Since the Nutrition Diva podcast debuted in 2008, new research has challenged a lot of the conventional wisdom on nutrition. How have my eating habits evolved over the past 6 years?
The Nutrition Diva podcast hits another milestone this week: 300 episodes (and counting!). I asked my Facebook community for suggestions on how to mark this anniversary, and Jim, a long-time listener, wrote: "I'd be interested to learn where you feel the weight of the evidence has shifted the most, and if your own diet has changed as a consequence."
Jim's right: Over the past six years, new research has challenged a lot of the conventional wisdom in my field.
A growing number of researchers, for example, are questioning whether saturated fat or cholesterol are really bad for your heart. New data continues to undermine long-standing recommendations to avoid salt. And it turns out that breakfast may not actually be the most important meal of the day. (It's probably somewhat immodest of me to say so, but a lot of the new research simply confirmed positions I'd previously taken.)
We've also seen plenty of dieting fads and trends come and go--with or without scientific support. It's certainly given me lots to talk about every week.
I don't think we need to overhaul our diets in response to every new headline or best-selling book, but nonetheless, my diet has definitely evolved over the last six years, in response to things I've learned along the way. >
How My Diet Has Changed Since Episode #1
1. I eat a lot fewer grain-based foods than I did 6 years ago. Don't get me wrong: I still love bread, pasta, cereal, and crackers--and I still eat them. I don't believe that grains (modern or otherwise) are killing our brains, causing the obesity epidemic, or sucking all the nutrients out of our food.
On the other hand, I think that grains are hugely over-emphasized in our current dietary guidelines. They aren't terribly nutritious, and they are awfully easy to overeat. They contribute a lot of extra calories, and push other more nutritious foods off the plate. Despite everything they taught me in nutrition school, I have come to see even whole grains as optional, and best consumed in moderation.
Although it takes some will power, I have found that reducing the amount of grains and grain-based foods I eat improves the nutritional quality of my diet, and makes it easier for me to maintain a healthy weight.
2. I eat a lot less meat, poultry, and fish. Six years ago, I ate meat at least 3-4 times a week. Today, it's 1-2 times a month, at most.
This is not really about nutrition, though. From a purely biological perspective, think the ideal diet for humans includes some animal protein. But I've become increasingly uncomfortable with what it takes to raise and harvest the amount of cheap fish, beef, and poultry we've become accustomed to. The amount of resources it consumes, and the harm to the environment and other species, don't seem justifiable (or sustainable) to me. And while I don't have an ethical issue with eating an animal, I do have an ethical issue with raising livestock under inhumane conditions.
Although my motivations are not primarily nutritional, I do have to say that eating less meat has had a beneficial effect on my diet. I eat a lot more vegetables and legumes because I don't eat as much meat. And vegetarian entrees at restaurants often seem healthier than the meat-based ones.