New-school food rules to follow

Just like fashion and beauty, nutritionists say food trends are changing for the better – and as we evolve, so too should our eating habits. There's a good chance you're not eating like the generations that came before you, and for good reason.

Whether a result of diet fads or groundbreaking studies, read on as we compile what nutritional experts consider some of the biggest shifts taking place when it comes to how we think about food.

1. The old rule: Eat five plant foods per day

The five-a-day rule largely ignores the needs of the trillions of microbes (including bacteria) living in our gut, as they all have different taste preferences and need a diverse nutrient supply to flourish.

Gut bacteria is linked to the health of pretty much every other organ in the body, including the heart, skin, and brain. The more diverse your gut microbes become, the more 'skills' they have to train our immune cells, increase our resilience to infection, balance our blood sugar, lower blood fats, and help protect against many diseases."

The new rule: Aim for 30 different types of plants a week

Aim for 30 different types of plants a week, across all plant food groups – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans and pulses), nuts and seeds, herbs and spices.

And if you can access more than 30, there's no need to stop there: The more, the merrier.

2. The old rule: Eliminate carbs

People often villainise carbs and focus on cutting out the entire macronutrient category when they really should be cutting out refined or simple carbohydrates, such as white flour and white sugar.

Carbohydrates are present in most whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, that provide energy for our bodies and fuel for our brains. Without complex carbohydrates, we may feel sluggish, foggy, and low energy.

The new rule: Eat complex carbohydrates

Steer clear of refined carbohydrates (like that found in sugar, white bread, and white rice), which can spike blood sugar and offer minimal nutrients.

Instead, opt for a heavily plant-based diet rich in complex carbohydrates like those found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, brown rice, and whole grains, which will keep you satisfied, does not spike blood sugar, and supports GI health.

3. The old rule: Choose low fat

While it may be intuitive to associate low-fat items with lower body fat, a low or no-fat diet starves the body of important nutrients. Many fats are healthy, it just depends on the type of fat and how much you're consuming.

The new rule: Opt for smart fat

Instead, experts advise to go for smart fats, or 'healthy fats,' which promote satiety and add flavour and texture to dishes.

These include unsaturated fats found in plant-based foods, such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts. Because you feel more satisfied, you will last longer without being hungry again, and be less likely to overeat. This also includes seafood, which contains omega-3s.

4. The old rule: Red meat should be a food staple

While once thought to be the staple of our daily food groups, research shows that limiting red meat consumption can greatly decrease the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. Red meat, as well as dairy, contains a substance known as casein, which contributes to overall inflammation in the body and leads to both acute and chronic health issues.

The new rule: Prioritise plants as a food staple

For the past few decades as information about inflammation has become more prevalent, the benefits of plant-based eating over the recommendations of the food pyramid have grown in popularity.

5. The old rule: Swap sugar-free substitutes for regular sugar

Some sugar-free substitutes have been linked to white cane sugar. Traditional white cane sugar activates the opiate receptors in the brain, which have long been linked to addiction and impulse consumption. As a general rule, avoiding stimulant-inducing foods that trigger those receptors is a smart choice for your health.

The new rule: Opt for natural sweeteners

Instead, experts advise looking for plant-based replacements such as monk fruit and stevia.

6. The old rule: Consume dairy for strong bones

While dairy, such as milk and cheese, has traditionally been recommended for promoting the growth and strengthening of bones, recent research shows that dairy may have no impact or can even impair bone health.

The new rule: Limit dairy (or replace it altogether)

Limit dairy to a small amount or replace it with coconut or almond milk. Seek out plant-based sources of calcium (such as beans, peas, lentils, and leafy greens). Removing dairy from your diet can possibly also help alleviate many skin conditions and digestive issues.