Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Eating Healthy Foods is Not the Same as a Healthy Diet

This is a point, I've come to realize, that people get confused about time and time again. Yes, healthy foods are of course better than hamburgers and chocolate bars, but in order to be healthy and ward off disease, the bigger picture is what matters. Why am I droning on about this again? Because a new poll has found that 9 out of 10 Americans think their diet is "somewhat", "very" or "extremely" healthy, and yet over 65% of the population is overweight or obese, meaning they are not healthy! So what gives?

First off, delusion is not entirely to blame. People are told which foods are healthy, so they want to eat more of them to prevent diseases. The problem is that so many people lack the basic skills and foundations required to understand nutrition labels and the concept of calories, that those facts become secondary, and 'eating healthy food' becomes primary. Imagine someone who eats lots of salmon, almonds, walnuts, avocados, olive oil and dark chocolate on the regular, plus a little red wine here and there, without understanding how many calories they need, or how many calories those foods contain? You really only need a very small amount of each in order to be healthy, and once you go beyond your required fat and calorie intake, the benefits that those foods confer are negated by the negative health effects of overweight and obesity.

Diabetes doesn't care if you eat salmon. High blood pressure doesn't care if you eat walnuts - if you are overweight, you are at risk. A smarter idea? Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and other fibre-rich yet low calorie foods, with a sprinkling of those other 'healthy' foods and limit alcohol to 1 standard drink a day. This way, even if you don't know exactly how many calories are in foods or how many you need, you'll feel full on fewer calories and will most likely lose weight if you need to. Bottom line - a healthy diet includes eating healthy foods but, equally importantly, eating the right number of calories!