If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to maximize your energy and avoid an early death by eating healthy, there is a lot of confusing advice out there to contend with. Besides a host of trendy but conflicting diets, guidelines from actual scientists change regularly.
One year fat will kill you, the next sugar is public enemy number one. Is fish great for you or mercury-laced poison? And while everyone agrees heavy drinking is unhealthy, does a glass or two of wine a day do good or bad things for your health?
Given the ever-changing answers to questions like these, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and ignore everything but the most basic nutrition advice. If no one knows anything beyond fast food is bad, then you may as well let your instincts (and taste buds) guide you.
But according to a research review published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, science does actually know something definitive about what you should eat. Debates about particular foods may go on forever, but cardiologist James O’Keefe and his co-authors insist science is narrowing in on the ideal overall diet for humans.
Your grandma already told you.
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 based on 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 up 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-Medterannean 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 writeup 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 ten 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.