Figuring out how to eat can feel damned-near impossible.
Folks are swearing by vegan, carnivore, paleo, IIFYM, low fat, keto, and everything in between.
What if you could take one step that fits within nearly any dietary framework?
Prioritize minimally-processed foods.
A 2018 trial showed that consistently eating minimally-processed food was a bigger factor in participants’ success improving health and body composition than whether they limited carbs or fat, even when predisposed to favor one or the other (1).
In a 2019 trial, participants freely eating highly-processed foods consumed 500 calories more per day than those freely eating minimally-processed foods with the same nutrient profile (2).
Observational studies have linked highly-processed food consumption to increased risk of cancer, mortality, depressive symptoms, inflammatory bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, frailty, dyslipidemia, overweight/obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes (3).
Identifying highly-processed foods can be tricky, but we’re mainly talking about foods that are (4):
- made to have a long shelf-life
- hyper-palatable and attractive
- able to be consumed anywhere, any time
- high in unhealthy fats, refined starches, and added sugars and salt
- low in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
It’s tempting to focus on memorizing these traits and avoiding foods that have them.
You may have more success, though, focusing on what you do eat, not what you don’t eat, and using simple-to-follow rules of thumb.
Here are some examples:
- prioritize foods without nutrition labels
- prioritize foods without ingredients lists
- prioritize foods with five or fewer ingredients
- prioritize foods with ingredients you can pronounce
- prioritize foods found around the perimeter of the store
None of these are perfect, of course.
There are exceptions to each and every one.
They’re not intended to be perfect, though.
They’re intended to get you started.
Finding what works for you.
There is no “one size fits all” approach.
Change is hard, especially when food’s involved.
Take things one day, one meal, one bite at a time.
You’ve got this.