We include products in articles we think are useful for our readers. If you buy products or services through links on our website, we may earn a small commission.

9 Healthiest Foods to Eat in the World: Separating Fact from Fiction

By Liam McAuliffe Updated on

Tags: Food, Health

Pretty much every other list you’ll see of the healthiest foods to eat in the world are plant-based, with the lone meat being salmon. Frankly, these lists do not accord with nutritional science. They’re founded on outdated data, complex beliefs and feelings about eating animals, and the economic interests of industrial agriculture. 

Table of Contents

Before launching into our science-based list of the healthiest foods to eat in the world, let’s get a few things straight: 

  • Fresh meat is very healthy for most people–it’s loaded with bioavailable and meat-specific nutrients, highly satiating, and associated with numerous markers of health, fertility, and longevity  [1][2]. 
  • Consumption of carbohydrate crops (grains and tubers) does not lead to greater life expectancy [3].
  • Total meat consumption correlates to greater life expectancy, independent of the competing effects of total calories intake, economic affluence, urban advantages, and obesity [3].
  • Saturated fat when consumed as part of a matrix of whole foods including fresh meat, is healthy for most people [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10].
  • Reducing saturating animal fat and substituting in more lean protein may increase the risk of cancer [8]. 
  • Randomized control trials comparing high-meat, low-carb diets to non-meat diets reveal dramatically better outcomes for the high-meat diets in areas of cardiovascular health, weight loss, and blood sugar regulation  [8] [9] [10].
  • Insoluble fiber, especially from grains, is not essential, and likely unhealthy–contributing to constipation, bloating, diverticulitis, and various other GI issues  [10][11][12].
  • Our human ancestors were apex predators that ate mostly fatty meat for nearly 2 million years of our evolution, suggesting that our physiology is genetically primed to thrive on meat [13].
  • Meat farmed with “regenerative agricultural practices” or “carbon farming” sequesters carbon while maximizing soil health. Current industrial agricultural practices for growing plant foods will completely destroy our topsoil in 60 years [14]. When raised regeneratively, the healthiness of meat can be extended beyond the human body, to benefit our environment and food systems [15]. 

How we rank: Taking into account the numerous studies above, we consider only the most nutrient-dense foods. These foods are rich in complex proteins, healthy fats, bioavailable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs to thrive. We’ve included both animal and plant food sources. 

If eaten together, this list of foods will provide more than enough of all your macro and micronutrient needs. 

If this isn’t the healthy food list you were expecting, it’s time to update your nutritional knowledge. Let’s dive in. 

Ribeye Steak (and other fatty red meats like Brisket, Chuck, New York Strip, Denver, Short ribs, Skirt, etc)

Medium rare Ribeye steak with herbs and a piece of butter on the wooden tray.

For people who still believe in the debunked low-fat diet trend, it can be hard to fathom that this rich cut of steak headlines our list of the healthiest foods to eat in the world. But for people eating a carnivore or ketogenic diet, ribeye is the most beloved fatty keto meat. 

Ribeye is so loaded with healthy fats, proteins, and essential micronutrients that you can literally thrive while eating only ribeye, salt, and water. This minimalist version of the carnivore diet is called the Lion Diet.

Ribeye (and other fatty red meats like Brisket, Chuck, New York Strip, Denver, Short ribs, Skirt, etc) are possibly the only food in the world that a human can eat singularly and not only live but thrive. It has everything you need without risks of vitamin toxicity or protein poisoning.

Researchers from Harvard University looking at 2,029 people over 6 months found that an all-meat carnivore diet found that,  “Contrary to common expectations, adults consuming a carnivore diet experienced few adverse effects and instead reported health benefits and high satisfaction.”

The self-reported positive results included [14]:

  • 93% improved or resolved obesity and excess weight
  • 93% improved hypertension
  • 98% improved conditions related to diabetes
  • 97% improved gastrointestinal symptoms
  • 96% improved psychiatric symptoms

These results make sense when considering the nutrient abundance of Ribeye steak and other fatty ruminant meats. Ribeye is loaded with B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and many compounds that are only found in meat: 

  • Carnitine: supports male fertility, mitochondrial function, supports heart health and fertility [31]  
  • Taurine: This antioxidant can reduce glycation, reduce oxidative stress, and improve mental health [32]
  • Carnosine: Supports heart health, reduces glycation, and protects telomeres for anti-aging benefits [33]
  • Creatine: improves cognition and protects against neurodegeneration. Supports athletic performance, and heart health [34]
NUTRIENT200G (7 OZ) 
CALORIES582 cal
FAT55g
SATURATED FAT20g
MONOUNSATURATED FAT
CARBOHYDRATES0
PROTEIN 48g
VITAMINS
B1 (THIAMIN) 14%
B2 (RIBOFLAVIN)35%
B3 (NIACIN)44%
B660%
B12245%
MINERALS
MAGNESIUM12%
POTASSIUM18%
IRON31%
COPPER33%
PHOSPHORUS42%
SELENIUM93%
ZINC113%

Beef Liver

goat liver fry

Beef liver is near the healthiest food in the world. In fact it’s so nutrient-packed that you have to eat it sparingly to protect from nutrient overload–specifically vitamin A. Just a 3.5 ounce serving 2-3 times a week will deliver all its benefits. 

Vitamin A

The Vitamin A in liver comes in a variety called ‘preformed’, which is more easily absorbed and utilized in your body than the vitamin A found in plant foods. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy skin and vision  [13][14]. 

B Vitamins and Copper

Beef liver is also loaded with B vitamins that play many roles including the metabolism of fat into energy. B vitamin combined with liver’s copious amounts of copper help maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption [15]

The folate (another B vitamin)  in beef liver is critical for healthy fetal development. [16]

Heme Iron 

The heme iron in liver is significantly more bioavailable than non-heme iron in plant foods [17]. It’s critical to forming red blood cells, turning food into energy, a healthy immune system, cognitive health, and fertility [18][19].

Nucleic Acids 

Though not accounted for on nutrition labels nucleic acids are important nutrients that offer numerous physiological processes. Beef liver contains uniquely high amounts of nucleic acids which support: [20] [21]:

  • Healthy immune function
  • Digestion
  • Muscle recovery
  • reduced oxidative stress, inflammation
  • Metabolism

Liver contains an enzyme called cytochrome P450. This compound participates in hormone production, detoxification, and the overall health of your own liver. [22]

Beef Liver
Based on 100 grams
Calories135
Fat3.6g
Protein20.4g
Net Carbs3.9g
Vitamins%Daily Value
Vitamin A   

Vitamin B6  

Vitamin B12  

Thiamine

Riboflavin

Niacin 

Folate 

Choline

Vitamin C  

Vitamin D   

Vitamin K  

4968μg

1mg

59.3μg

0.2mg

2.8mg

13.2mg

290μg

333.3mg

1.3mg

1.2μg

3.1μg

552%

84%

2471%

13%

163%

66%

73%

61%

3%

8%

3%

MINERALS
Iron Magnesium

Phosphorus 

Zinc  

Copper

Manganese

Selenium

4.9mg18mg

387mg

4mg

9.8mg

0.3mg

39.7μg

62%6%

39%

27%

488%

16%

57%

Oysters

are oysters good for you?

Oysters are one of the healthiest foods to eat in the world thanks to a rich nutrient profile that helps:

  • Reduce oxidation
  • Support fertility
  • Improve body composition

Many people know that oysters are high in immune-supporting zinc, with 605% per 3.5 oz serving. Lesser known is that oysters are one of hte best dietary sources of vitamin D. This makes them especially healthy for people who live in latitudes where you don’t get much sun, and during gray winter months. 

The zinc, vitamin D, and selenium in oysters work synergistically to support immune function [15].  Vitamin D has been shown to help fight viral infections including COVID-19 [15][16][17].

A 3.5 ounce serving of oysters provides many hard-to-get vitamins and minerals

RAW OYSTER CALORIES68 CALORIES% RDV
PROTEIN7 grams8%
FAT2.5 grams1%
CARBS3.9 grams4%
VITAMIN D320 IU80%
VITAMIN B10.1 mg7%
VITAMIN B31.4 mg7%
VITAMIN B1219.5 mcg324%
IRON6.7 mg37%
MAGNESIUM47 mg12%
PHOSPHORUS 135 mg14%
ZINC90.8 mg605%
COPPER4.5 mg223%
MANGANESE0.4 mg18%
SELENIUM63.7 mcg91%

Salmon Roe

salmon roe close up

Salmon roe, has long been considered one of the healthiest foods to eat in the world, even by indigenous populations who made salmon roe a part of traditional pregnancy diets. 

Salmon roe provides abundant omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, critical to healthy brain function [18].

The abundance of nutrients in salmon roe including omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, along with B12, selenium, high levels of vitamin D, and E support various health goals including: 

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Neuroprotection
  • infant brain development
  • Fertility for men and women 
  • cognitive performance
  • Mood support
  • heart health
  • Immune function. 

Salmon Roe nutrition per 100g

NUTRIENTSAMOUNT
CALORIES250 kcal
CARBOHYDRATE2.90 g
  FIBER0 g
  SUGARS0 g
FAT14.0 g
  SATURATED FAT2.04 g
  MONOUNSATURATED FAT4.13 g
  POLYUNSATURATED FAT4.12 g
    OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS3.50 g
    OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS0.31 g
PROTEIN29.20 g
VITAMINS
COBALAMIN (B12)20.0 mcg333 %
VITAMIN E10mg66%
VITAMIN D232 IU58 %
CHOLINE247.5 mg45 %
PANTOTHENIC ACID (B5)3.50 mg35 %
VITAMIN C16 mg26 %
RIBOFLAVIN (B2)0.36 mg21.2 %
PYRIDOXINE (B6)0.32 mg16.0 %
VITAMIN E2.68 mg13.3 %
FOLATE50.0 mcg12.5 %
VITAMIN A91 mcg RAE10.1 %
THIAMIN (B1)0.14 mg9.3 %
Selenium65.5 mcg93.6%
Magnesium300 mg75%
Iron11.88 mg66%
Sodium1500 mg62.5%
Phosphorus390 mg39%
Calcium275 mg27.5%

 

Dark Chocolate

Minimally processed chocolate with at least 70% cocoa can be one of the healthiest foods to eat. Its inclusion in this list of the healthiest food in the world has mostly to do with its powerful antioxidant properties combined with non-oxidizing saturated fats. 

It’s worth noting that antioxidants are less important when eating a diet low in oxidizing foods. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is loaded with oxidizing added sugar and PUFA vegetable oils

One study found that dark chocolate offered greater antioxidant activity, along with more polyphenols, and flavanols than any other tested fruits including acai and blueberries [19].

Other studies have found these antioxidant properties of chocolate to powerfully decrease oxidized (bad) LDL cholesterol. In people with high cholesterol, dark chocolate has been shown to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease total LDL [20].

These positive effects on cholesterol are thanks to powerful antioxidants that enter the bloodstream where they protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage [21][22][23].

The heart-protective effects are so powerful that in a large study looking at 470 older men found that chocolate reduced the risk of heart disease by 50% over a period of 15 years [24]. 

While a separate study found that consuming dark chocolate at least 5 times per week lowered heart disease risk by 57% [25]. Still more studies have found that consuming chocolate at least twice per week reduced risk of calcified plaque in the arteries by 32% [26]. 

Chocolate is also healthy for your skin. The flavanols in dark chocolate have been shown to improve the flow of blood to the skin, increase hydration and desnity of skin, and protect against sun damage [27].

Dark Cholate Nutrients per 3.5 oz. 

NutrientsAmount
Fat31.2 g
Saturated fat18.6 g
Monounsaturated fat9.5 g
Carbohydrates59.5 g
Fiber7 g
Protein4.9 g
Iron8 mg 46%
Potassium555 mg12%
Caffeine42.7 mg

Avocados

Avocados are high in both macro and micronutrients that many people eating modern Western diets lack. On a ketogenic diet avocados are one of the few low-carb foods high in potassium and vitamin C. 

Avocados are a good source of many B vitamins including folate. Folate plays a key role in the production of red and white blood cells in bone marrow, DNA and RNA, and fetal development [27]

For people practicing vegan or vegetarian keto, avocados are an important staple. However, since avocados are a plant food with plant toxins, some people do have mild to severe allergies [*][*]

The potassium in avocados is essential for nervous system function and blood pressure regulation, and protective against stroke and hypertension [28][29].

A study showed that eating the equivalent of 1 avocado a day for 12 weeks lowered concentrations of fecal bile acid while increasing diversity of healthy gut bacteria [30]. 

Nutrients in a medium Hass avocado

Nutrients
Calories322
Fat30 g
Protein4 g
Carbohydrates17 g
Fiber14 g
Vitamin C22%
Vitamin E28%
Vitamin K35%
B220%
B322%
B556%
B630%
Folate41%
Magnesium14%
Potassium21%
Copper42%
Manganese12%

Eggs

Eggs contain all the nutrients–healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals– needed to grow an entire animal, so it’s no wonder that they’re one of the healthiest foods to eat in the world. 

A nutrient highlight is an egg’s choline content. Your body needs choline to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine crucial for memory, mood, and intelligence. Choline also plays a key role in synthesizing DNA, which is especially important for infant brain development [35].

Nutrients100 grams (appx 2 eggs)%Daily Value
Calories140
Fat1016% (Not on Ketogenic Diet
Protein12
Vitamins and Minerals
Retinol (vitamin A)98mcg12%
Riboflavin0.4mg33%
Vitamin B120.33mcg100%
Biotin5.2mcg17%
Folate88mcg30%
Vitamin D7.9mcg30%
Vitamin E1.9mg30%
Pantothenic acid1.07mg22%
Phosphorus171mg25%
Iron1.8mg23%
Selenium28mcg50%
Choline164mg38%
Zinc1.0mg10%
Iodine47mcg33%

Anchovies

These little fish are indeed one of the healthiest foods to eat in the world thanks to their combination of healthy fats, abundant protein, and complex of micronutrients. 

The B3 in anchovies is crucial for converting food into useable energy. The very high levels of selenium support heart health and thyroid function [48] [49]

Anchovies are fatty fish offering more omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than nearly every other fish including the much-lauded salmon. 

The high selenium and Omega-3s in anchovies can help prevent tumor growth and is used to treat various types of cancer [50] [51] [52].

Anchovies (Wild)Amount per 3 oz. % RDA
Fat15.9g
Saturated Fat128g
Cholesterol61mg
Protein28g
Vitamins
Vitamin D103.5IU16.5%
Vitamin K18µg15%
Vitamin B12 1.4µg56%
B330mg186%
B6.3mg24%
B2.6mg42%
B51.4mg27%
Choline128mg23%

 

Significant Minerals
Selenium102µg186%
Zinc3.6mg26%
Potassium816mg21%
Calcium348mg38%
Iron6.9mg39%
Copper.4mg57%

Beef Kidney

lamb kidney

Beef kidney is another organ meat that makes the list of the healthiest food to eat.  

Let’s start with anchovie’s tremendous concentration of B12 with over 1000% per 100-gram serving. 

Kidney also offers the rare, organ-specific amino acid L-ergothioneine that directly supports the health of your own kidneys [53]. 

This superfood provides another rare amino acid called ergothioneine, which supports fertility [54].

Kidney is also prized for the saturated fat encasing it, called suet [55]. high in stearic acid, suet can help reduce body fat and improve mitochondrial function [56].

Beef Kidney: Raw
Based on 100 grams
Calories99
Fat3.1g
Protein17.4g
Net Carbs0.3g
VITAMINS%Daily Value
Vitamin AVitamin A IU

Thiamine

Riboflavin

Niacin

Folate

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B12

Vitamin C

Vitamin D

Vitamin E

419μg1397IU

0.4mg

2.8mg

8mg

98μg

0.7mg

27.5μg

9.4mg

1.1μg

0.2mg

47%–

24%

168%

41%

25%

52%

1146%

16%

8%

2%

MINERALS
CalciumIron

Magnesium

Phosphorus

Zinc

Copper

Manganese

Selenium

Retinol

Lycopene

13mg4.6mg

17mg

257mg

1.9mg

0.4mg

0.1mg

141μg

419μg

20μg

2%58%

5%

26%

13%

22%

8%

202%

What About Kale? 

Most people think of kale as extremely healthy due to its vitamin and mineral content, but in fact, Kale pales in comparison to every food on our list.

See for yourself how kale stacks up against eggs below.

graph of kale vs egg nutrients

routinely shows up o

As you can see, eggs are far more nutritious.

Interestingly, even the nutrients like Vitamin A and Vitamin K which Kale famously shines in have some very important caveats.⁠

Vitamin K which Kale appears to be loaded in is specifically Vitamin K1. Research is now showing however that Vitamin K1 which is found in plant sources like Kale is inferior to Vitamin K2 which is found in meats and cheese.⁠

Similarly, 4 cups of Kale has 135% of your “vitamin A” which appears to be better than the 49% found in 3 large eggs. But, that’s not the whole story. Vitamin A found in plant foods isn’t even vitamin A, it’s Beta Carotene, a vitamin A precursor. Vitamin A found in animal-based foods like eggs is already in its preformed, bioactive state and is much easier to absorb.⁠

According to various studies, Preformed Vitamin A, Retinol, absorption efficiency ranges between 75% and 100%. On the other hand, studies show absorption efficiency of β-carotene may be as little as 3%, ouch!⁠

Additionaly, Kale appears the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of vegetables to be avoided. 

When tested, 92 percent of kale had high levels of residue from at least two pesticides that are carcinogenic, even after washing. 

The Healthiest Food to Eat in the World: The Takeaway

Contrary to popular belief the healthy food to eat in the world isn’t plant-based. Rather, these foods are mostly whole animal foods, replete with healthy fats, protein, and complex blends of essential micronutrients.

These views are reflected in the eons-old eating pattern of traditional cultures. The pioneering research Dr. Weston Price tracked the robust health of traditional cultures to the foods they ate–specifically nose-to-tail animal-based foods rich in fat-soluble activator vitamins A, D, and K2.

He found that traditional diets centered around many of the foods on this list, contained 400% more water-soluble vitamins and 1000% more fat-soluble vitamins than the Standard American Diet of his time.

 

Article Sources