What is the perfect diet?
When you key in “what is the perfect diet” in a Google search, you get (in less than one second) 2.5 million suggestions.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was just one easy response? Rather than 2.5 million ideas? It would make your life much simpler. You wouldn’t need to ask yourself, day in and day out, whether or not you were feeding yourself and your family the nutrition needed to stay healthy.
The Google response, however, is very symbolic of what is actually true. There is not one perfect diet for everyone. Every person is “bio-unique” and has specific needs depending on age and stage of life.
So while a “one-size-fits-all” approach would definitely bring more ease into your planning efforts, it won’t solve your problem of keeping yourself and your family healthy.
Taking a moment to ignore all of the diet trends, what would the human body need to thrive?
The best diet is the one that the human body was created for. You see, our genetics haven’t changed as fast as our food chain. Before the boon of the industrialized world, our bodies relied heavily on whole, live and natural foods. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit, seeds, some nuts and small or occasional portions of meat and eggs. Around the mid-1800’s, we began to change agricultural traditions as families moved to industrialized cities to make more money. With this change of lifestyle, came the convenience of new machines, longer work days and processed foods.
Our body’s genetics haven’t evolved as quickly as our lifestyle. Through various studies, it is believed that as humans we benefit from a more hunter-gatherer style diet. Sometimes referred to as the Paleo or Primal diet. Many people believe that the change of diet from a hunter-gather style (focusing on vegetables and fruits) to a more agricultural diet (focusing on grains) marks the beginning of chronic ailments such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
I’ve heard of the Paleo diet – what is it?
In simplest terms, the Paleo diet is aimed at copying what our ancestors ate. It relies on non-processed and natural foods. Meals that focus on vegetables, nuts, and seeds, along with small portions of meat. Paleolithic humans likely consumed three times more produce than the typical American today. We have a great Paleo 101 article on our website if you’re interested in learning more.
There is sometimes confusion around what is permitted on a Paleo diet. Various versions of the Paleo-style diet will permit different foods. If you think about it, once our ancestors left Africa, there were many differences in their climate and geography that would suggest different access to foods. Those closer to the equator probably ate more fruit. Those living in more northern climates may have consumed more root vegetables and animals.
These are also things to consider when creating the best diet for YOU. What is your heritage? And then, considering that heritage, what would your ancestors eat? It is possible that this macronutrient balance would be a good starting point in creating your best diet.
If the Paleo diet is ideal, what are some of the key issues?
As we mentioned, our food chain has changed drastically over the last 200 years. Which means that the quality of our food is not as nutritious as it was in the past. The average American spends most of his grocery budget on packaged and convenience foods. Currently, the top six calorie sources in the US are grain-based desserts (cookies, cakes, donuts), yeast bread, chicken-based dishes, sweetened beverages, pizza, and alcoholic drinks. These are not ancestral foods. In fact, any nutrition expert would advise against a diet pivoting on these products.
The Paleo diet also assumes that we haven’t evolved as quickly as our food chain. And, to a certain extent, our genetics are lagging behind our lifestyle evolution. However, if we didn’t evolve we wouldn’t survive. For example, 40% of Americans today have developed the ability to digest lactose for their lifetime. And there is no solid proof that people from the Paleolithic era did not enjoy grains. Meaning that our avoidance of grains today may not be as relevant as we think.
What about veganism? Is the vegan diet the best diet?
As we mentioned, there is no perfect diet. There are definite pros and cons to a vegan or vegetarian diet. The vegan diet is primarily centered around, you guessed it, vegetables. A diet centered around vegetables, including limited amounts of fruit, will provide your body with an abundance of nutrients and carbohydrate energy. Also high in fiber, a vegan/vegetarian diet will help lessen your risk of cardiovascular disease and provide you with an excellent source of prebiotic fiber.
The downside to a vegan diet is the chance of becoming low or deficient in certain nutrients. Of special concern are vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. These vitamins are essential for keeping your muscles and bones healthy. More and more studies are showing the multitude of benefits of vitamin D, including weight and mood regulation.
Why are plants necessary to the “perfect diet”?
A diet high in vegetables, including some fruits, gives your body the tools that it needs to heal. Our bodies need a high level of vitamins, minerals and enzymes to repair and perform optimally. Animal products, although also beneficial, do not provide us with a well-rounded approach to health.
Vegetables can lower cholesterol, keep skin glowing and youthful, lessen the risk of cancer and provide clean fuel for your body to perform its daily functions.
Fruits are packed with antioxidants and other disease-fighting components. We suggest limiting your consumption of fruit to a maximum of two servings daily as they tend to be higher on the glycemic index. When consuming fruit, ensure that you are eating the fruit in its natural form. Fruit juices strip away many of the essential enzymes and fiber needed for optimal digestion.
Animal protein is an easier protein for your body to metabolize and provides essential amino acids to help your body rebuild its lean tissues. However, there are many misconceptions about how much protein we need in our diet. We are suggesting that your diet be more plant-focused. Aim to cover a minimum of 50% or more of your plate with fresh veggies.
What does this all mean?
We understand how difficult food choices can be. We also see how the information found online may be conflicting.
Ultimately, you want to feel good in your body. You want to feel lighter and pain-free. You want to be able to climb the stairs without feeling short of breath and you want to eat lunch without feeling like you need to take a midday nap afterward.
Studies have shown that people who eat a more plant-centered and unprocessed diet tend to be healthier individuals. They have clear skin, their blood triglycerides are normal and they have better digestion which gives them more energy.
There is no “perfect” diet. The perfect diet is the one that your body will use to make you feel great. It is centered around whole foods. It is adaptable to the various stages and requirements that you need as you age. And ideally, it leaves you feeling like the best version of you.
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