As a health journalist who has followed nutrition news for decades, I’ve seen many trends that made a splash, then fizzled. Remember Olestra, the Paleo diet and celery juice?
Watch enough dietary fads come and go, and you realize that the most valuable nutritional advice is based on decades of research, during which scientists have looked at an issue from multiple angles and reached some sort of consensus.
Here are 10 science-backed gems to see you through the new year.
1. The Mediterranean diet is really good for you.
Decades of research support the Mediterranean diet – centered on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, nuts, herbs and spices – as one of the healthiest ways to eat . Its heart health benefits are numerous and have been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline, and certain types of cancer.
If you want to adopt the Mediterranean diet but don’t know where to start, stay tuned. Starting January 15, we’ll be sharing a week of practical tips and recipes for eating Mediterranean style in the Well newsletter, which you can sign up for here.
2. It is okay to drink coffee on an empty stomach.
Some people may experience heartburn, but there’s no evidence that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can damage your stomach lining or harm your digestive system, experts say. And there are reasons to feel good about your morning brew: Drinking coffee has been linked to a longer life and a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
3. Start your day with a healthy breakfast.
Mornings can be hectic and it can be tempting to grab a quick muffin or skip breakfast altogether. But nutrition experts say it’s worth prioritizing the morning meal, especially if it contains a balanced mix of protein, fiber and healthy fats. It will fuel your day, and studies have shown that those who eat breakfast tend to enjoy many health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
4. Take good care of your gut.
Keeping your digestive system healthy and functioning can protect you from life’s discomforts, like heartburn, bloating, and constipation, as well as lead to better overall health. Unsurprisingly, the best way to take care of your gut is to nourish yourself (and by extension, your gut microbes) well, prioritizing fiber and eating a variety of plant and fermented foods.
5. You probably don’t need protein bars.
They are often marketed as a health food or essential fuel for athletic performance, but most protein bars are high in sugar. According to experts, it’s best to meet your protein needs with whole foods like yogurt, nuts, beans, or eggs.
6. Go easy on the dark chocolate.
Rank this as one of the saddest nutrition news stories of 2023. Dark chocolate contains some of the highest levels of lead and cadmium (heavy metals that can harm the body) compared to other foods. Luckily, you don’t have to completely give up your dark chocolate habit. Enjoying it in moderation — no more than about an ounce per day, experts say — will reduce your risk.
7. Mixing fruits and vegetables will not destroy their nutrients.
Pureeing fruits and vegetables in a blender will not strip them of their vitamins, minerals or fiber. And, somewhat surprisingly, several small studies suggest that sipping your fruit in blended form won’t raise your blood sugar any more than when you eat it whole. So go ahead, enjoy your smoothie. And check out our tips for making yours more nutritious.
8. Cottage cheese is back.
You might associate cottage cheese with fad diets of the 1970s, but it’s one food that has stood the test of time. Cottage cheese was a big hit on TikTok this summer, and for good reason. You can eat it plain or use it as a versatile ingredient in sweet and savory snacks, and it offers an impressive range of nutrients, including protein, calcium, selenium and more.
9. Tofu is really good for you too.
In recent decades, people have become concerned that tofu and other soy foods might be linked to cancer or fertility problems because they contain estrogen-like compounds. But studies have put those fears aside, scientists say. In fact, research suggests that eating soy foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and even certain types of cancer.
10. It’s difficult to separate myths from facts about nutrition.
Nutrition myths tend to persist in American culture and in our minds, leaving us confused and sometimes even anxious about our food decisions. We interviewed 10 nutrition experts whose myths they wish would disappear like plates of fresh cookies at a Christmas party.