Why nutrition is NOT black and white

America is a very yin and yang—or black and white—place when it comes to certain things.

And nutritional belief systems might just top that list.

I have written for years about how we love to completely worship one food and demonize another in our quest to make health and nutrition simpler (or perhaps a better word is, standardized).  

But nutritional advice will never fit into a “one-size-fits-all” category. In fact, quite the opposite.

Yet, researchers tend to shift their focus so they can praise certain dietary habits that fit their narrative. And that’s especially true when it comes to plant-based diets

Significant health boost

A new study found that, what they called a “healthful plant-based diet,” may lower risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and early death.

That sounds great on the surface, right?

Well, as always, there’s more to the story…

For the analysis, researchers considered a healthy plant-based diet to consist of higher quantities of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts—and lower intakes of animal products, sugary drinks, and refined grains.

And they found that following this eating pattern more regularly reduced risk of CVD, CVD-related mortality, and all-cause mortality. (Great!)

But let’s take a closer look here…

This particular study takes a healthy plant-based diet—full of high-quality foods (fresh produce, nuts and seeds, etc.)—and compares it to a diet focused on processed foods (sugary drinks, refined grains, etc.).

This isn’t the same as comparing it to a healthy diet inclusive of organic meats and unprocessed animal products.

See, high-quality foods will always deliver impressive health benefits, compared to lower-quality processed foods!

And of course that holds true for plant-based diets!

But—what would happen if we compared a high-quality plant-based diet to a high-quality Mediterranean-style diet, which adds healthy, unprocessed animal products to the conversation?

Would the narrative still be that plant-based diets come out on top?

I think you and I both know the answer to that question…

Quality always matters

As you know, I’m biased against diets that deliver no animal protein. I just simply can’t get behind them. I don’t think they’re healthy, nor do I think they’re good for the planet.

In fact, many folks who follow a “plant-based” diet consume tons of carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar—and very little produce.

And guess what? Studies like this actually TRICK them into believing that eating pattern is A-OK. When in reality, and as I mention above, we should be emphasizing food quality.

Let’s not mince words here: Lower quality foods WILL do us in, no matter the source!

Just consider this: This study found several thousand participants experienced an incidental bone fracture. And do you know why that is?

Because diets low in animal proteins lead to insufficient vitamin B and calcium intake—two nutrients essential for bone health. (And that’s just skimming the surface on the dark side of plant-based diets.)

Now, I’ve never been against healthy, real, whole foods (including TRUE “plant-based” foods). But it would be nice to see some inclusion of ANY high-quality food in the conversation around dietary choices that promote health.

So I’ll leave you with this…

Rid your diet of all the junk (plant-based or not).

Focus on incorporating more grass-fed and -finished meat, organic poultry, wild-caught fish and seafood, and healthy plant-based foods such as seasonal produce, nuts and seeds, and non-genetically modified grains (in moderation).

Then, watch your health soar.

P.S. Want to learn more about how a truly healthy diet can TRANSFORM your health? Check out my A-List Diet and The Hamptons Diet, found under the “books” tab of my website.


“Plant‐Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All‐Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle‐Aged Adults.” JAHA, 2019. (ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.119.012865)