For years, public health authorities have encouraged people to “eat a variety of foods” to ensure they meet their dietary needs. That advice may change.

Researchers say there’s no evidence that this strategy helps promote a healthy weight. And, it may backfire.

“Eating a more diverse diet might be associated with eating a greater variety of both healthy and unhealthy foods,” said Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, Ph.D., lead author of a statement published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. “Combined, such an eating pattern may lead to increased food consumption and obesity.

One of the problems with trying to “eat a variety of foods” is that there’s little consensus about what so-called dietary diversity means. Additionally, research shows that a wider variety of food options in a meal may delay people’s feeling of satiation (fullness), increasing the amount of food they eat. Other research suggests that trying to eat a range of foods is associated with eating more calories, poor eating patterns and gaining weight.

Instead of telling people to eat a variety of foods, researchers say that dietary recommendations should emphasize adequate consumption of plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains, low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils, nuts, poultry and fish, and limit consumption of red meat, sweets and sugary drinks. Two types of healthy eating patterns are The American Heart Association Dietary Recommendations and the DASH Diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

It’s also best to ask your doctor for dietary advice or to seek help from medical weight-loss specialists.

“Selecting a range of healthy foods, which fits one’s budget or taste, and sticking with them, is potentially better at helping people maintain a healthy weight than choosing a greater range of foods that may include less healthy items such as donuts, chips, fries and cheeseburgers, even in moderation,” Otto said.

Source: American Heart Association news release

+ If you need help losing weight, seek guidance from weight-loss specialists. Successful weight loss begins with a program that’s tailored to your individual needs.

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