How Do You Decide Which Diet & Health Advice to Follow?

With news headlines coming out every week touting proof for which new fad diet is best I don't think I'm the only one who can get overwhelmed with figuring out which health advice I should follow. Earlier this year I wrote an article for Blisstree that highlighted some of the worst health & fitness tips from the last century. Things that are so obviously ludicrous that it's shocking to believe people actually fell for it - like eating tapeworms or nothing but cabbage soup.

diets

{Image Source}

Unfortunately, it's usually not so easy to decide which health advice is legitimate and based on legitimate scientific research. Even when an article comes out saying something like "multivitamins don't hold any health benefits" (like many did this week) as someone with a masters focusing on research design & analysis I immediately start questioning the validity of the study. Did they ask the right questions? Such as, finding out if those people taking a multivitamin subconsciously ate less healthy than those who don't since they feel they can 'get away with it' as long as their popping their vitamins? Also, the claim that multi's don't hold any health benefits is poorly worded, since the specific endpoint of the study was that vitamins "do not prevent chronic disease or death." Well, duh. I don't take a vitamin thinking it will prolong my life or prevent me from getting cancer, I take it to fill in the gaps of my somewhat limited, vegetarian diet.

Add in the constantly evolving string of diets (Paleo, Atkins, Mediterranean, Flexitarian, ....) and fitness trends (Crossfit, TRX, tabata, ...) and I can see how some people start to feel so overwhelmed with health information that they feel exhausted just trying to sort it all out. Should I stay away from carbs, protein or fat? Do I need to eat before my workout, or is it better to workout on an empty stomach? Should I do short, high intensity runs that keep my heart rate elevated, or train my body to run more efficiently at a lower heart rate?

Evolution of the Food Pyramid

So, where do you start? Andrea, a 4th year medical student, wrote a post on this same topic a few days ago (thanks for the inspiration!) She analyzed a few of the most recent diet trends and found there were a few common themes: eat tons of veggies, eat real food, healthy fats in moderation, and drink tons of water.

diets1

{Image Source}

I know with the New Year quickly approaching many people will be on the hunt for the 'best' diet to follow to lose weight fast. Don't you think if a miracle food/diet/supplement had been found already that we'd all be taking it or following that diet? When I first lost my 50+ pounds and people would ask me how I did it they were always disappointed with my answer; I moved more and ate less. Perhaps I over-simplified it, or maybe our society is over-complicating it.

before after

What else do you think is a genuine universal health tip? 

How do you decide which health advice to follow?