The principles that make the best dietary choices are simple, yet many of us ignore them. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that 87% of adults who ate a healthy diet didn’t realize they were doing so. So, if you want to strip away the confusion and make the best choices, start by making sure you understand the following five principles.

Nutrition should be a simple, intuitive science. There is no such thing as magic food or magic diet. Yet, there is a large amount of confusion around the topic. For example, most people believe that certain food types (such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins) are inherently bad or good for them. But, a healthy diet is based on the foundation of what we know about the human body and the foods that it needs. It should be based on evidence, not opinion. This blog post presents a framework for good nutrition based on science.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a tedious task. In fact, there are plenty of simple changes you can make to your diet to make it much healthier—and more satisfying. The trick is to apply the science behind nutrition to include the best choices for overall health.

Is wine harmful to your health?

Sure, some data suggests that there is a higher risk of cancer. It’s also evident that you shouldn’t consume it before using a chainsaw or driving a minivan.

And some individuals take advantage of it.

Wine, on the other hand, is made from grapes, which include phytochemicals that are good for your health. And some study suggests that there may be a minor advantage to the heart.

Furthermore, you may be someone who is capable of enjoying it responsibly and in moderation.

As a result, the answer is… it depends.

The same may be said about a variety of foods, diets, and nutritional regimens.

That’s because there’s a lot we don’t know when it comes to nutrition.

As a result, giving clear-cut answers on what to eat for optimal health can be difficult.

If you’re a coach, though, your customers don’t want to hear “it depends” and “further research is needed” every time you speak.

They are looking for genuine guidance.

Isn’t that why they employed you in the first place?

So, which nutritional notions can you actually trust?

Almost everyone, it turns out, agrees on five evidence-based concepts.

We’re also fairly certain about one more.

You can also utilize a dependable technique to examine everything else. (I’ll go into more detail about this towards the end of the essay.)

But first, let’s look at why and how we know what we know with nearly 100 percent certainty.

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How many research are required to substantiate a nutritional claim?

We are unable to provide a numerical answer to your query.

The truth is that nothing in science is ever 100% guaranteed. However, by weighing five important parameters, we can get quite close.

Quantity is number one.

What kind of research has been done? Is it true that there are only a few studies? Hundreds, perhaps?

The larger the body of knowledge, the more confidence you can be in a particular fact or idea.

Quality is number two.

We seek research undertaken by experts in their fields and published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals.

In particular, we’d like to see:

Randomized controlled trials are studies that put a certain treatment to the test on a group of people. A control group (the placebo group) is not given the treatment. However, both factions believe they have figured it out.

Systematic reviews that examine the research on a given question or topic. In most cases, they apply specific and stringent criteria to determine what is included.

Meta-analyses aggregate the data of numerous research using complicated statistical methods. The statistical power of combining data from multiple studies rises, resulting in a stronger conclusion than any single study.

5-universal-principles-of-good-nutrition-according-to-science

#3: Scope

We prefer studies that have been published for decades rather than those that have only been published in the last few years.

#4: Reliability

When a large number of research come to the same conclusion rather than opposing conclusions, our confidence grows.

#5: Uniformity

Studies have looked at how a nutritional idea impacts various people, in various situations, and in various geographical regions.

(For a more in-depth look at all of this, see How to Read Scientific Research.)

Good nutrition is based on five basic principles.

So, which assertions about nutrition pass the five-factor test?

Let’s have a look.

Principle #1: Weight reduction and growth are both based on a single equation.

This one is well-known, although not everyone believes it. This is the energy balance equation, usually known as calories in, calories out (or CICO for short):

Changes in body reserves = [Energy in] – [Energy out]

To put it another way:

You gain weight when you consume more energy (or calories) than you expend.

You lose weight when you consume less energy than you expend.

You maintain when you consume the same amount of energy as you expend.

So, how do we know this with absolute certainty while the question of whether wine is healthy or bad for you is still up for debate?

To begin with, this principle, like gravity, is simple to test. You can continuously release a heavy object using gravity. No matter how hard you try, the thing always falls.

Energy balance is the same way. When you reduce “energy in” while increasing “energy out,” the consequence is always the same: bodyweight decreases.

Second, the energy balance equation is based on the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy cannot be generated or destroyed but can only be transferred from one state to another.

Humans are unable to generate energy out of thin air. We make it out of food. And any extra energy we consume doesn’t just disappear: your body either increases “energy out” (typically by speeding up metabolism) or stores it.

We can get as close to facts as we can with scientific laws. Is it possible to update them over time? Sure. The law, on the other hand, has stayed steadfast for well over a century in this instance.

So, why do some claim, “Not all calories are created equal!”?

In a word, it’s perplexing.

Many intricate factors influence “calories in” and “calories out,” as seen in the diagram below. Your brain, in particular, has the ability to increase or decrease metabolism, having a significant impact on “calories out.”

1625999340_353_5-universal-principles-of-good-nutrition-according-to-science

Let’s return to another law you may have learned in physics class to further appreciate the universality of energy balance: gravity.

It’s also represented by the equation F = ma, just like energy balance (force equals mass times acceleration). Every object, dropped from any height, follows the same basic equation. However, several factors influence it, such as air resistance, making it appear that this isn’t the case.

Similarly, the basic equation for food and humans remains constant. It applies to all things eaten in any situation.

However, a variety of circumstances can influence various aspects of the equation.

What does this imply for you personally?

If someone wishes to increase or lose weight, they need think about the entire energy balance and how to change it to their advantage. Here are a few options for doing so. (For further information, see calories in, calories out.)

To cut calories out of: To burn more calories, do the following:
Reduce the number of calories your body absorbs by eating more fiber-rich foods. Adding cardio to your workout will help you burn more calories.
Increase your protein consumption to curb your hunger and, as a result, your overall calorie intake. Strength exercise can help you gain muscle, increase your metabolism, and burn more calories.
Eat slowly so you can pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and stop when you’re content, not stuffed. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from your destination, and/or use an activity tracker to encourage you to walk more.
To control how much you consume, use hand portions. Increase your protein intake to boost digestion’s thermic action.
Get enough sleep to stave off hunger and sugar cravings. Self-care is vital for a healthy metabolism since it reduces stress and improves sleep.

Principle #2: The most crucial macronutrient to get correctly is protein.

Why? There are two explanations for this.

Reason #1: It allows you to eat less while yet feeling satisfied.

Protein helps you feel fuller for longer and, as a result, lose weight, according to research.

This is due to the fact that the body takes longer to break down protein than carbs or fat.

Protein also causes satiety hormones to be released in the gut. 1,2

As a result, when you eat protein, you naturally eat less.

It makes a significant difference. Doubling your protein intake could help you consume 400 fewer calories per day on the spur of the moment. That’s about the same as 12 bowls of ice cream in terms of calories. 3

Try out the protein’s power for yourself.

Every meal for one day, consume 6 to 8 ounces of basic skinless chicken. Then keep track of your appetite for the remainder of the day, ranking it on a 1 to 5 scale once an hour.

Each meal the next day should consist of 1 2/3 to 2 cups of cooked spaghetti. Track your hunger on a 1 to 5 scale once more.

Then examine your statistics to determine which strategy resulted in higher hunger ratings throughout the day.

Reason #2: Protein aids in muscle growth and maintenance.

Our bodies can’t function properly without enough protein. Amino acids (protein building blocks) are required for the production of critical molecules such as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies.

When we don’t consume enough protein, our bodies divert it to other places, such as our muscles, resulting in muscle loss. This is particularly true if we consume fewer calories than we expend.

A high-protein diet, on the other hand, appears to increase muscle protein synthesis, which should result in more muscle gain for people who strength train and consume enough calories.

This is likely one of the reasons why high-protein diets are more effective at improving body composition than low-protein or normal diets.

A study of 38 studies concluded that eating more protein won’t suddenly develop muscle for persons who are out of shape—no surprises there. However, eating extra protein appears to improve results for people who are really pushing themselves in the gym, allowing them to grow even more muscle. 4,5

What does this imply for you personally?

The amount of protein that is appropriate for each person depends on a number of factors, including age, gender, and goals.

A bodybuilder aiming to gain muscle for a competition would aim for as much as 50 grams of protein (about two palm-sized servings of meat) at each meal. Someone who wants to lose 20 pounds will require a lot less than that.

Our free calorie and macro calculator can help you figure out how much protein you or a customer needs. Simply enter your information, and it will show you how to utilize hand portions to achieve your protein (as well as carbs, fats, and calories) goals.

Principle #3: Nutrient density reduces as food processing rises.

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Though we’re still trying to figure out which nutrients do what, a slew of studies consistently point to one conclusion:

When people eat more natural foods and less refined meals, they are healthier. 

This is likely due to the fact that the more processed a meal is, the more likely it is to:

  • Fiber, vital fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and zoonutrients have all lost their nutritious significance.
  • Additives, preservatives, fillers, sugar, sodium, bad fats, and/or refined starch have been added to the product.

When you compare certain whole foods to their more highly processed counterparts, this becomes much clearer.

The less-processed steak and potato supper has around 350 less calories and a fraction of the salt of the fast food burger with fries, as well as a lot more protein, fiber, and other nutrients, as seen below.

1625999340_994_5-universal-principles-of-good-nutrition-according-to-science

That’s only one example.

However, comparing the calories, salt, and nutrients of any complete product to its processed version would reveal similar variances.

As a result, it’s not surprising that a diet rich in minimally processed whole foods can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, and type 2 diabetes, among other diseases. 6-11

Whole foods that have been little processed are also high in fiber and/or protein, two nutrients that aid in satiety. They also offer fewer calories per serving than refined meals that have been thoroughly processed.

Both of these characteristics make it easier for us to maintain our weight.

People who ate a diet high in ultraprocessed foods consumed 500 more calories per day than those who ate a diet high in minimally processed natural foods, according to one randomized controlled research. 12 That’s the equivalent of eating an additional meal per day.

In fact, minimally processed whole foods may be the unifying denominator in all successful diets.

Recent research has found that participants lost the same amount of weight independent of carbohydrate or fat intake as long as they avoided refined sugars, flours, and other processed meals in favor of natural foods like vegetables.

Their blood pressure, insulin, glucose, and cholesterol levels all improved in the same way. 13,14

What does this imply for you personally?

We’re completely convinced of the necessity of whole meals, but we’re also convinced of something else:

Perfection isn’t as vital as progress.

Imagine a spectrum instead of dividing foods into “whole” and “not whole” categories. As you can see from the graph below, food loses some nutritional value as it becomes more processed and refined.

1625999342_244_5-universal-principles-of-good-nutrition-according-to-science

When it comes to entire foods, the goal isn’t to achieve perfection. Instead, concentrate on improving them “just a little bit.”

A supermarket rotisserie chicken isn’t always a pastured, lovingly hand-raised, heritage Chantecler roasted in a high-end convection oven… But it’s a lot better than chicken nuggets.

(See What Should I Eat?) for some ideas on how to do this.)

Principle #4: Fruits and vegetables lower your risk of disease and may also help you lose weight.

Produce is one of the many sorts of entire foods that demands special attention.

Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, all of which are beneficial to your health.

And a large body of evidence over the last 20 years conclusively shows that eating more fruits and vegetables can help avoid a variety of health concerns, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

For example, researchers estimate that simply increasing vegetable and fruit consumption might prevent 20% or more of all cancer incidences and 200,000 cancer-related deaths per year. 15-19

A growing body of evidence suggests that eating a diet high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods including fruits and vegetables may reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative illness. 20-22

Food also outperforms supplements in terms of cognitive performance. When antioxidants, for example, are extracted from produce and placed in capsules, they appear to lose some (if not all) of their potency.

Finally, a diet high in fruits and vegetables can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. This is due to their high fiber and water content, which helps you feel full while eating less calories. Cauliflower, for example, comprises just roughly 150 calories per head. 23,24

What does this imply for you personally?

There isn’t a single fruit or vegetable that reigns supreme. Rather than focusing on a single magical superfood—for example, eating blueberries every day—aim for variety. Using this chart as a guide, try to consume a rainbow of colors every day.

(Do you despise vegetables? Don’t be concerned! This infographic will show you how to make them adore you.)

Principle #5: Sleep has an impact on what you eat and your general health.

We’ve seen one issue arise repeatedly in our tutoring of over 100,000 individuals. People can master their nutrition but still fall short of their objectives.

It’s usually because they don’t get enough sleep.

And they can only make progress if they put sleep first. 

What’s the link between the two?

If you only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night when you truly need 7 or 8, your body will be chronically sleep deprived, compromising its capacity to balance many essential hormones.

  • Ghrelin levels rise, signaling a desire to eat.
  • As leptin levels drop, it takes longer to feel satisfied.
  • As your endocannabinoid levels rise, your perception of foods improves.

As a result, you can’t stay away from the cookies. 25-27

You become hungry and crave sweets more than you would otherwise if you don’t get enough sleep.

You’re also fatigued, so you don’t exercise or move around as much.

And having more waking time means having more opportunities to pillage the kitchen.

Bottom line: People who are sleep deprived consume at least 300 more calories per day than those who receive enough sleep. 28

Sleep deprivation not only hinders weight loss, but it also has a negative impact on one’s health.

Sleep deprivation for just one night might result in elevated blood pressure the next day. 29-32 Heart attack rates rise every year when roughly 1.5 billion individuals lose an hour of sleep owing to daylight savings time. 33,34

What does this imply for you personally?

The majority of us simply do not get enough sleep.

Going to bed at 12 a.m. and waking up at 6 a.m.? It isn’t going to suffice.

Check out our article on sleep hacking for more ideas on how to get things back on track.

Internal appetite regulation is a game-changing skill… for the majority of people.

Calorie counting is frequently used to guide what and how much people eat. While it can be beneficial in terms of acting as an external guardrail to prevent overeating, there is a drawback.

People who rely only on external constraints, such as tight macros or calorie counts, lose touch with their internal cues, which tell them when to eat and when to quit. 35

And, contrary to popular belief, people do not require a rigid meal tracking system in order to achieve their goals.

This is especially true when they learn to pay attention to and respond to their internal hunger and fullness signals, a skill known as internal appetite regulation. Most people can make tremendous improvement with this one crucial skill by relaxing, eating gently, and tuned into their thoughts, emotions, and physiological sensations.

Internal hunger regulation can help people naturally choose higher-quality foods, according to research, which is beginning to support up our clinical experience. 36,37

Is there a need for greater research? Perhaps.

However, after working with over 100,000 clients, as we have, you begin to acquire a database of accumulated knowledge. And there’s a lot of stuff you’ve just seen enough of to know it’s a thing.

One of such things is internal appetite regulation.

Internal regulation is the second skill our coaches teach most clients since we are so certain in its importance. 

However, it does not work for everyone in the same way.

Only a small percentage of people may be able to tune in to internal signals efficiently.

The hunger hormone ghrelin, for example, is unusually high in persons with Prader–Willi syndrome. They are continually hungry even when their body do not require additional calories, thus telling them to stop eating when they are full is ineffective.

On the other hand, some cancer patients rarely feel hungry and may lose too much weight if they don’t get outside advice on when and how much to eat.

However, this is a rare occurrence. The vast majority of people can eventually become aware of their hunger and fullness signals with effort.

What does this imply for you personally?

Internal regulation does not have nearly as much study as the five basic principles described above.

Internal regulation, on the other hand, outweighs the scientific uncertainty and probable exceptions. You don’t have to take our word for it, either. You can put it to the test yourself. This 30-day challenge will teach you everything you need to know about the subject.

Do you need to assess additional dietary options? Make use of this procedure.

Aside from the fundamental concepts, a lot relies on the individual.

So, what do you do if someone asks you (or your client): How often should I eat? Is it necessary for me to have breakfast? Is it okay to eat red meat? Is it necessary for me to take a multivitamin? Is the ketogenic diet healthy?

The solutions are all dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • Who is the client?
  • Their objectives
  • Their eating habits
  • Their overall health, amount of experience, and any illnesses or injuries
  • Patterns and behaviours that they already have
  • And there’s so much more.

For example, the optimum diet is determined by an individual’s physiology, food choices, age, health, budget, and personal values.

More protein, more vegetables, and more complete foods help practically everyone (which is why all three are mentioned under “what we know for sure.”) However, the specifics—how often to eat, what meals to eat, how much to eat, and which macros to aim for—will vary by person.

Rather of feeling compelled to have a ready-made solution, we choose to investigate four essential questions in these situations:

What is the scientific confidence level? What is the quality, scope, and consistency of the research that is currently available? Finding the solution to this question, of course, necessitates a great deal of searching and reading. To comprehend study design, bias, sample sizes, and other research concepts, you’ll need some research fluency.

If it sounds daunting, here’s a quick way to get started: examine.com is a website that examines scientific studies on a variety of nutrition-related issues.

If you’re still having trouble, keep this in mind: The majority of nutrition topics are debatable, and we can’t always wait for research to prove everything. Finally, the best approach to determine whether something will or will not work for a client is to try it out as an experiment.

What are the drawbacks? How could someone find it difficult to put this into practice? What are the financial, social, physical, and emotional ramifications of giving it a shot? Is it possible that it will cause harm?

Hunger, for example, is one of the drawbacks of intermittent fasting, as does missing out on meals with family. Similarly, choosing to eat entirely organic foods has a monetary penalty.

What are the advantages? What are the benefits of attempting this strategy? What good might it do? What are the expected health, energy, mood, and fitness benefits? Could the method help someone’s relationships, employment, mental health, or overall quality of life?

Consistency, how likely is it? Dietary specifics are less important than maintaining a consistent practice. Is it possible to stay to this nutritional modification for numerous weeks, months, or years at a time?

On a scale of 1 to 5, rank the responses to each question.

Scientific assurance

the most confident the least confident

012345

Costs

a lot of expenses few costs

012345

Benefits

a few advantages maximum advantages

012345

Consistency

it is not possible I am certain that I am capable of doing this task.

012345

– for the total score

You can then assess whether or not this is a strategy worth pursuing based on the ratings (or work with your client to help them decide).

0-10 Think about whether or not this is the best change for you.

11-15 It’s a tie. Only you can judge whether the advantages exceed the disadvantages in this case. Consider giving it a try for a few weeks to see how it goes. In the worst-case situation, you gain knowledge from the experience.

16-20 Take a chance!

However, no matter how well you use the assessment tool, you won’t know for sure whether anything will work for you or a client unless you give it a shot.

Nutritional ambiguity is a fact of life. There’s no way to avoid it.

But, happily, you can learn and acquire data from each event.

You can also rely significantly on the six principles we’ve covered thus far. Those alone will make a significant effect.

After all, how many people do you know who excel at all of these activities on a regular basis?

  • consuming the right number of calories for their body and goals
  • Consumption of enough protein
  • Choosing entire foods that have been lightly processed
  • consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Getting adequate rest
  • Slowing down and paying attention to what you’re eating

These aren’t exciting or fashionable. However, for the vast majority of people, merely adhering to these fundamental principles will lead them where they want to go. Plus, if students don’t tick these boxes, they’ll have a hard time with the more “advanced” material.

So keep in mind that, while nutrition science may not have all of the answers, it may have all of the ones that most individuals require.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

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  2. Wang, S., and Wang, C. Dietary Protein’s Impact on Weight Loss, Satiety, and Appetite Hormone https://www.actascientific.com/ASNH/pdf/ASNH-03-0207.pdf
  3. DS Weigle, PA Breen, CC Matthys, HS Callahan, KE Meeuws, VR Burden, et al. Despite compensating variations in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations, a high-protein meal causes prolonged decreases in hunger, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight. 2005 Jul;82(1):41–8. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41–8.
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  7. B. Srour, L. K. Fezeu, E. Kesse-Guyot, B. Allès, C. Méjean, R. M. Andrianasolo, et al. A prospective cohort research (NutriNet-Santé) looked at the relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease. BMJ, May 29th, 2019;365:l1451.
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  9. M. Adjibade, C. Julia, B. Allès, M. Touvier, C. Lemogne, B. Srour, and others In the French NutriNet-Santé cohort, there was a prospective link between ultra-processed food consumption and incidence depression symptoms. 2019 Apr 15;17(1):78 in BMC Medicine.
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If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

1.) Eat more plants. You can do this by eating a vegetable-centric diet. Or just eat more fruits and vegetables, which are super easy to eat and are super yummy. 2.) Eat more whole foods. You can do this by eating more fruits and vegetables, which are super yummy. Or just eat more plants, which are super easy to eat and are super yummy. 3.) Fats are great. Fats are used in food for a reason: They are energy-dense. Eat more of them. 4.) Fats are bad. Fats are used in food for a reason: They are energy-dense. Eat more of them. 5.) You need to exercise. Exercise is great. It. Read more about describe the basic principles involved in nutritional therapy and let us know what you think.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • outline the principle of nutrition
  • 10 principles of human nutrition
  • important nutritional principles or concepts
  • principles of healthy eating
  • principles of food science and nutrition notes
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