The healthy diet matrix: nutrients, foods and cuisines
Diet is a cornerstone of the prevention and management of chronic lifestyle related disease. The components of healthy diets have been noted in terms of nutrients (such as fat, fibre, calcium), whole foods (such as core food groups) and in terms of cuisines, such as the Mediterranean diet. Much of the research underpinning the evidence for the nutrient profiles of healthy diets comes from mechanistic studies involving in vitro and animal model studies, or observational studies where assessments of food intake have been converted to food components. There are a few studies of cuisine patterns, such as the Lyon Heart Study (1), and the more recent PREDIMED study (2), which point to the benefit of a whole of diet approach. Whole diets, can be recognised by core foods which deliver the essential nutrients in idealised proportions. This review outlines some of the complexities in trying to constitute a healthy diet. Being able to design a healthy diet means being able to work within the concept of a food and diet matrix, where individually identified foods deliver a combination of nutrients that together best meet the nutritional needs in an overall diet. This means having a clear view of the inter-relationships between nutrients, a working concept of food itself (3), in both its natural and processed forms, being able to differentiate between foods from a nutritional perspective, and understanding the importance of cuisine in establishing healthy eating patterns in communities.