What is the best way to lose weight? Which one is the proper diet?
Although the proper diet differs from one individual to another, there are many specific details right for almost everyone. They key words are balance and variety.
The title is something of a misnomer. There is no such thing as 'the' proper diet for every individual. Nevertheless, all humans are similar enough that there are broad categories, and many specifics, that are correct for almost anyone.
Despite all the fads of the last 30 years or more, it remains true - backed by a large amount and variety of nutritional research - that a good diet is the old-fashioned 'balanced diet' that has remained largely unchanged for 60 years or more. The keyword deserves repeating: balanced.
There are fad diets that emphasize protein over carbohydrates, or fruits one day with meat the next or eating vegetarian exclusively. All these may have valid elements, but they almost all tend to go too far in one direction or another.
Everyday, at regular intervals, a person interested in optimizing health should eat daily meals consisting of fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and a protein source. Of course, there will be exceptions for those with special dietary needs. Some people, for example, can't process dairy products. Others are sensitive to peanuts or other things.
But the four traditional food groups, in the proper proportion, remain the undisputed recommendation of every reputable nutrition scientist. The reasons are that studies continue to support the notion that these supply the compounds needed by the body. From those it can perform muscle maintenance, proper electrolyte balance, cellular repair and other essential activities along with the needed energy to carry out all of them.
Nature, as discovered by science, determines what the body needs - not marketing.
Insoluble fiber, for example, (as gained from fruit, vegetables and grains) isn't readily digested. As a result it helps digestion and in cleansing the digestive system.
Certain vitamins (D, B, E, K) and minerals (lithium, calcium, postassium) are needed for carrying out the thousands of biochemical reactions critical to proper health. Sodium and potassium, in moderation, are used by the heart muscle in order to keep pumping blood through the body.
Proteins are needed so the body can lyse (split) them into essential amino acids. Those amino acids are then used to build up new proteins used for muscle and other important components.
Carbohydrates (chiefly those easily converted to glucose) are needed to supply the starting point of the cycle that generates energy to fuel all the other processes. This is a fundamental process called the Krebs cycle that converts sugars into ATP, which is then converted to ADP, releasing energy.)
Fad diets can supply many of these essentials, but typically do so in the wrong proportion or with too much at one time, not enough at another. They also frequently contain additional components that are not helpful, and - in excess - may be harmful, such as excessive fats or complex sugars.
In the world of diet, moderation and regularity may not sound glamorous, but it's the key to good health.
Put fiber in your diet
Despite the hype that too often accompanies the praise, fiber is a very healthy addition to a good diet. It's no miracle cure, but a substantial amount of insoluble fiber does help move material through the colon faster. It has a cleansing effect on the digestive system.
By improving the solidity and bulk of solid waste it also helps to keep those who are aging more regular, less constipated. The result, supported by many studies, is (among other benefits) a reduction in the odds of colon cancer.
Insoluble fiber, so-called because it doesn't dissolve readily in water, can be found in nuts, wheat bran, whole grains and many vegetables. But there's another kind called, not surprisingly, soluble fiber. As the name suggests it does dissolve readily in water. It, too, has benefits.
Soluble fiber is found in citrus fruit like oranges and lemons, apples, beans, oats and barley grain. Among its other virtues, studies strongly suggest that some soluble fibers (beta glucan) can help reduce cholesterol.
But, as with every other aspect of diet, it's best to have everything in the proper proportion. What is that, in the case of fiber? The recommended consumption for the average adult over 50 years of age is 21g for women and 30g for men. For those under 50 the amounts are 25g for women, 38g for men.
Of course, that's only an average (for men about 170lbs, women around 120lbs). You'll want to consult tables to find out the needed amounts for your weight. There are those rare individuals who are sensitive to certain foods and they will need to seek out sources of fiber that suit their particular circumstances.
But, as a rough starting point, there are several common foods that will be right for most.
A cup of raisin bran cereal has 7g of fiber, and is usually manufactured with helpful vitamins as well. A cup of oatmeal is a good source, even though it only contains 4g. A half-cup of cooked black beans contains about 7.5g. A half-cup of tomato paste has nearly 6g, while a half-cup of cooked Lima beans has nearly 7g.
Bran muffins have been touted as a good source of fiber, and that's true, they are. But many also are high in fat and sugar, so exercise moderation and seek out a low-fat type. A couple dozen peanuts can also be a good source of fiber, but here again they are high in fat. Control the urge to get large amounts of fiber from them. You don't want to pile on the calories when getting needed nutrients.
Many fruits are a good source of fiber, including raspberries (1/2 cup contains 5.5g), blackberries (1/2 cup has 3.8g) and apples (3.3g per apple). Even pumpkin is a good source (3.5g in 1/2 cup), but this too can be a source high in fat and sugar, if it's in the form of pumpkin pie.
A slice of bread has 2g, so the average sandwich will supply 4g. But be sure to get whole grain bread, not the ultra-processed white.
Put both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet and be good to yourself.