From vegan to Paleo, there is no shortage of inspiration and advice for those wanting to eat healthier. But how can conscious eaters separate fact from fad? First and foremost, it’s wise to side-step these fringe debates and head for common ground, as one of the best kept secrets of the nutrition world is that many of these eating patterns have more similarities than one might think.

Reporters love to hype up the low-carb vs. low-fat “rivalry,” but that’s mostly because there is no clear winner or loser. Nutrition scientists actually find that either approach works, as long as you eat a wholesome diet with a variety of minimally processed foods, like vegetables. This was the conclusion drawn at our Oldways Finding Common Ground conference, and new research continues to support this notion. 


Conscious eaters must also give sensationalist headlines a reality check. Although the foundations of a healthy diet are largely the same across many major nutrition philosophies, not all nutrition advice online or in print is backed up by substantial evidence, especially when it comes to “superfoods” or fad diets. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has a helpful guide for putting nutrition research into context, which is the perfect complement to our 11 Tips for Reading a Scientific Study, and our NEW resource, 6 Tips for Checking if a Website is Reliable.

To see which nutrition trends are actually supported by solid research, scientists analyzed the scientific support for various trending “heart healthy” foods and diets and reported their findings in a new review from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Eating berries, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, leafy green vegetables, and plant-based diets are all strongly linked with better heart health, based on numerous studies. 


The authors conclude that “evidence-based healthy dietary patterns are high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts in moderation, although some may include limited quantities of lean meats (including poultry and seafood), low-fat dairy products, and liquid vegetable oils.” This sentiment describes nearly all of the world’s healthiest eating patterns (such as traditional Mediterranean diets or traditional Asian diets) and is also largely in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Scientists across multiple philosophies and specialties agree that the best nutrition and health recommendations are based on the weight of all evidence and include all relevant research methods, including heritage and cultural traditions. For more ideas on how to make science-based nutrition recommendations come to life at your table, check out our Oldways recipes and resources

Kelly Toups, Program Director, Whole Grains Council; Oldways Staff RD


Thank you for this sensible approach to food issues. I really appreciate the links to reading scientific studies and website reliability. In a world where nutrition claims are mostly made to sell stuff these are incredibly helpful.

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