For decades, we have heard from public health sources that we should eat a variety of foods. Dietary diversity is touted as important for health. However, there has never really been a consensus about what so-called dietary diversity actually is, how it is measured, or how it necessarily is healthy.
According to a new statement from the American Heart Association, their thinking on the matter has changed. Eating a more diverse diet might be associated with eating a greater variety of both healthy and unhealthy foods. Combined, such an eating pattern may lead to increased food consumption and obesity.
Heart Association researchers conducted a thorough scientific literature review of articles published between 2000 and 2017 and came to the following three conclusions:
- There is no evidence that greater overall dietary diversity promotes healthy weight or optimal eating.
- There is some evidence that a wider variety of food options in a meal may delay people’s feeling of satiation (fullness), increasing the amount of food they eat.
- Limited evidence suggests that greater dietary diversity is associated with eating more calories, poor eating patterns and weight gain in adults.
So, the new thinking is that dietary recommendations should emphasize adequate consumption of plant foods, low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils, nuts, poultry and fish, and limited consumption of red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks. Selecting a range of healthy foods, which fits one’s budget or taste and sticking with them is potentially better at helping people maintain a healthy weight than choosing a great range of foods that may include less healthy items such as donuts, chips, fries and cheeseburgers, even in moderation.
A diverse diet may not be the healthiest one
Photo, posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of Miguel Discart via Flickr.
‘Dietary Diversity and Health’ from Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
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