What is the Healthiest Diet?

What is the Healthiest Diet?

Chefs & Experts

What is the Healthiest Diet?


At The Food Channel, we receive many requests for more information about healthy eating. We’ve invited this author to provide his perspective.

Jim Hicks



What is the healthiest diet?

“The closer we get to eating a whole foods, plant-based diet,

the better off we will be.”

T. Colin Campbell, PhD

Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus

Nutritional Biochemistry—Cornell University


How simple is that? All we have to do is maximize the percentage of our calories that are derived from whole plants–still in nature’s package. That means keeping the following to a minimum: animal flesh, eggs, dairy or highly processed, packaged carbohydrates.

It doesn’t necessarily mean vegetarian or vegan. The problem with those two words is that they don’t make it clear what we should be eating. For the most part, they’re only focused on what we should be avoiding.

That’s why we created the 4Leaf scale for measuring the “health-promoting” score of your aggregate food choices. Using Dr. Campbell’s definition of the optimal diet, we just set the bar at 80%. That means if you’re deriving 80% or more of your calories from whole plants, then you’ll be eating at the 4Leaf level—and will be among the top 1% of the healthiest eaters in the United States.

It’s important to clarify that the plant-based foods we eat should be minimally processed and minimally packaged. An 8-25-12 Op-Ed piece by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, reported some alarming news about chemicals in our food supply. From the article:

One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine.

This points out just one more reason to eat whole plants with a minimum of processing and packaging. Even if you have an occasional piece or cheese or fish; if you’re eating at the 4Leaf level, you’ll not only be eating a powerful health-promoting diet, but you’ll also be reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals used in the processing and/or packaging of our food.

Our 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey has now been given to over 2500 people and has proven to be a helpful tool for identifying where you now stand—AND showing how you can easily improve your score. Don’t want to be a vegan? Then eat 4Leaf and be healthier than 90% of the vegans out there.

–J. Morris Hicks

jim hicks


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