FAQs: Health eating

With 2015 just around the corner, many of us are examining our food choices and wondering if it might be possible for us to eat just a bit healthier. The answer is probably yes. Everyone could stand to make a few simple changes to their diet in order to look and feel their best. Unfortunately, with all the conflicting information out there about nutrition, it can be difficult to even know what kind of goals we should be setting. We're here to clear up some of the misconceptions about diet and health with tips straight from the experts.

Should I eat low-fat or low-carb?

Ah, the decade-old question of low-fat vs low-carb. Around the mid-20th century, nutritionists discovered the link between the consumption of animal products and heart disease, leading them to attest that fat was the culprit of disease. Then, in the early 2000s, new research began finding that it was sugar that had led to the development of diseases like type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

So which tactic should you choose? A recent study published in September found that low-carb was most effective for weight loss, but that in the end, both tactics led to a reduction in weight if they were closely adhered to. The study also revealed, however, that people on low-carb diets had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein, or 'good cholesterol', which has many benefits for heart health.

The downsides to a low-carb diet? It may be more difficult to stick to than a low-fat diet. What matters most in the end, says Dr. Lydia Bazzano, who worked on the study, is whether or not you stick to your choice of diet – so chose the approach you believe will be easiest for you to maintain.

What is the deal with the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is an approach to eating that mimics the patterns of people from countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt and other countries along the Mediterranean coast. Widely regarded as one of the most healthy diets possible, this style of eating focuses primarily on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, which are supplemented with olive oil, fish and shellfish, some natural cheeses and eggs, nuts, red wine, and a small to moderate amount of meat.

The Mayo Clinic states that this diet is ideal for heart health. The monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFASs) and polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs) found in fish, olive oil and avocado are beneficial to the heart, and help control cholesterol levels.

What's the bottom line with healthy eating?

When it comes down to it, choose real foods that are minimally processed, and avoid over-consuming animal products. When you head to the supermarket, look for fresh fruits and vegetables to stuff into your reusable produce bag, and purchase local seafood, whole grains and lean meats.