Looking for the Ultimate diet? Look no further, the US News & World Report has done all the leg work and came up with its 2017 rankings. This is now its seventh such list, asserting to cut through the clutter of claims. Coming from such a trustworthy source of information and a panel of nationally recognized health experts, we can assume the rankings give a realistic overview of the best types of foods that can foster human health. But is it really the case?
Before we evaluate these findings, we need to ask: Who are the dietitians who created the rankings? What was their methodology? According to the US News & Report Website, there are twenty of them, all with very impressive credentials. They represent a sampling of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease. They rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. The Website does not say much else about their methodology and somehow, looking at the diets they ranked among the best, allow me to be skeptical. Hey, I don’t pretend to know it all and I am certainly not always objective, but when I see names like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig come up on a list of best diets, I get suspicious! Classically trained dietitians tend to operate on the calories in calories out dogma. A dogma dating back to the 1950s, time when the sugar industry, having to protect its profitability, released an add campaign claiming that all foods supply calories and there is no difference between the calories that come from sugar or steak or grapefruit or ice cream. That was only the beginning of a campaign to exonerate sugar of any ill effects. Today, the average dietitian will advise people to follow the food pyramid:
It might not look so bad at first glance, but this low fat high starch diet has not been serving us well. One just has to look at the increase in rates of obesity, cancer and chronic diseases to figure this out. This is also the same paradigm that allows sugar laden foods to be promoted by some national organizations (look for the check marks from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation or at the sugary dairy products served in schools because, you know, dairy is essential to good health and granola bars are healthy since they contain whole grains). Looking at the information available out there, one has to wonder how much of it is ultimately propaganda from the food industry and how much is sincere lack of understanding of the human body by well meaning professionals.
I may not have found the Ultimate diet, but I know enough to surmise that a more effective food pyramid should include veggies as the basis and healthy fats as a second element in importance. Here is a summary of what most health experts would agree on. The number of medical practitioners rejecting the old model is increasing constantly and for good reasons. Time has come to stop promoting unhealthy foods and eating patterns. Instead, let’s embrace what research and clinical evidence have been teaching us, even if it means abandoning some long held belief systems!