Diets are as individualized as our fingerprints. Stores offer hundreds, if not thousands, of diet books. You may have even tried dozens of strategies yourself. By adhering to the following six tried-and-true principles you can make long-term progress with your health.
Eat Whole Foods Instead of Processed
As food processing increases, nutrient density decreases. Typically, the greater the degree of processing, the higher the likelihood that a food:
- Has lost nutritional value, such as fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
- Has gained additives, preservatives, fillers, sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, and/or refined starch.
- Will leave you less satisfied and could encourage over-consumption
Eat Protein with Every Meal
Without adequate protein, our bodies can’t function properly. We need amino acids (protein’s building blocks) to produce important molecules like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies.
Protein absorption varies widely. An important thing to consider is the source. Animal proteins tend to be absorbed more easily by the body. If you are trying to get protein from plant sources, you will likely need a larger amount in order to absorb the same nutrients.
Muscle mass correlates strongly with longevity. This means that the more muscle you maintain as you age, the easier your body can handle the challenges of aging.
In addition, as we age, we have more difficulty absorbing protein compared to younger people. This makes prioritizing protein consumption even more vital for seniors.
Learn to Love Healthy Fats
If you get one thing from this article, please throw out that old “eating fat makes you fat” maxim. Eating all three kinds of fats in a healthy balance (about equal parts of each) can dramatically improve your health, and even help you lose fat. Our brain needs fat to function well. If you experience spaciness or “brain fog” on a regular basis, check how much fat you’re getting.
These three types of fats are saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. You get saturated fat from animal products, butter, and coconut oil used in cooking. Monounsaturated fat should come from mixed nuts, olives, avocado oil, and olive oil. And polyunsaturated fats come from flaxseed oil, fish oil, and mixed nuts.
Moderate Carbs and Prioritize Around Activity
Diets high in carbohydrates and low in fats generally do not work out well for most folks over an extended period of time. The ability to manage blood glucose (sugar) can be challenged when the body gets excess carbohydrates — especially in the form of refined or sugary carbs.
Therefore, most folks will benefit by limiting their carbohydrates to less than 40% of their total daily caloric intake. Furthermore, the body manages blood glucose levels better during and after exercise. Having more of your carbs during and after exercise could help.
Have 10% Foods
Having a very strict eating plan is a good way to make it impossible to succeed. Instead of trying to eat “perfectly” all the time, allow yourself a little variance throughout the week. By following a nutrition plan 90% of the time, you will typically get good benefits from it. What does “10%” mean? One way is to think about the total number of meals you eat each week. If you have three meals a day, that means you eat 21 times a week. To stay within the 10% threshold, you could indulge in foods outside your plan two meals during a week.
Avoid Drinks Containing Calories (Including Fruit Juice)
All of your drinks should come from non-calorie-containing beverages. Fruit juice, alcoholic drinks, coffee with cream and sugar, lattes, sodas – even diet sodas, which cause you to crave sugar even more — these all sabotage your attempts at slimming down. Your best choices for long-term health are water and herbal or green tea. It doesn’t mean you have to be a teetotaler (See “10% foods”) but beware of their unwanted, hidden calories.