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Nutrition education is the cornerstone of our country’s most popular food and public health programs, but the common perception is that it’s useless — no one really pays attention or follows nutrition advice.

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At least that’s been the common perception until now, thanks to new evidence that healthy lifestyle advice can stick with us and shape our health, even years later. In a new study in the Journal of Internal Medicine, European researchers randomly assigned a large group of middle-aged Norwegian men (who were healthy but at high risk of heart disease) to either a 5-year program with healthy lifestyle advice — stop smoking, eat less saturated fat, and eat more fish and vegetables — or a control group without the advice. The researchers then followed more than 1,200 of these men for 40 years, monitoring any lasting effects on mortality. The scientists concluded that “Receiving advice about a healthy lifestyle led to a long-term reduced risk of coronary mortality during the following 40 years,” and they suggested that “systematically providing effective counselling for a healthy lifestyle for 5 years can lead to lifelong benefits.”

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While many dietary intervention programs are aimed at adults, kids can benefit as well. In a new study in Preventive Medicine, researchers randomly assigned more than 400 Danish children, ages 6 to 8, and their parents to either 6 individualized diet counseling sessions and 6 individualized exercise counseling sessions over 2 years, or a control group with no individualized lifestyle advice. At the end of the study, children who received the counseling advice averaged 9 minutes per day more physical activity and 10 minutes per day less computer and video games than the control group, and also ate significantly more vegetables, fiber, low fat milk, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Today, diet advice is not hard to come by. In fact, social media and invasive advertisements make it quite difficult to avoid. But the internet can be the Wild West in terms of nutrition tips, which means that we are in dire need of practical and positive programs that are grounded in science and common sense.

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For more than two decades, Oldways has drawn inspiration from traditional local and global cuisines to present people with a trusted source of appetizing and accessible nutrition programs. A highlight of our diverse catalogue of nutrition tools and programs is A Taste of African Heritage, a 6-week, plant-based cooking program based on traditional foods from across the African diaspora. Upon completing the course, our graduates show increases in vegetable consumption and cooking, lost weight, and a drop in waist circumference and blood pressure. Sensible solutions for eating well can also be found in our 4-Week Menu Plan books, as well as our countless blog posts and other resources.

For those struggling to parse out sensible nutrition advice from the sea of health and wellness myths, remember that dietary advice need not be groundbreaking. It doesn’t require expensive pills, potions, or powders — it simply means reconnecting people with the delicious taste of wholesome foods.

Kelly Toups, Whole Grains Council program director

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