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Simple Dietary Advice?

by Keith Milmer – 2nd May 2017
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I am writing this article out of a strong personal interest in maintaining good health through positive lifestyle choices – particularly dietary.

Although I have not looked to pursue a professional role in the field of nutrition, I have diplomas in human nutrition, a PhD in physiology and pharmacology, and have spent over 40 years remaining abreast of well conducted research findings in the field of diet and human health.

Sadly, there is much in the public domain that has created confusion when it comes to human nutrition. Celebrity chefs spring up from nowhere spouting all sorts of nonsense – dietary claims that have little or no scientific basis, from chia seeds to coconut oil to apple cider vinegar and beyond. Every day a new piece of under-researched nonsense!

Meanwhile, populist magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs publish half-baked (!) "research findings" that contradict the conclusions of other "studies" that were promoted just a few days before, with very little journalistic effort invested in assessing the quality of the research from a scientific perspective.

Sometimes such utterances are the result of honest confusion by those with inadequate scientific understanding or with publishing deadlines to meet and an audience to attract on behalf of advertisers. Or they may even be trying to sell you something more directly or on behalf of grocery chains, "health food" retailers and the like.

Please don't be fooled.

The basic ideas about health-promoting food choices have been known about for decades, and high quality research into human nutrition has helped to paint a clear set of principles about which we can all feel confident. That's not to say that future research will not adjust our current understanding of good nutrition. Doubtless there will be new insights and shifts in our understanding. But among the scientific community there are some clearly defined and agreed principles, and I would like to offer them here.

Good health outcomes tend to be enjoyed by those who pay attention to the following nutritional practices:

1) eating less highly processed foods, and especially processed meats

2) eating less 'fast food'

3) eating less red meat

4) reducing consumption of sugary drinks

5) eating more nuts, seeds and beans

6) eating more vegetables

7) eating more fruits

8) eating fish and seafood instead of other meats

9) reducing consumption of foods with a high sodium (salt) content

The last one in this list overlaps with items 1., and 2. but it's also worth watching out for and being careful about foods containing hidden salt, including soups, breakfast cereals, smoked foods, sauces & pickles and some breads.

There are many relevant references in the scientific literature, but the most pertinent to this article is here.

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