There’s no doubt that nutrition advice can be confusing, and sometimes downright contradictory.
One week egg yolks are good for you, the next they’re super bad. Does diet soda make you fat? Does diet soda help fight fat? As a Registered Dietitian, this nutrition nonsense is essentially my job security 🙂
But even I would agree: nutrition guidelines can get ugly. Case in point: the American Heart Association’s completely over-complex “Guidelines on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk“.
Among other things, this 46 page publications advises adherents to:
- Eat at least 30 grams of high-fiber foods each day
- Eat fish twice a week
- Get protein from vegetables and lean meats
- Get 50% to 55% of calories from carbohydrates, 15% to 20% of calories from protein, and 30% to 35% of calories from fat (including just 7% of calories from saturated fat and less than 1% from trans fats)
- Eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day
- Minimize sugar, sodium and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Drink no more than a moderate amount of alcohol
If you stopped reading after bullet point number 1 – you might just be ok.
And that is because earlier this week a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine with a very unique study design. The study showed that complex diet recommendations might not matter, and maybe all you need is fiber.
The study authors divided 240 obese subjects into 2 groups: one who got all of those above AHA dietary recommendations, and another group told to just eat 30 grams of fiber per day.
The results weren’t earth shattering, and both groups lost weight at the end of the year period: the AHA group lost 6 pounds on average and the fiber group lost 4.6.
What was interesting was that the fiber group actually did increase their fiber intake by 4.7 grams per day whereas the AHA group – with all of that additional info that didn’t really work to help lose weight – only ate an additional 1.3 grams.
Since the typical American eats only 10-12 grams of fiber per day – but needs more like 30 grams, a 4.7 gram per day increase from healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains is pretty promising.
What’s the take away message? Sometimes it pays to cut out the clutter and ignore the nutrition noise. Sticking to 1 recommendation, like working to increase fiber, can have a secondary effect of improving your overall diet.