Has Science Found The "Healthiest Diet"?

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01_refinery29-superfoods-00120120831_JanelleJonesPhotographed by Janelle Jones.
One of the most frustrating things about trying to lead a "healthy" lifestyle is the sheer number of conflicting definitions the word healthy can yield. Meanwhile, countless "experts" claiming to have the "secrets" we need to achieve our health and fitness goals lurk around every corner, all the while providing no real scientific basis to support their claims that their way is better than others'. With all of the conflicting messages, it's a wonder we're even able to pick out our lunch order on Seamless.

But, lucky for us, a new study published in the journal Annual Reviews attempts to make some sense out of this jumbled mess of competing information. Led by Dr. David Katz, a physician and researcher at the Prevention Research Center at Yale University, the study takes a long, hard look at today's most popular "healthy" diets, from Paleo to veganism to the Mediterranean diet. Perhaps to no one's surprise, Katz and his team found that, while each diet has its own strengths, no one diet was found to be objectively healthier than the rest.

The data did yield one overarching "rule," though: Diets with higher proportions of vegetables (those with approximately 50% of caloric intake from veggies) were generally found to be healthier — as long as they were high in whole, low-starch plants and fiber. However, vegan evangelists shouldn't claim victory just yet, as the researchers noted that people who follow restrictive diets like veganism often don't receive all of the nutrients they need. The researchers were also careful to point out that the Paleo diet, which emphasizes meat and vegetables over grains and processed carbs, is potentially a healthy option, but only if the percentage of caloric intake from fibrous-vegetable sources is at least 50%.
01_002_Ingalls_0034_sized_PhotoIngallsPhotoPhotographed By Ingalls Photo.
But, don't swear off potatoes and pasta just yet. The study also discovered that diets that incorporated carbs strategically and in moderation were healthier than those that cut out carbs altogether. This was due mostly to the ability of whole grains to lower cancer risk and help with weight control.

The moral of the story here? There is no miracle diet. The best nutrition science out there suggests that eating a little bit of everything (mostly plants) is probably a safe bet. But, ultimately, there's so much we don't know about the human body and the ways it interacts with our society's food system. So, those looking for one absolute answer will probably be waiting for a long time. (The Atlantic)