How to Eat: Facts and Fallacies about Healthy Food
Chew on these science-based, common-sense ways to eat better
Nutrition advice is a bewildering brew of helpful and terrible information, steadily stirred by conflicting new studies, click-bait headlines to misleading articles, and the food industry’s colossal marketing efforts aiming to simply sell, sell, sell.
Amid all the confusion, however, is a strong expert consensus on the key aspects of healthy eating. So let’s sort through the stew of solid nutrition science and harmful food fallacies and glom onto some helpful, common-sense ways of eating. These simple guidelines will improve your odds of living years longer and staying physically healthy and mentally well.
Oh, and if you wish to argue about any of this — and I know some of you will — please first see the final paragraph.
Facing food facts
Most diets are not good for most people. Certain medical conditions require specific diets, under the supervision of a medical professional. But otherwise, most diets — especially those marketed for money and/or promising fast and amazing weight loss — range from unproven to incomplete to outright unhealthy. Whether it’s Atkins or keto, paleo or a juice cleanse, there’s one ultimate truth about diets: Most of them are too narrowly focused to provide ideal nutrition for most people.
Fruits and vegetables offer hidden benefits. Produce packs essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients—that much we all should know. But people who eat more fruits and veggies likely consume less bad stuff, says Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University. Indeed, a 2021 study in the journal Circulation found that people whose diets are high in fruits and vegetables eat better overall, get more physical activity, and smoke and drink less—and live longer. “It is not critical to parse out which factor had the greatest effect,” Lichtenstein tells me of this study. “The important message is to identify the fruits and vegetables you enjoy, buy them (fresh or frozen) and eat them.” Especially if you’re serving as a role model for kids, she suggests.