What Is The Best Diet?
I was at a (socially-distanced) picnic a few weeks back, and we were talking about recipes that we’ve perfected during quarantine. One person mentioned that while they haven’t really “perfected” any particular recipe, they have really been enjoying roasted vegetables — simple, easy, and healthy. In particular, they shared how much better homemade veggies are than ones they might get at a restaurant, briefly noting the importance of using high-quality oil both for flavor and health.
And then the confusion started.
Our discussion about recipes quickly morphed into one about vegetable fat vs animal fat, refined oil vs unrefined oil, paleo vs diets X, Y, and Z.
“Are cashews unhealthy now, too?!” someone exclaimed. “I thought they were good for you!”
OMG I wanted to scream.
How exhausting to live with this overwhelming confusion about what we should be eating! Damn.
And the most frustrating thing, to me, is that this confusion is completely unnecessary. Why? Because we already know how to eat well.
Okay, yes, there are a lot of mixed messages about what the “best” diet is.
We have the vegans, the keto dieters, the paleo advocates, and about 500 other groups, each claiming their way is best.
We have the multitudes of conflicting studies—the ones that tell us fat is bad and then say the opposite a few years later.
And we have misleading marketing and labeling, bombarding us at every turn with promises and encouragements that only confuse us and lead us astray.
Understandably, it can feel overwhelming, frustrating, and downright exhausting to try to make sense of the chaos, especially when that chaos gets in the way of living an energized and happy life.
But there’s a simpler approach: Ignore the chaos, and stick to the principles.
Yes, there are actually a few principles that have virtually universal agreement among health experts:
- Whole foods are good for our health.
- Plant-based whole foods (e.g., veggies) are particularly beneficial.
- Processed foods are less good.
In other words, virtually everyone can benefit from shifting towards a whole foods, plant-based diet—from eating more whole foods, emphasizing fruits and veggies, and minimizing processed foods.
My keto and paleo friends, in particular, might revolt at this idea; “whole foods, plant-based,” on the surface, doesn’t seem to support a protein-heavy diet.
But there is actually a lot of variation possible within the “whole foods, plant-based” framework—you can still eat meat, you can still eat cheese, and you can still eat cookie dough. The key, simply, is that the majority of your food comes from whole, plant-based foods.
It’s also worth noting that moving towards a whole foods, plant-based diet doesn’t have to require any drastic changes (unless you want it to); adding in half a serving of veggies to your normal dinner is a meaningful step to take.
While it’s easy to get swept up in the chaos, throw your hands up in frustration, and resort to a crappy diet, remember that healthy eating is simpler than it’s made out to be, and that there are tiny, manageable steps you can be taking right now to move in the right direction.
If you’re interested in learning more about plant-based eating, as well as specific strategies and tips to incorporate it into your own life, check out this article–my ultimate guide to the what, why, and how of plant-based eating.