If your meal menu runs on repeat, your body might hit a snag:People who eat the same foods over and over again tend to be less healthy than those who strive for variety, suggests recent research in the Journal of Nutrition.
In the study, participants who consumed the widest range of foods were 21 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or increased body fat that ups your risk for heart disease and diabetes—compared to those who stuck to their standbys.
Varied eaters were also less likely to have high blood pressure, and more likely to have a healthy waist circumference.
But wait—doesn’t conventional diet wisdom say that it could be better to stick with the same couple of foods? Well, yes. Research has shown that eating a lower variety of foods can help you lose weight.
“With fewer options, there’s less of a tendency to just eat the next thing,” says Men’s Health nutrition advisor Alan Aragon, M.S. And that, of course, could really rock your diet.
Here’s the thing, though: This current study looked at people who stuck to foods that are recommended as part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—the good stuff, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
But the older studies that found eating the same meals can help you lose weight focused on people who ate all kinds of foods, including nutritionally worthless offerings packed with sugar or unhealthy fats.
So it makes sense that variety is a good thing when you’re picking from mostly good-for-you stuff, rather than from healthy fare and all the rest of the junk out there.
Still, striving to work seven different fruits and vegetables or three different whole grains into your diet every day would be totally exhausting.
So instead, just try to hit all of the major food groups—fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and good fats—on most days, says Aragon.
Then over the span of the week, try to get two different foods from each group, like bananas and blueberries, or brown rice and quinoa, to up your variety, Aragon says.