For decades, nutrition experts have advised that eating a wide variety of foods is key to controlling weight and staying healthy.
But that seemingly commonsense mandate might not always add up to the healthiest diet, according to a new scientific advisory from the American Heart Association.
Indeed, heeding the advice to eat a more diverse diet could lead to increased calorie consumption, weight gain, and an unhealthier diet overall.
The new advisory points out that there are many ways to define a varied diet, and some of them aren’t so healthy.
For example, some people might think that instead of eating an array of mostly unprocessed whole foods, a “varied diet” means eating different types of meats, refined grains, and foods that are high in sodium or sugar, says lead author Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of epidemiology, human genetics, and environmental sciences at the University of Texas Health Center at Houston.
“The mantra of ‘everything in moderation’—even refined grains, sugary foods, and processed foods—has left consumers confused,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a nutritionist at Consumer Reports. “And I think this new advisory shows that taking that ‘variety’ message too far is not ideal.”
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