You probably won’t be shocked to learn that the healthiest diet in the world isn’t some extreme plan where you eliminate whole categories of nutrients, like fats or carbs. People’s responses to these diets differ wildly on the basis of genetics and other factors, which makes them hard to recommend for everyone (and explains why they stir up endless debate). They are also hard to stick with long term.
According to accumulating evidence, the food that does keep us healthy is … drum roll, please … exactly what you’d expect: a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fish, and low in processed food and red meat. The fancy term for this way of eating is the pesco-Mediterannean diet, but you could just call it the diet common sense (and your grandma) probably already recommended.
Here’s a more detailed description of the diet from a write-up in Elemental: “Plant-based foods — vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains — form the foundation of the diet. Fatty fish and other types of seafood, along with ‘unrestricted’ helpings of extra-virgin olive oil, round out the plan’s major components. Modest helpings of dairy products, poultry, and eggs are allowed, while red meat should be eaten sparingly or avoided. Low or moderate amounts of alcohol — preferably red wine — are acceptable, but water, coffee, and tea are preferred.”
The second pillar of the world’s healthiest diet
While this is hardly earth-shattering advice (it basically mirrors food writer Michael Pollan’s famous dictum: “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much”), the research does offer one twist. If you’re aiming for maximum health, pair the pesco-Mediterranean diet with a mild form of fasting called time-restricted eating where you eat only during an eight- to 12-hour window.
“Time-restricted eating is a great way to reduce total calories and also get inflammation and hormones back into healthy ranges,” O’Keefe says.
Plenty of other scientists and founders like Jack Dorsey recommend the idea as well, though recent, rigorous studies have thrown some of these benefits into question. Whatever the details, not reaching for a bowl of chips at 10 p.m. is a health win, so if you want to maximize your health, think not just about what you eat but when you eat it.
Take these two pillars of healthy eating together — the pesco-Mediterannean diet and intermittent fasting — and you may just have landed on the world’s healthiest way to eat. Switching over to this approach is one of the biggest investments in your well-being you can make.
“We have a lot of first-level scientific evidence showing that this really makes a difference in your cardiovascular health, in all-cause mortality, in preventing dementia, preventing diabetes and maintaining a healthy weight,” O’Keefe told CBS.
BY JESSICA STILLMAN, CONTRIBUTOR, INC.COM @ENTRYLEVELREBEL