Why 'everything in moderation' does not work?
I know you've heard this before. Maybe a health professional told you that you can eat 'everything in moderation' to be healthy.
Many people use this statement as an excuse to eat an unhealthy food or meal regularly. What does moderation even mean, anyway? A candy bar once a day or once a month? This statement makes people believe that they are finding a solution for everyone’s health. But it is broad and it leaves room for interpretation. What is eating 'everything in moderation' for you?
There are some people who should not eat unhealthy food in moderation because they have an uncontrolled reward system of their brain that causes a food addiction. But even if you do not have this predisposition to be addicted to a certain type of food, eating 'everything in moderation' is not a good goal to have.
If you are eating an unhealthy food, let’s say, once a day, then it’s not a treat, it’s already a habit. We are creatures of habit. We buy the same foods from the same grocery stores and make the same recipes every day, and this dictates our lifestyle.
What are unhealthy foods? I can say that the majority of processed and ultra-processed foods are not so healthy. These foods can have harmful chemicals, excess sugars, saturated fats, and salt that all contribute to creating an imbalance of our body functions, which disrupt our physiology. This imbalance initially brings us signs and symptoms of conditions, excess inflammation and toxicity, and consequently a possible onset of chronic diseases. Also, processed foods can lack many nutrients that we need daily.
Some will say, "But I exercise every day, so it’s OK for me to eat my daily lunch fries". The concept of "calories in versus calories out" is not completely correct because it's not simply about calories – our bodies are far more complex than that. The quality of food is much more important than the quantity of food. So, do not count your calories!
Everything that you eat can affect your body, even at the genetic level. This is called epigenetics. The food you eat affects your protein structure and genes long after it has passed out of your body. These changes in gene expression are associated with physiologic and diseases processes, including aging and development of cancer. In addition, what you eat alters your metabolic health in the long run.
A study published at the end of October 2015 was designed to investigate the association between diet diversity ('everything in moderation') and belly fat five years after the beginning of the study with the development of type 2 diabetes 10 years later. These researchers used data from almost 7000 adult participants of another study, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Food intake and diet quality were measured and at five years, diet quality was not associated with a change in waist circumference, but at ten years, higher diet quality was associated with about a 25% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Also, participants who ate less healthy foods and more unhealthy foods (such as processed meats, desserts, and soda), experienced more abdominal weight gain, with a 120% greater increase in waist circumference than participants with the lowest food dissimilarity. These results suggest that in modern diets, eating 'everything in moderation' is actually worse than eating a smaller number of healthy foods.
But we also can’t be excessively restrictive. Overly restricting the foods that you eat can increase your risk of developing an eating disorder. So, the key is to learn how to change your habits, plan to buy adequate foods, and to create better meals and snacks that are minimally processed. It’s also crucial to focus on specific ingredients or foods that will help you reach a goal or address a need, and of course, maintain your overall health and wellness.
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