When Angela Smalley decided to go on a diet earlier this month, it wasn’t about squeezing into a smaller dress size by March (although she admits that would be nice). It was about maintaining her health for the long haul.
“I’d like to take care of my body now rather than have to be reactive to problems that might come up as I age,” said the 47-year-old Seattle marketing executive of her recent switch to an eating plan that restricts carbohydrates, sugar and dairy and loads up on vegetables and lean protein. “I don't have any health problems right now, and I'd like to keep it that way.”
When we’re in our 20s and 30s, we diet to fit into wedding dresses, interview suits and that favorite pair of skinny jeans. But as we get older, studies show that our goals shift and become less about how we look and more about how we feel – or want to feel – for the rest of our lives. We diet to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and to try to fend off cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Sure, we want to “look good naked,” as Kevin Spacey famously said in the film “American Beauty,” but we also want to improve our overall health and longevity.
And we look for eating plans to help us accomplish this. Unfortunately, the diet landscape is crowded with contenders, each one promising better health and longer life by lowering our glycemic index, raising our alkaline level or reducing our oxidative stress through a handful of Fabulous Miracle Superfoods! We’re blinded by science; we’re blinded by pseudoscience. And every 10 minutes a new study comes out that turns the last one on its head.
How do we solve this diet dilemma and find an eating plan that works for us – and still makes good scientific sense? We asked top experts at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and elsewhere for their opinions.