After awhile, you start to notice patterns, though. Look at enough "diets" or dieting articles and there are things they all have in common. These, for me, become the basis for universal truths. Vegetables are good, no matter what. The fewer ingredients on a label, the better, so any whole food in its raw form is the best choice. Processed and packaged food is the lesser choice. Sugar is evil. Water is essential. And, no matter how hard I've looked, there is no diet that supports alcohol consumption. Trust me; I've looked.
It's in the details that the confusion lies. Good fats, bad fats. Low-carb, no-carb, what-the-heck-IS-a-carb? Gluten and wheat. Nutrient timing and when to eat and how much. These are the minutiae that get discussed and debated and from which the confusion stems. It's overwhelming.
So, for the average person (like me; presumably like you) who just wants to eat in a healthy and balanced way to maintain a weight they're happy with, without feeling deprived or restricted, having guidelines instead of rules is the way to go.
This article sums up nicely the basic truths that do seem to come up over and over again, certainly in the more reputable and evidence-based sources, and even in the lifestyle-magazine articles that will promise that you can tone your tummy in 30 days or lose 12 lbs in one week. Even the questionable sources seem to agree on these 11 basic premises. (Click the article link and check out the details behind each one for more thorough explanations).
Nutrition Truths That Everyone Agrees On
1. Artificial Trans Fats Are Extremely Unhealthy
Trans fats are man-made fats, made by “hydrogenating” polyunsaturated vegetable oils. These fats can cause severe harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to many diseases.
2. Whole Foods Are Better Than Processed Foods
Whole foods are much healthier than processed foods, which tend to be low in nutrients, high in harmful ingredients and designed to drive overconsumption.
3. Getting Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids is Important
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important. They function as structural molecules in the brain and play key roles in important cellular processes.
4. Added Sugar is Unhealthy
Most experts agree that sugar is harmful and that people are eating too much of it. There is mounting evidence that sugar may be partly responsible for many chronic, Western diseases.
5. Green Tea is a Healthy Beverage
Although coffee and caffeine in general are controversial, most people agree that green tea is healthy. It is loaded with antioxidants and has led to major health benefits in many studies.
6. Refined Carbohydrates Should be Minimized
Although carbs are controversial, almost everyone agrees that whole, unrefined sources are much healthier than their refined counterparts.
7. Vegetables Are Healthy Foods
Vegetables are low in calories, but very high in micronutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Many studies show that vegetable consumption is associated with good health.
8. Supplements Can Not Compensate For an Unhealthy Diet
Whole foods are incredibly complex and contain thousands of trace nutrients, many of which science has yet to uncover. No amount of supplements can replace all the nutrients found in whole foods.
9. Olive Oil is Super Healthy
Extra virgin olive oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats and loaded with powerful bioactive antioxidants, many of which have anti-inflammatory effects and protect against heart disease.
10. Optimal Health Goes Beyond Just Nutrition
There are many aspects besides nutrition that are just as important for overall health. This includes exercise, managing stress levels and getting adequate sleep.
11. The Best Diet (or “Way of Eating”) For YOU is The One You Can Stick to
There is a lot of debate about the different diets. There are the paleo folks, the low-carbers, the vegans, the balanced diet folks and everything in between. But the truth is… all of these approaches can work. The problem is not which diet (or way of eating) is “best,” the key is finding something that is sustainable for each individual. Losing weight and improving health is a marathon, not a race. What matters in the long run is finding something that is healthy, that you like and can live with for the rest of your life.
It's not in the knowing, it's in the doing.