How To Improve Your Diet (Without Dieting)

Research suggests that filling the nutrient gaps in your diet can help improve longevity and fight disease without cutting out entire food...

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness by analyzing the headlines, simplifying the latest research, and offering quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The diet scorecard

  • Dairy: friend or foe?

  • Recipe of the week

Arnold’s Podcast

Want more stories from Arnold? Every day, Arnold’s Pump Club Podcast opens with a story, perspective, and wisdom from Arnold that you won’t find in the newsletter. And, you’ll hear a recap of the day’s items. You can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Diet Scorecard

Have you ever tried to score your diet? It might seem weird, but maybe a different approach is what you need.

Research suggests that filling your nutrient deficiencies — instead of focusing on restricting foods — can help you live longer and prevent disease.

Scientists examined the dietary behaviors of approximately 245,000 people from 80 countries. They developed a score that assessed whether people ate more or less than the average of particular food groups.

The diet scores were based on six food groups associated with positive health outcomes. People who ate more nutritious foods were linked to a 30 percent lower risk of death, 18 percent lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease, 14 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction, and 19 percent lower risk of stroke. 

The food groups include:

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Legumes

  • Nuts

  • Fish 

  • Dairy

The scoring system had several flaws — for one, it doesn’t account for food allergies or sensitivities — but it was successful overall because it improved health by focusing on what to eat instead of what to remove. If you want to score your diet, try to eat at least 1 to 2 servings of vegetables and fruits per day, and then at least 2-3 servings of the other categories each week.

This does not mean there’s no place for other foods. For example, the research suggests that moderate amounts of red meat and grains can also positively impact health, assuming they don’t lead to worse cardiometabolic changes in your blood (such as higher LDL). 

If you want to improve your diet, remember that there is no single diet for everyone. Most diets fail because diets they recommend a one-size-fits-all restrictive approach that ruthlessly cuts calories with no regard for the plan's sustainability. 

If you’re looking for a way to improve your diet without focusing on cutting foods, start by trying to add more healthy food options from any of the food groups above.

Dairy: Health Food or Health Foe?

Some of you might see the dairy recommendations above and wonder — is dairy really OK? To be clear, you don’t need to make dairy a part of your diet. But the question is whether it is a net positive or negative. 

More than 100 studies suggest that dairy has many health benefits linked to improved lifespan.

One review of 29 studies assessed the health of more than 900,000 people and found that milk-based foods — in the context of healthy blood work — were not associated with premature death or cardiovascular disease. If that wasn’t enough, a different study of 45,000 people found that a moderate amount of dairy reduced all-cause mortality and didn’t increase cancer risk.

Scientists also reviewed 16 additional studies and found that dairy did not increase inflammation in healthy individuals.

And if that wasn’t enough, a review of 27 studies suggests that people who eat dairy lose more fat and retain more muscle.

If you are lactose intolerant, follow a vegan diet, or feel bad when you have dairy, you might want to cut out dairy. Or, if you’ve tested your blood and are at higher risk because of higher LDL or ApoB, you might opt for a lower fat option to reduce your saturated fat intake. Otherwise, based on this research and the study above, there’s room for dairy in your diet. 

Recipe of the week

As much as eating the same thing every day would be easy, we know boredom (and taste buds) leave you craving variety. When you get tired of eggs and oatmeal for breakfast or don’t want a protein bar for a snack, this quick and easy recipe from You Can’t Screw This Up gets the job done. They are a balanced mix of protein, fat, and fiber to help you stay full and add enough sweetness to cure any craving. 

Flourless Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Prep time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 smashed ripe bananas

  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, full fat

  • 1 tbsp. all-natural almond butter

  • 1 tbsp. melted coconut oil 

  • ⅔ cup liquid egg whites

  • 2 whole eggs

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 2 tbsp. raw, unfiltered honey

Dry Ingredients

  • ½ cup oat flour

  • ¼ cup rolled oats

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • ¼ tsp. Himalayan salt

  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 2 tbsp chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners or grease with coconut oil.

  2. To make the oat flour, add oats to a blender and pulse until smooth.

  3. Add all wet ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir until combined. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Then add the dry bowl to the wet bowl and mix until well combined.

  4. Divide the batter into the paper liners (full up ¾ of the way) using a spoon or ice-cream scooper.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to a month.

Macros

We typically don’t include macros because we’re not calorie counters. But some of you have requested it, so we’re including it here to see if you enjoy this added detail.

  • Calories (per muffin): 110

  • Fat: 5g 

  • Carbs: 10g 

  • Protein: 6g 

Give them a try, and let us know what you think!

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell