Health & Wellness / Opinion

The Healthiest Foods On Earth

The Healthiest Foods On Earth – by Jonny Bowden –

What is the best diet for human beings?

Vegetarian? Vegan? High-protein? Low-fat? Dairy-Free?

Hold on to your shopping carts: There is no perfect diet for human beings. At least not one that’s based on how much protein, fat or carbohydrates you eat.

People have lived and thrived on high-protein, high-fat diets (the Inuit of Greenland); on low-protein, high-carb diets (the indigenous peoples of southern Africa); on diets high in raw milk and cream (the people of the Loetschental Valley in Switzerland); diets high in saturated fat (the Trobriand Islanders) and even on diets in which animal blood is considered a staple (the Massai of Kenya and Tanzania). And folks have thrived on these diets without the ravages of degenerative diseases that are so epidemic in modern life–heart disease, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, osteoporosis and cancer.

The only thing these diets have in common is that they’re all based on whole foods with minimum processing. Nuts, berries, beans, raw milk, grass-fed meat. Whole, real, unprocessed food is almost always healthy, regardless of how many grams of carbs, protein or fat it contains.

All these healthy diets have in common the fact that they are absent foods with bar codes. They are also extremely low in sugar. In fact, the number of modern or ancient societies known for health and longevity that have consumed a diet high in sugar would be … let’s see … zero.

Truth be told, what you eat probably matters less than how much processing it’s undergone. Real food–whole food with minimal processing–contains a virtual pharmacy of nutrients, phytochemicals, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and healthful fats, and can easily keep you alive and thriving into your 10th decade.

Berries, for example, are phenomenally low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with plant compounds that improve memory and help fight cancer. Studies have consistently shown that nut-eaters have lower rates of heart disease. Beans are notorious for their high fiber content and are a part of the diet of people–from almost every corner of the globe–who live long and well.

Protein–the word comes from a Greek word meaning “of prime importance”–is a feature of every healthy diet ever studied. Meat , contrary to its terrible reputation, can be a health food if–and this is a big if–the meat comes from animals that have been raised on pasture land, have never seen the inside of a feedlot farm and have never been shot full of antibiotics and hormones.

Ditto for raw milk, generally believed to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet by countless devotees who often go to great expense and inconvenience to obtain it from small, sustainable farms. Wild salmon, whose omega-3 content is consistently higher than its less-fortunate farm-raised brethren, gets its red color from a powerful antioxidant called astaxathin. The combination of protein, omega-3s and antioxidants makes wild salmon a contender for anyone’s list of great foods.

Another great food: eggs–one of nature’s most perfect creations, especially if you don’t throw out the all-important yolk. (Remember “whole” foods means exactly that–foods in their original form. Our robust ancestors did not eat “low-fat” caribou; we don’t need to eat “egg-white” omelets.)

There are really no “bad” vegetables, but some of them are superstars. Any vegetable from the Brassica genus–broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale–is loaded with plant chemicals called indoles, which help reduce the risk of cancer.

In the fruit kingdom, apples totally deserve their reputation as doctor-repellants: they’re loaded with fiber, minerals (like bone-building boron) and phytochemicals (like quercetin, which is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and to have anti-cancer properties). Some exciting new research suggests that pomegranate juice slows the progression of certain cancers. Other research shows it lowers blood pressure and may even act as a “natural Viagra.”

Tea deserves special mention on any list of the world’s healthiest foods. The second most widely consumed beverage in the world (after water), all forms of tea (black, oolong, white, green and the newer Yerba Matte) are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Some types (green tea, for example) contain plant chemicals called catechin which have decided anti-cancer activity.

Finally, let’s not forget members of the Alliaceae family of plants–onions, garlic and shallots. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties; hundreds of published studies support its antimicrobial effects as well as its ability to lower the risk of heart disease. A number of studies have shown an inverse relationship between onion consumption and certain types of cancer.

A healthy diet doesn’t have to contain every one of the “healthiest foods on earth,” but you can’t go wrong putting as many of the above mentioned foods in heavy rotation on your personal eating plan.

 

Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, is a board-certified nutritionist and the author of seven books on health and nutrition,

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21 Comments on "The Healthiest Foods On Earth"

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Greg Howell
3 years 5 months ago
The slam against coffee listed by a poster in this forum is completely without merit. More recent research has shown that coffee is very high in antioxidant activity; in adddition, coffee has been shown in real clinical trials to have a positive effect on depression, liver fibrosis, type 2 diabetes, among many other maladies as a preventive and as an adjunct to treatment. In fact, it has recommendations for use post-surgically in some post operative arenas. Use this link to go to Medscape (a site used by physicians – free sign up) http://search.medscape.com/news-search?queryText=coffee&navState=3029+4294930893&sortBy=&fromMonth=&fromYear=&toMonth=&toYear=&dateDimId=&CMEDimId=&pagerOffset=0&search_type=&contentType=Slideshow. Also, apply some logic to how horrible some of the aqua farming, feedlot raising of animals for consumption, etc. is. There is a reason that Social Security is going broke – beside the bad idea to begin with. The fact is that, despite the inclination of some toward the “Noble Savage” food fadism, our ability to control… Read more »
Clyde Crowson, DDS, MPH
3 years 6 months ago
A very good summary article. I have just a few observations. For the person asking about range cattle, chickens and other animals people eat, a good place to come very close to satisfying all health concerns is “WHOLE FOODS’. Most large cities have a WHOLE FOOD Store. It is still important to read labels. However, it is frustrating to learn that this info is not always reliable. I think it is important to keep it as simple as possible. If you follow a few simple rules the good things will follow. Eat a diet of whole natural foods. Eat foods of all colors, and try to get about 30-40 grams of fiber each day. It is more important to avoid certain foods than to worry about eating the healthy foods. It is very important to avoid: white sugar, white flour, visible fat and processed meats, as well as most processed… Read more »
Viki
3 years 6 months ago

OK, so all those societies eat high this and high that — they also WORK and not sit behind a computer or TV most of the day. WE SIT TOO MUCH . . .

Gary Miller
3 years 6 months ago

We have started getting off of laboratory foods and started eating a lot of fruit, vegatables, eggs, meat, etc. But – where would I buy free range beef? It is hard to find and at times natural whole foods are more expensive when we find them.
Great article – I will share it.

Frank
3 years 6 months ago

Mr. Bowden,
I have been searching for a listing of foods that would not only help me to control my type 2 diabetes, but would also promote a diet that allow me to maintain a healthy and stable weight. At first blush it appears what you suggest, hopefully, may be the basis of sound nutritional advice.

That said the following questions are asked – with all due respect – only to satisfy my
need for logical reasoning to develop a plan that employs what you have indicated:
1. PHD – From where
2. Board Certified Nutritionist- By whom
3. What if any recognized physicians groups are in agreement with your conclusions

Again please let me say that I truly want to believe that adhering to such a plan will
at least help to realize my goal.

Carol, Dr.s daughter...
3 years 6 months ago
Frank, sorry, but your three questions don’t mean anything. Wisdom ‘tells’ you that it is sound advice — except for tea, and coffee. Tea has ‘tannin’ which is a pure poison. Coffee raises your heart rate, which in many health conditions, like diabetes, it is probably not good (have had Nursing and studied ‘meds’, their actions, and side effects). You can get the same ‘cancer-fighting’ cure in eating ‘whole-grains’ — oats, barley, rice, and especially wheat (the Lord says, “For Man”). Even though I am not Jewish, I had an Air Force Obstetrician while my husband was ‘active duty’, and when I complained that all the so-called ‘fresh’ foods in the stores gave me diarrhea and all kinds of stomach problems (which I believe they call it ‘Crohns’ disease now), he told me to grind my own wheat and use it daily. This I did, and all my stomach and… Read more »
Carol, Dr.s daughter...
3 years 6 months ago

Frank, follow your ‘diabetes’ diet that your Dr. gave you.

omer dawson
3 years 6 months ago

I am 94, and I feel great!. I visited a retirement home yesterday, and saw everyone with their walker, sitting like zombies. I cook my own food, and eat all the foods that are good for me. I eat all the great foods that you mentioned.. I am busy, publishing own book, rePAIRING MY WOODEN DECK ETC.

ANNETTE ROMAN
3 years 6 months ago

Omer, You are my kind of guy!!! I am only 76 and I feel great!! I, also, eat the manner in which this great article suggests. It is not easy to find people my age to go places and do things I enjoy. Therefore, many of my friends are 10yr or so younger.
Keep up your great lifestyle and enjoy!
Annette

Paul Sharp
3 years 6 months ago

Good advice, I think. However, regarding meat production by feedlot vs. pasture it is my understanding that human parasite infection by meat consumption is far better controlled by confinement (feedlot) production than pasture or “free range” production. Efficient meat production is very important for a protein hungry world, and here also feedlot meat production wins in my opinion.

NEWTON HANSEN
3 years 6 months ago

I’ve worked in feed lots and you’re right, better parasite control, lots more animals in a very limited space, bigger puddles and larger mounds of waste enhances the parasite population exponentially, but have no fear, parasites are a good source of protein if cooked properly within the meat to approximately 150 degrees F.

Katherine
3 years 6 months ago

Check out how Joel Salatin raises cattle for dairy and meat at Polyface Farm in Virginia. He moves the cattle frequently to new pastures and follows them with chickens to clean the pastures of parasites. He has actually improved his pastures and raises more cattle per acre than “the experts” say is possible.

Gloria P. Sterling
3 years 6 months ago
I also believe everyone should read labels “religiously”. There are many foods that are “product” of other countries that one may not want, and what one might think is healthy contains “high fructose corn syrup” or something else such as maltose (to try to fool you). There is no reason to buy seafood from another country when we have good seafood industries right here in this country–and I don’t trust the quality or the taste of others–and I don’t buy “farm raised”, either. Salmon should be caught in the wild–like Alaskan salmon, in particular; it’s about the best. Shrimp, in particular, is not any where half as good harvested from other countries; I know what shrimp should taste like and what consistency to expect as I grew up where shrimp was plentiful and delicious. Check all labels for where something is produced. Thanks for bearing with me spouting off about… Read more »
Gloria P. Sterling
3 years 6 months ago

I agree mostly about the eggs and still you read in “reducing diet” menus to use egg whites or horrors, egg “substitutes”. Give me “whole” eggs any day. I like bread, especially non-white, but I lose weight better and faster when I do without it all together. Thanks for a very good article.

Nancy O'Hara
3 years 6 months ago
I don’t mean to disrespect your training and expertise, Doc, but the “whole grains” that are currently considered healthful are not the whole grains our ancestors ate. Over the past 50 years they have been genetically modified so much (for commercial reasons for the most part) that the human organism cannot metabolize them without disastrous results in virtually every body system. I believe Dr. Davis has fully and carefully documented the evidence of this at the same time he counsels against eating any form of wheat available today. His documentarians are such experts as Mayo Clinic, UC Berkeley, NHS, University of Michigan, etc. Unfortunately, the human organism cannot evolve fast enough to accommodate those changes — it takes tens of thousands of years for us higher species. I also have my own evidence to support his claims, as my a1c has dropped almost .9 in only six months of eliminating… Read more »
PaulE
3 years 6 months ago

Good fact-based article. Well done.

Susan Duby
3 years 6 months ago

Great article! The book “Wheat Belly” by Cardiologist Dr. William Davis will inform everyone about the consumption of all grains and their destructive nature throughout the human body systems. Grain, particularly wheat, is incorporated in about everything we consume in some form. High fructose corn syrup is one everyone should be concerned about NO eating. Check this out to protect your kids’ & grandkids’ health. Please get the book, you’ll NOT be sorry.

Doc 58
3 years 6 months ago

As a physician, actually one of the best summary articles I have seen in quite some time. Thank you! However, ditto the above comment about the lack of info on grains. Whole grains are a vital part of the healthy diet, whole grain flours are fine if not heavily processed. As the article mentioned, it is balance and natural that is the key, and you would be hard pressed to find a healthy society in history in which bread was not a staple in their diet.

Jimmy Borger
3 years 6 months ago

This all sounds good but one size fits does not fit all. I am allergic to dairy products, not lactose intolerant, eggs, and vitamin C. I also have different taste buds. Green things taste bitter to me. Dark green is more than I can handle. All my blood work shows good numbers after almost 70 years of not eating the “proper” diet.

OneDay
3 years 6 months ago

I didn’t notice anything about grains. A lot of the information that I see lately suggests that refined flours may be almost as bad as sugar for western disease, but that even whole grain flours are not that great. Is that correct, or an over reaction?

Nancy O'Hara
3 years 6 months ago

Sounds about right to me, OneDay.

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