Five enduring food rules to chew on

Junk food such as ice cream put one on a sugar high but they have little nutritional value and are linked to health problems.
Junk food such as ice cream put one on a sugar high but they have little nutritional value and are linked to health problems.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Coffee is good, coffee is bad. Nutrition facts are confusing but these five rules are constant

The nutrition "facts" we used to believe decades ago have changed. Even a study done last week will be refuted by a study this week.

It's downright confusing. So I began to think: Wouldn't the most valuable advice be that which has stood the test of time?

If you are looking for guidance you can count on now and in the future, start with these five rules:

1. CHOOSE A VARIETY OF FOOD

Let's be honest: There is no one superfood that can provide your body with the 40 nutrients it needs. Variety is necessary to get the carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals needed for good health.

From 1980 to 1995, the dietary guidelines included the advice to "eat a variety of foods". The 2015 dietary guidelines still advise people to "choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups".

So what about popular eating plans that cut out major food groups - such as vegans avoiding milk and paleo dieters skipping grains? Can diets be healthy if they lack "all food groups"?

There are many ways to mix and match foods to create a plan that provides enough variety to meet nutrient needs, but it has to be done right. See a dietitian for an assessment to know for sure.

 

2. EAT YOUR VEGETABLES

Since the first United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food guide appeared in 1917, the message to eat "vegetables and fruit" has been a mainstay.

Studies link vegetable and fruit consumption with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, dementia and certain types of cancer.

So what if you don't like vegetables? With hundreds of options to try, there's bound to be something you enjoy. Try them in different ways to pique your palate - roasted to bring out their sweetness, raw to keep their crunch, in salads with delicious dressings.

3. GET ENOUGH FIBRE

Fibre-rich foods were recommended in the 1980 dietary guidelines to avoid constipation and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

The advice is the same now. In addition to colon health, adequate fibre is vital for preventing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Fibre-rich foods include vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, bran cereals and whole grains.

A cup of raspberries or half a cup of lentils will add 8g of fibre.

4. SAY NO TO JUNK FOOD

As early as the 1940s, the term "junk food" was used to describe foods such as cake, candy and soda, linking them to health problems.

In 1979, the USDA guide, Food: The Hassle-Free Guide To A Better Diet, added a category recommending moderation for foods that provided calories from sugar and fat but had little nutritional value.

It's safe to say that a healthy diet will never be built on cake and ice cream.

5. BE CAREFUL WITH ALCOHOL

The 1980 dietary guidelines say that if you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. It means no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. And no, you cannot save it up and consume seven to 14 drinks over the weekend.

Alcohol carries the risk of dependency and excess consumption is linked to liver damage, obesity and an increased risk of certain cancers.

So if you don't drink, don't start. And if you drink, do it in moderation.

THE WASHINGTON POST

•Cara Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian, is president of Words To Eat By, a nutrition communications company

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Five enduring food rules to chew on'. Print Edition | Subscribe