A healthy diet shouldn’t be confusing
There are a lot of fad diets out there, and even more nutritional supplements being marketed to improve health.
It can be confusing to know what to eat, what to avoid, and whether supplements are good for us or not.
A new study, however, suggests that the best diet is relatively simple: Eat everything, but aim for a lower-than-average salt intake. And skip the supplements.
According to the study, a low-salt diet reduces death from all causes in healthy adults without high blood pressure, and reduces death from cardiovascular disease in adults with high blood pressure.
The researchers found no health benefit from a variety of supplements, including vitamin B6, vitamin A, multivitamins, antioxidants, and iron.
Related post: Healthy adults don’t need multivitamins
Low-fat diets weren’t beneficial, either (although that’s not a good reason to eat more calories than your body needs!).
Omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid were found to have a minimal benefit. Fish, nuts, seeds and some oils (canola) are good sources of omega-3s. Leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals are good sources of folic acid.
If you eat a well-balanced diet, you don’t need to spend money on supplements. I’ve posted before that nutrients are healthiest and safest when you get them from the foods you eat.
Low but not too low
The average American gets about 3,400 mg of salt every day, even though the recommended guideline is no more than 2,300 mg per day.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an even lower intake of sodium—only 1,500 mg per day.
That may be too low.
There is evidence of a “U-shape” relationship between salt intake and death, which suggests getting too little sodium in our diets can be as unhealthy as too much.
Related post: Is salt bad for you?
Limit fast foods and other processed foods
The debate about how low to go with salt may rage on for a some time. And until there is a definitive answer, I’m aiming for moderation.
I don’t calculate every milligram of sodium I eat. I know that 90% of the excess salt in our diets comes from processed foods and fast foods, so I just limit how much of those I eat.
Anyone with heart disease or kidney disease who really does need to very careful about their sodium intake should work with their physician or a nutritionist.
For the rest of us, I like the advice of the food writer Michael Pollan: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.
I love to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and make my own bone broth for soups. When I buy canned foods, I look for “low-sodium” or “no salt added.” When I season food I use less salt and more diverse seasonings such as pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon, etc.
Our palates really do adapt to less salt. Potato chips and french fries are almost too salty for me now. Almost 😂 But I can eat these and other salty foods guilt-free because I only eat them a few times every month.
If you’re trying to lose weight or just eat a more healthy diet and want some guidance, I recommend the DASH diet. It’s very simple and there are several diet plans depending on your goals. Overall the DASH diet focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats, low sodium intake (less than 2,300 mg/day), and low carb intake.
A healthy diet shouldn’t be confusing or oppressive.
DASH diet books: