How to Get Satisfaction: A Healthy Diet

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Aug. 13, 2001 - News flash: you can get satisfaction. And the best news is that you can get it from a healthy diet.

The finding comes from a National Cancer Institute study to see whether a healthy diet could prevent the recurrence of large bowel polyps -- growths that eventually can become cancers. It didn't.

But to their surprise, researchers found that people who ate healthy food for four years didn't feel deprived. On the contrary, they felt no less satisfied with their life in general -- and with the taste of their food -- than they did before. And eating well made them feel better about themselves.

"The things we thought would pop up as negative reactions to the diet didn't turn out to be that way," study author Donald K. Corle, MS, tells WebMD. "People were generally satisfied with the taste of healthy food. And the other big thing was the cost. They didn't feel like they were spending more money than they did before."

The study included 194 people who agreed to change their diets and 200 people who continued to eat the same way they always did. Those who changed their eating habits tried to eat five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day. They also tried to eat 18 grams of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories consumed, and to limit their fat intake to 20% of total calories.

"The changes in diet are what I would call huge," Corle says. "Overall, they dropped from 35% to 23% calories from fat, and increased their fiber intake from 9 grams to 18 grams per 1,000 calories."

During the first year of the study, the researchers provided more than 60 hours of counseling on behavior change techniques and on nutrition skills. But after this counseling was over, people continued to improve their diets over the next three years.

"These people believed that what they were doing was a lot better than what they were doing before," Corle says. "They really believed that making dietary changes improved their health."

Nancy Anderson, RD, MPH, is a dietician who teaches healthy eating habits at the Emory University Heart Center in Atlanta. She says that people often are surprised to find out that a healthy diet is far easier to swallow than they had thought possible.

"I think there is a preconceived notion for anybody who is trying to improve their diet," Anderson tells WebMD. "They think, 'If it is healthy, it is not going to taste good. It will be boring.' But they learn that there are a lot more things they can eat than things they should avoid."

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