Doctors agree that eating a healthy diet that emphasizes good nutrition is one of the most important things people can do for their health. However, far too often dieting, especially fad dieting is associated with healthy eating and in reality this is often very far from the truth. Let’s take a closer look at good nutrition versus dieting and how to make healthy food choices.
What Is Dieting?
Dieting emphasizes calorie restriction with the goal of losing weight, especially losing weight fast. While dieting could in theory consist of a balanced approach to food and nutrients that only limits calories, far more often diets disregard the fundamentals of good nutrition and only focus on weight loss. This is particularly true of fad diets that may seek to completely remove one entire type of food (for example no protein, no carbs, or no fat), or diets that get even more restrictive and only allow one or a few different types of food.
There are several problems with these diets. First, while people may lose weight on them, especially at first, the weight loss is often unsustainable because the diet itself is unsustainable. In fact many people not only put the weight back on once going off the diet but often gain back more than they lost. Second, losing weight too quickly could present its own health challenges. The CDC recommends losing about 1-2 pounds per week. There are a host of potential dangers with losing weight too quickly including the following:
- Gallstones and gallbladder problems
- Muscle loss
- Hair loss
- An imbalances of electrolytes
- Irregular menstruation
Malnutrition, especially chronic malnutrition can do serious, long-lasting damage to your body and in extreme cases even be life-threatening. Fad diets also commonly cause low energy and may make you more susceptible to infectious diseases or cause a worsening of chronic health conditions due to the stress they put on the body.
What Is Good Nutrition?
By contrast good nutrition emphasizes a diet that provides a complete source of all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and calories the body needs for healthy functioning. Healthy diets generally include an abundance of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low (but not no) fat and healthy oils, and grains. Good nutrition will not generally ‘blacklist’ any food items, but will focus on portion sizes and keeping the consumption of less nutritious or highly processed foods to a minimum.
Good nutrition absolutely makes weight loss possible and encourages the type of safe, gradual, sustainable weight loss that medical professionals recommend. Good nutrition is also crucial for managing health concerns, maintaining a strong immune system, and promoting good energy levels and a sense of well-being.