Obviously, we here at Inc.com love online content and believe it to be a hugely valuable resource. But even we have to admit that a menu of entirely online reading doesn't make for the healthiest mental diet.

Think of the stream of videos, blog posts, and podcasts coming at you every day from your favorite sites and social media feeds as the carbohydrates of intellectual consumption -- an essential and large slice of your daily word allowance, but not exactly well-rounded. If you really want to nourish your brain, you need a little bit of meat (or, for my vegetarian readers, a healthy dose of protein), nutritious veggies, and even a little naughty sugar sometimes.

That's the case made by Demian Farnworth on Copyblogger recently -- if you really want to think and write well, you need to read like a great writer. That means getting a healthy, balanced diet of ideas. He offers a few tips to help you achieve this, including:

1. Read old books.

"While reading new books is a great way to stay on top of the latest ideas (or be reminded of the old ones), I think it's much better to make a habit of reading older books. Old books have ideas and stories that have endured for 50, 100--even thousands of years," explains Farnworth. "When you read a book, letter, article, or essay that has endured through the ages, you can be confident that it's quality writing. Not as much with new books."

Looking for ideas? You could start with Random House's list of the 100 best novels, suggests Farnworth.

2. Read widely.

Sure, it's great to keep up with your area of specialty, but truly creative insights usually come from joining together ideas from different disciplines. "You'll be surprised by the associations that emerge in your mind after you read a book like The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic. Or the metaphors that emerge after reading The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco or Primo Levi's Survival In Auschwitz," writes Farnworth.

3. Read long-form journalism.

Ironically, Farnworth insists that it was reading long-form pieces that taught him how to build a clear, concise argument. "I've learned so much about conversational writing from reading smart long-form journalism," he says. "I've learned how to take facts and build them into a story, how to use dialog, and how to make people the central part of every piece I write." Sites like The Browser and Longform are great places to find these sort of in-depth articles.

The bottom line to keep in mind is this -- if you want to be the best thinker and writer you can be, the best diet to feed your brain is a well-rounded mix of on and offline, old and new, long and short-form.

Do you get enough variety in your intellectual diet?

Published on: May 19, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.