Superfoods. Paleo diets. Juicing. Magic-bullet supplements. When it comes to health and nutrition, a lot of the advice that you’ll find on the internet is about the latest and greatest thing. Sometimes they’re cure-alls, and sometimes they’re details: The food to start or stop eating, for instance, or the lifestyle habit that causes cancer.
These sort of headline-grabbing snapshots, whether they’re oversimplifications or too granular, are perfect for firing off blog post after blog post about health and wellness. But they’re not so useful for the people who read them, who are left either with worthless trendy advice or yet another tiny tidbit to add to the thousands they’re already struggling to remember every time they go grocery shopping or order at a restaurant. On top of all of this, a lot of this stuff just doesn’t work.
To be really effective, our understanding of nutrition and health needs to be comprehensive but not overly simplified. Let’s look at the big picture.
How to eat
Your body needs energy and nutrients to stay healthy. But many of the foods that Americans eat are “empty calories.” They have lots of caloric energy, but few nutrients. Eat lots of foods like this (as many Americans do), and you’ll end up overweight and unhealthy (as, unfortunately, many Americans also do).
Engineering a better diet doesn’t have to mean going paleo or tracking every last thing you eat. The real “best diet” is as simple as it is effective: You should stop eating so many processed foods. Instead, eat whole, unprocessed foods; avoid certain food dyes; take care to make enough of the vegetables. If you eat a plant-based diet, you’ll virtually always be giving your body the nutrients it needs without really having to pay attention to any specifics.
How to exercise
Your diet is extremely important to your health, and it’s virtually essential to your weight; if you think you can outrun an unhealthy diet, just look at the number of calories in a bag of Doritos and compare it to the number of calories you can burn by running a mile.
But weight isn’t the same thing as health. No matter how thin your healthy diet makes you, you still need to work out. Experts recommend getting at least a half-hour of exercise a day, five days a week. That’s not tough to do if you make a habit of getting active. If you’re having trouble, consider adopting an active hobby. Getting into hiking or cycling can do wonders for your health.
Vitamins and supplements
If you’re eating a diet of whole foods, you probably don’t need to worry about individual micronutrients. Still, none of us eats a perfect diet, so it makes sense to have a basic idea of nutrition and to take some supplements.
While micronutrients are almost certainly not worth your time, tracking your macronutrients can be a useful temporary exercise or even a good long-term habit. Balancing proteins, carbohydrates, and fats can help you keep your diet balanced.
Vitamins can be helpful, too, explain the pros at one respected vitamin manufacturer that supplies health and lifestyle retailers with reliable and healthy products. While no substitute for a healthy diet, vitamins may help you shore up weaknesses in your nutritional intake.
Other supplements can be useful, too. So, for that matter, the little tweaks and tips you’ll find in health and lifestyle blogs and magazines. But don’t get caught up in the specifics: Remember, when it comes to health, the big picture is what matters most.