If you’ve tried every diet in existence, from Atkins to the Master Cleanse to the Cookie Diet (yep, that’s a real thing), I’ve got some good news for you: You can stop now. Researchers compared the health benefits of every mainstream diet and found that none of them beat chowing down on good old-fashioned real food.
Here’s how it worked: According to The Atlantic, David Katz, physician and researcher at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, compared the medical evidence for and against every mainstream diet out there. Think: Paleo, vegan, Mediterranean, DASH, low carb, low fat, etc. Katz and his colleague, Stephanie Meller, published their findings in a paper titled, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” The short answer: None of them.
As Katz and Meller explain in their paper, there haven’t been any rigorous, long-term, unbiased studies comparing the health benefits of mainstream diets. So in the end, there is no clear, honest answer as to which diet is truly best. But there are certain elements across the diet board that have been proven to be beneficial to health: “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention,” they write. (Sound familiar?)
Now, this isn’t to say that mainstream diets are bad for you, necessarily. For instance, Katz and Meller found that the Mediterranean diet is potentially linked to all sorts of good stuff, like defense against neurodegenerative disease, preservation of cognitive function, reduced inflammation and even defense against asthma.
However, when it came to the Paleo diet, they weren’t as convinced, writing, “If paleolithic eating is loosely interpreted to mean a diet based on mostly meat, no meaningful interpretation of health effects is possible.”
But despite the health benefits of some mainstream diets, when it comes down to it, Katz and Meller are convinced that sticking to real food (i.e. unprocessed, from nature, mostly of the plant variety) is your best bet when it comes to a healthy diet.
As Katz told The Atlantic, “If you eat food direct from nature…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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