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Gluten-free, sugar-free, low-fat, low-carb, low-GI, free-range, grass-fed, multigrain, low salt… You don’t need to worship at the house of Wholefoods to find these ‘helpful’ healthy eating cues smattered across every food item with a label. Even the most innocuous supermarket stroll sees your brain bombarded with ‘wholegrain’ this and ‘heart healthy’ that. The list goes on. And on. And on.
When it comes to our diets, we want guidance and we’re willing to pay a premium for it. Given the choice, most people would rather put their hands in their pockets than risk paying with their health. And rightly so – one in five deaths are associated with poor diet, according to the Global Burden of Disease study spanning 195 countries, equivalent to 11 million globally.
In 2017, more people died from diets that lacked whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds than ones packed with sugary drinks and red and processed meats, the researchers found. It’s no license to live off pizza, but when mum said you could only have dessert if you ate your veggies, she was probably onto something.
Without mum nagging you to eat your broccoli, you might find yourself turning to your digital caregiver, the internet, for nutritional advice. Unfortunately, all Alexa can do is churn out contradictory clickbait headlines, while the self-appointed social media ‘experts’ you follow on Instagram largely rely on peddling pseudoscience to sell the latest fad diet to their followers.
The sad but unsurprising truth is many “scientific” studies are funded by multinational food companies which – pretend to be shocked, here – capitalise on the carefully packaged results. Plenty use self-reported data, which is well-meaning but unreliable (did participant A really just eat two biscuits? Or did they actually eat four and a packet of crisps?).
As it stands, pretty much the only certainty in nutrition is just how little we actually know about it. So, what’s a man to do? From ingredient swaps to lifestyle adjustments, we’ve compiled a fuss-free guide packed with the most up-to-date advice about forming healthy eating habits. Until science knows better, anyway.