Is There a Single Healthiest Diet?

Amby Burfoot has an article that asks, “what is the healthiest diet?”  for the general public. His answer comes from the Journal of Nutrition. Looks like there are four winners. Quoting Mr. Burfoot:

They differ slightly in the degree to which they favor, or disfavor, certain foods and food types, such as the following:

  • The Healthy Eating Index 2010: Considers low-fat dairy products a plus.
  • The Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010: Considers nuts/legumes a plus, as well as moderate alcohol consumption. Trans fats, sugary beverages, salt, and red meat get a minus.
  • The Alternate Mediterranean Diet: Considers fish, nuts/legumes, and moderate alcohol a plus; red meat, a minus.
  • The DASH Diet: Considers low-fat dairy and nuts/legumes a plus; sugary beverages, salt, and red meat get a minus.

I think the Mediterranean diet has the most and best data to support it.

Steve Parker, M.D.



Filed under Mediterranean Diet

8 responses to “Is There a Single Healthiest Diet?

  1. Jim Jozwiak

    Ketogenic is the healthiest diet if you can figure out how to do it correctly, as a lot of the descriptions of it are really gluconeogenic due to too much or too little protein, so fasting blood sugar goes high instead of ketones. Unfortunately, most people would probably have to measure blood ketones to figure out how to do it.

  2. Honestly, why is this so difficult? Eat enough protein, get calories from saturated fat related to the protein (or saturated and mono-unsaturated oils), eat vegetables, minimize carb consumption (for example potatoes…) , and avoid grain consumption. Don’t eat vegetable oils. Get proper sun exposure for Vitamin D and eat enough cheese or other source (supplements) to get proper K2.

    And get into the habit or schedule of intermittent fasting.

    The idea of demonizing some ancestral nutrient (like dairy for most Europeans) or red meat (a steak will kill you?) makes no sense at all. Bacon may be another issue, but with proper Vitamin D levels it should not be a problem. On the other hand, wheat is a fairly well known irritant, and not just based on gluten. Leaky gut, anyone?

    In my view, wheat, for example in a birthday cake or in sourdough bread, can be eaten without worry or guilt on special events, and the idea is that eating a proper diet almost all the time allows you body to be prepared to deal properly and effectively with an occasional irritant to the system.

    • Jim Jozwiak

      Yes, plus eat some fish for EPA/DHA and egg yolks for choline and you’ve covered every nutrient.

      • Yes.

        Seriously, on a somewhat different issue: I do not see much point in putting a “name” to this “diet,” but perhaps it is helpful. If so, this is my (minimalist) version of the Kurt Harris PaNu diet. By eating the recommended foods and avoiding wheat and vegetable oils as much as possible, if not entirely, one has not only achieved a better diet, one has avoided the various harmful things that are not meant to be eaten by people, but which have come to be considered food, such as corn oil, etc., and excessive (non-emergency) wheat consumption. By reducing carbohydrates one has also greatly reduced the need for insulin production and, related to that, the need for extra exertion (and need for iodine) by the thyroid in coping with excess carbohydrates. Assuming one has any remaining insulin producing cells the proper diet should gradually allow one to recover from metabolic issues. And regain a proper and healthy weight and physique.

    • Hi, Richard. I like your summary of a healthy diet. I’d add cold-water fatty fish twice weekly.

  3. Jim Jozwiak

    Eating the PaNu recommended foods is important. For many people, though, there are other issues. Humans have been and maybe still are top predators and like felines, have lost some nutritional flexibility because a long-term animal food diet has made us lose the ability to synthesize and absorb nutrients from plants, unlike rodents for instance, who have never in their genetic history been top predators. And we have especially hungry big brains! Furthermore, although most of us can easily get to 40 when we begin to lose nutritional flexibility vis a vis carbs and fat, in these modern days we can still expect to have another 40 years to go with reduced glucose tolerance as we age. Personally, I have experimented with high-starch regimes, moderate carb regimes, and the ketogenic regime ala Volek and Phinney. To my surprise I actually do the worst on moderate carb regimes such as PaNu or Mediterranean because I gradually develop hepatic insulin resistance so that physical and mental enthusiasm wanes markedly. My insulin sensitivity returns with a high-starch plan, but then there is no calorie level that works to retain lean mass, so it’s either frail or overweight for me. Only ketogenic with coconut oil as the predominant fat seems to be excellent in all respects: mental brilliance, physical enthusiasm, and a reasonable amount of lean mass.

  4. This verdict comes as no real surprise. The Mediterranean diet is ridiculously well researched for a pretty wide range of specific health risks and ailments, from arthritis and inflammatory disorders, to risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.