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Nutritional concepts instead of trends
Chia seeds, quinoa, goji berries, moringa, spirulina algae, baobab fruits and many more - the list of trendy superfoods is long and the hype is great. Nutrition trends are said to have all kinds of positive effects on health, ranging from lowering cholesterol levels to preventing cancer. Does it really make sense to follow these trends? "No," says a renowned nutrition expert. In the following, he explains what really matters.
Dr. Michael Blaha is director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. His team and he are investigating the effects of diet on health. The expert is critical of food trends. "It's just confusing for people," explains Dr. Blaha. It is much better to get used to a healthy eating style overall than to rely on a few “superfoods”.
The whole counts
"Every little study that suggests that a particular meal is healthy is inflated in the media," comments the research director. Typical example: Eggs - sometimes they say eggs are healthy, sometimes not. The same can be observed with coffee. This only leads to confusion among consumers. “An overall healthy eating pattern is much more important than individual products,” says Blaha.
Observation is not evidence
Blaha warns that many scientific studies on food do not provide conclusive evidence, but reflect theories based on observations. However, these are not controlled experiments. Research teams often use observational studies to find out which factors in people's lives could be responsible for certain results. This is intended to provide clues to answers to questions such as “Who lives longer?”, “Who is more likely to develop a certain illness?” Or “Who is happier?”.
Not everything that glitters is gold
The fundamental problem with this type of study is that other factors could also be responsible for the effect. An example: If you observe that coffee drinkers are healthier, it does not necessarily mean that coffee is healthy. “Maybe coffee drinkers sleep more or less, eat more fruit, exercise more, earn more money, have a better job, or are mainly from a certain ethnic group,” says Blaha. Such backgrounds are often hidden in advertising.
Follow a nutritional philosophy
Instead of focusing on a few supposedly healthy foods, Blaha said it was much better to have a philosophy about healthy eating. If you plan, shop and prepare meals according to a certain concept, you no longer need to make 200 decisions about food a day. Likewise, you no longer have to chase every trend.
Example: Mediterranean diet
The nutrition expert cites the concept of the Mediterranean diet as an example. This form of nutrition has already been confirmed in several medical studies that it reduces the risk of heart disease. However, a recipe for success of this diet is not to rely on certain foods, but to integrate many different foods that complement each other well. For example, people who follow this concept use more vegetables, fish and olive oil when cooking, or choose salmon and couscous instead of macaroni and cheese in the restaurant.
Persistence instead of hype
"It is better to ignore the hype surrounding individual foods and instead aim for overall healthy eating habits such as the Mediterranean diet," recommends Blaha. A healthy diet includes more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins like fish and chicken, and healthy oils. Processed ready meals, on the other hand, are not part of a healthy diet. If you like variety, you can incorporate the trends naturally into a healthy eating pattern. "As long as it is part of a general healthy diet, there is no reason not to eat dark chocolate, coffee, special oils or similar trend foods," Blaha summarizes. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Think Twice About Following Food Trends (accessed: November 1, 2019), hopkinsmedicine.org