March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign managed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The goal of this campaign is to highlight the important of making smart, informed nutritional decisions in order to promote a healthier lifestyle. However, making the right choices can be difficult when the information available to the public is contradictory or uncertain.
According to a recent op-ed by Nina Teicholz of the New York Times, new studies have debunked established nutrition guidelines a number of times in recent history. For example, Americans have been avoiding fat and cholesterol for years based on information indicating that consuming too much of either of these compounds would be dangerous to their health. However, the government has now repealed both of these guidelines after reports showed their original assumptions to be false.
Even the guidelines that remain in place have faced challenges. The government’s current recommendations maintain that saturated fats are linked to heart disease, in spite of several recent contradictions. Likewise, an influential Institute of Medicine study has also contradicted the government’s call to reduce salt intake.
To establish healthy eating habits in the face of contradictory advice:
- Take governmental nutrition recommendations in context, work with your doctor, and do your own research. Scrutinize the research studies that led to recommendations before accepting them as valid.
- Consider adopting the same nutritional principles that worked for previous generations: significant amounts of real, whole foods (including natural fat and protein and vegetables) with limited sugar and refined grains.