Is there a perfect diet? A diet that fits everyone? Perhaps the better question is “What is the perfect diet for me?”
When I attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) I first heard the term “bio-individuality”. This refers to the unique biology we have as individuals. Each individual has specific, unique needs when it comes to nutrition. Our needs are similar. We all need food, clean water and air, shelter and connection. But one person’s food can be another’s poison.
There are specific conditions that require adapting the food you eat. Food intolerances require avoidance of the triggering foods, diabetes is better controlled when simple carbohydrates are avoided entirely. People with celiacs disease must avoid all gluten, or risk having their symptoms flare. During each season of life our nutritional needs are different. I’d be in big trouble if I ate like I did as a teenager. So what is a person to eat?
There are lots of diets out there. At IIN I learned over 100 dietary theories. Each of the 100 theories was right for someone, but not a single theory was right for everyone.
Here is the current “My Plate”, which replaced the food pyramid several years back. This plate is a visual representation of the current USDA guidelines for healthy eating. These are the guidelines schools, hospitals, and other institutions follow. The AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and USDA work together to establish these guidelines (1). “My Plate” is designed with the underlying belief that we all have the same nutritional requirements. A point in their favor is that they do recommend half your plate be fruits and vegetables. When it comes to diets there is no “one size fits all”, anymore than those lovely hospital gowns fit every individual.
Hippocrates said, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. I think the father of modern medicine was onto something big. Unfortunately the current healthcare system no longer follows his wise advice. It seems the pharmaceutical industry has a pill for whatever ails you. Nutrition is just now, in 2016, being added to medical school curriculums.
Food is more than calories, it is more than macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates). Food is information to every cell in your body. Food has the power to turn genes on and off. Food provides micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) that help our body heal. That is why some foods are considered better for you if you have a specific disease, like cancer.
Back to my original question. Is there a perfect diet?
I think the perfect diet is one based on whole foods. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food opens with the statement, “Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much”. This provides a healthier starting point for determining what to eat. When you start with whole food, prepared properly, that food is going to provide true nutrition for you body. Not just calories.
I always come back to whole foods. Avoid the foods that trigger symptoms. Whenever possible prepare your food as it was prepared in the culture it came from. Proper preparation maximizes the available nutrition. Here are some examples:
- To minimize having gas when eating beans they should be soaked.
- Some foods are best eaten raw to preserve the naturally occurring enzymes and vitamins.
- Some foods are better for you if they are fermented, such as soy.
Knowing how to properly prepare food, like legumes, makes them more digestible. Check out this handout with instructions to properly prepare legumes. Legumes are an excellent source of fiber and minerals!
Do you struggle with depression, high blood pressure, or diabetes? Many chronic health conditions can be improved with nutrition and lifestyle modifications. Did you know food intolerances can cause symptoms anywhere in your body? Inflammation, itchy skin, fatigue, brain fog and headaches are all potential signs of a food intolerance. Did you know that hormone balance can be improved with dietary changes? Don’t suffer another day! Schedule your FREE 20 minute health consultation today to discover how changing what you eat will change your life. It did mine!
(1) “About the dietary guidelines for Americans” http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/about-the-dietary-guidelines-for-americans