preventive-diet-model-plate.html
How to Eat Healthy without "Dieting". (2017, January 10). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/how-to-eat-healthy-without-dieting#.WFQWNNSdeSo
Nutrition. (2017). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Nutrition_UCM_310436_
Protein and Heart Health. (2015, May 5). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Protein-and-Heart-Health_UCM_434962_Article.jsp#.WJDaSvkrKM-
Serving Size Finder. (2017). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/diet/elements_serving_size.html
The Expert Report [Editorial]. (2007, November). Aicr.org. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.aicr.org/research/research_science_expert_report.html
The New American Plate. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.aicr.org/new-american-plate/reduce_diet_new_american_plate_science.html
The Real-World Impact of AICR. (2017). Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.aicr.org/about/real-world-impact.html