Have you ever wondered what the perfect diet for people is? There are many theories floating around including the vegan diet, vegetarianism, gluten free, dairy free, paleo, the Atkins diet and the raw food diet to name a few, but which diet is the perfect one….?
What we need to firstly understand is that everyone has “bio-individuality” meaning we all have unique food and lifestyle needs which are ever changing and our bodies may need different foods at different times in our lives. There is no single food philosophy or diet that can yield the same results for everyone. Whilst one person may thrive on a vegetarian diet, another may experience more energy and vitality on a meat inclusive diet. One may benefit from cutting sugar from their diet whilst this may adversely affect an individual who has blood sugar issues. Essentially every individual is unique with our own set of specific physiological traits, ancestry, race, blood type, lifestyle, metabolic type and both constitutional strong and weak points.
This leads us to the question of what should we actually eat? Our bodies require proper nutrition to help our organs and tissues work effectively. Good nutrition promotes the body’s healing ability and reduces the risk of disease, infection, fatigue and poor performance.
You have probably heard of eating a balanced diet, but what does this mean? A balanced diet is consuming the majority of your calories from fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and lean proteins. It is possible to have too much of a good thing so only consume the above foods to an extent where they agree with you and aren’t causing you problems e.g some people find that they get an upset stomach if they eat too much fruit or nuts so be wary of this and manage your intake of everything appropriately.
Fruits taste great, and are low in fat and provide the body with fibre, folic acid, potassium and vitamin C.
Vegetables are our primary source of essential vitamins and minerals. In general, dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale are particularly excellent sources of nutrition.
Whole grains such as breads, cereals, pastas and rice provide the body with protein, fibre, B-vitamins and minerals. White flour has poorer nutritional value because the hull of the grain is removed during the refining process, instead of white breads or white rice and pasta, most can make the switch to wholegrain products and experience benefits, some however find wholegrain products tougher to digest and may need to stick with the likes of white rice instead of brown rice.
Legumes are beans, peas and lentils. They are high in B-vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium, plus they are low in saturated fats and also a source of protein.
Healthy proteins include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. Proteins contain the essential building blocks for muscles, bones, skin and blood. Protein also produces vitamins B, E and minerals.
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt contain both protein and calcium. Some people find that avoiding dairy improves gut health and other health issues such as sinus problems whilst other people’s bodies will benefit from having a dairy inclusive diet.
Foods that can cause health problems and should be avoided/limited include processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, junk foods, sugary foods and saturated fats. As a cooking oil alternative to vegetable oil or lard, try using avocado oil or coconut oil as a healthier option.
It is all very well listing the foods that we should or shouldn’t eat but is only helpful when used as a guideline or starting point because as explained earlier, we all have our own personal individual needs.
There are two things that you can do to help you obtain your “perfect diet”.
First of all, keep a food diary. A food diary allows you to see which foods disagree with your body by presenting symptoms such as digestive disturbances and headaches, it also will help you figure out which foods make your body feel good. Start off with a basic diet and gradually add foods one by one. After adding a new food into your diet, wait a couple of days to gauge the effect. Note that benefits from going dairy free may take weeks to notice and benefits from a gluten free diet may take months. Always discuss any radical dietary changes with your healthcare professional first.
The second thing that you can do to help you find your “perfect diet” is to get your vitamin and mineral levels tested. This can be done by blood tests from your doctor and also by hair testing analysis by a functional medical practitioner or by a naturopath. If you are able to establish which nutrients your body needs, you can then tailor your diet to these requirements and possibly introduce supplements for additional support. For example, if your body is low in potassium you may benefit from eating more bananas and tomatoes, if your body is low in B-vitamins it is important to ensure you are eating enough whole grains, if you are low in magnesium adding spinach to your diet may help and so on.
Because of factors such as environment and lifestyle, our perfect diet will forever be changing and needs to be flexible. If it is a freezing cold winter’s day, a warm soup is going to serve our body better than a cold salad, if we have had a long physically active day our body is going to benefit from a larger meal rather than a light meal. We need to be conscious of our ever changing nourishment needs and learn to tune in, listen and answer the call our body makes with appropriate foods at the appropriate times.
In summary, finding your “perfect diet” is all about being your body’s own detective, looking for clues on which foods serve your body well and which foods don’t. Your body will thank you for putting the correct fuel in its engine by giving you more energy, reducing the risk of disease, helping you to battle health problems, helping you sleep better, improving your concentration, controlling your weight and generally making you feel better.
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