The Best Diet? It Isn’t a Diet at All: It’s Just Real Food, Study Finds


A recent comparison of popular diets (yes, including the Paleo diet) found none to be a “best diet” for optimal health compared with a well-balanced and generally healthy approach to eating focused on real food.

Low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo and Mediterranean diets were among those compared for their health benefits. But none seemed to be as effective in providing the health benefits as author and food expert Michael Pollan’s sage advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

The research, entitled “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?”, conducted by Dr. David Katz and Stephanie Meller, both from Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, was published in the recent issue of the journal Annual Reviews. The researchers noted: “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely.” The conclusion found common eating habits to be most often connected with optimal health. “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention,” they said.

The extremely popular Paleo diet didn’t fare well with Katz and Meller, who wrote: “Many of the plant foods and nearly all of the animal foods consumed during the remote Stone Age are now extinct. Whereas the composition of some animals’ flesh may mimic that of mammoths, the composition of the flesh of animals most often appearing in the food supply does not. If Paleolithic eating is loosely interpreted to mean a diet based mostly on meat, no meaningful interpretation of health effects is possible.”

The highest praise came for well-rounded plant-based diets and the Mediterranean diet, which the authors said “is potentially associated with defense against neurodegenerative disease and preservation of cognitive function, reduced inflammation, and defense against asthma.”

“If you eat food direct from nature,” Katz told the Atlantic, “you don’t even need to think about this. You don’t have to worry about trans fat or saturated fat or salt—most of our salt comes from processed food, not the salt shaker. If you focus on real food, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.”

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