Popular messages suggest that swapping the meat-and-potatoes with modern alternatives can improve our energy, appearance, and overall health. Unfortunately, few of these claims have been supported by scientific evidence, and many go against current nutrition science. For example, for those without formally-diagnosed allergies, opting for ‘free-from' options offers little to no nutritional advantage. When we remove certain foods from our diet, we replace them with others, many of which have been highly processed, and often contain added fats or sugars — a dietary pattern we know is a risk factor not only for physical but also for mental disorders.
While theoretically, we may be able to replace some foods with nutritious alternatives that improve the quality of our diet, very few of us are meeting the minimum dietary recommendations. When we include foods from each food group, we gain a wider range of nutritional benefits from a variety of food combinations — a benefit to both our gut and brain.
For much of the healthy population, the public health message remains clear: eating a balanced diet of whole foods is preferable to dietary restriction, and a whole-food dietary pattern has been associated with the prevention and treatment of both physical and mental disorders.
Diet is complex, and there is no quick-fix or restrictive diet likely to revolutionize our health. When it comes to fuelling our bodies and brains, we are better off including a bit of everything, rather than eating to a formula.