Claims being made about a link between diet and disease prevention, with particular emphasis on certain elements in foods, are exaggerating the foods' protective effects, according to the California Dietetic Assn.
"Right now, no one validated study can point to a single food and say it prevents cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis or any other health concern," said Cheryl Loggins, a registered dietitian with the group.
Diet is simply one controllable factor in lowering risk for diseases. Smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise and weight are other controllable factors.
"Using a proper diet as an effective weapon against your risk for disease involves just that: the total diet," she said.
According to Loggins, there are many more enjoyable foods recommended than those that are discouraged.
"The CDA recommends eating for good health in general," she said. "That translates into eating a daily variety of foods from the nutrient-based food groups."
This includes low-fat selections from the calcium-rich dairy group, such as low-fat and nonfat milk, cheeses and yogurt; lean and fat-trimmed beef, poultry, fish, or dried beans or peas for protein; raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits for vitamins A and C; whole-grain breads and cereals for B vitamins and fiber.
Keeping an eye on extra foods such as fats, gravies, sauces, sweets, sodas and chips will also add to total health.
All of these elements, within the context of the whole diet, will give you a nutrition advantage toward an active and healthful life style.
The recommended number of daily food group servings for adult males is two each from the dairy and meat groups and four each from the vegetable/fruits and breads/cereals groups. Women should have the same, but need an extra boost of calcium to prevent osteoporosis. That equals three daily dairy group servings.
"Another step up the health ladder is to keep the word moderation in mind," Loggins said. "Moderate portion sizes and moderate intake of extra foods. In the short run, it will help keep your weight at a reasonable level. In the long run, you'll be healthier and more active and you'll feel better."