Low carb, high protein, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, nutritional balancing, high fat, eggs, no eggs, alcohol, yes or no? Then, should you avoid night shade vegetables, dairy, gluten, and red meat? And what about the heavy metals in salmon and tuna, good, or not? I could go on forever. If there is one area where there is a lot of contradictory information available it’s in the field of dieting and nutrition. The everlasting search for the optimal diet seems to take you from left to right and back again. However, let me start this blog of with the following: the optimal diet doesn’t exist.
Yes, you heard that right, the optimal diet doesn’t exist. This means that there is no one best diet for everybody. However, there is an optimal diet for you. The question is, how do you figure this out? This blog is based on what I have learned from over ten years of personal research. This started for me as a teenager trying to reduce fat and increase muscle mass. This led me down the path of defining everything by it’s protein contents, only focusing on muscles and fat. Nowadays I aim to feel good all throughout the day, perform well both cognitively as physically, and look for away to live as long and healthy as possible without putting unnecessary stress on our environment. Interestingly, barely anything what I believed in the beginning has made it to my current lifestyle. Nevertheless, over time I have come to understand quite well what works for me. In this light, I hope I can shed some light on guiding you in the right direction.
The Garbage That Nobody Should Eat
Before I continue providing information on how to figure out your personal diet, there are a couple of things that are the same for everybody. As you might tell yourself that that friend that seems to handle all the fried food so well, he, or she, is not. Processed food of any kind, fried, packaged, ready-to-microwave is not food. These are products. As a rule of thumb, everything you are not buying the way it came out of the ground or of the animal, is not food. It’s best to avoid these foods all together, but depending on your situation there could be a place for pasta, chocolate, or fries. Every now and then.
Then sugar. No fruits do not equal processed sugar. When you eat fruit you eat unprocessed sugar together with fiber, which gets digested the way it should be. However, processed sugar of any kind, in your coffee, in cake, cookies, or ice cream is all far from being processed by your body in a nice way. What happens exactly is beyond the scope of this blog, but more about that here.
So processed foods and processed sugar most often come together, and should either be no part of your diet, or every now and then if you have your health in check already. A rule of thumb on processed foods: anything with more than 4 ingredients, put it back. Anything with ingredients you don’t know, leave it be.
If you have cut the above out of your diet, you have made the biggest health gain already. Now, you are eating a diet based on whole foods, and now you are ready to tweak and gain the most benefit from what you eat.
How Do You Decide What is Best for You?
The best diet for you is the diet that you can adhere to. It has been proven time and time again that it is not the diet itself that makes people lose wait, rather the fact if they are able to adhere to one diet for a longer time. Switching from one diet to the other only results in – nothing. When you are trying to gain wait, the same goes. Choose the form of eating that allows you to eat more consequently.
Then of all the information coming your way it is important to know the context. Where is the information coming from, is it scientific research, your friend that read something, or is your nutritionist telling you something. In all cases, again, context. Who did the scientific research, how was it done, how many people participated? Where did your friend read about nutrition, is he or she able to tell you the full picture? Then, what education did you nutritionist have, what are his or her personal beliefs and experiences? I believe none of these have the ultimate knowledge, however they can all help you as long as you are able to relate the entire information to your personal situation.
The Life Your Food Had
Another thing I believe personally important is how was your food treated before it ends upon your plate. This could be the way the animal lived before it was slaughtered, but also from what source your fresh produce comes. The antibiotics that are put into the bodies of animals, the stress they experience living in closed environments, will all end up in that piece of meat on your plate. This also holds true for fruits and vegetables, that more often than not are covered in pesticides and could be imported from across the globe.
Therefore, I believe it best to eat foods that grew as close to your home as possible and as natural as possible.
So far I have mentioned the foods you should definitely not eat, nevertheless there are a bunch of foods that are heavily disputed in their value. This became beautifully clear in a recent debate between Dr. Joel Kahn, a vegan heat doctor, and Chris Kresser, specialist in functional medicine, on the Joe Rogan Experience.
I will shortly mention three things here. The first one is alcohol. Alcohol, usually named in the form of wine, is it good or not? As I mentioned in an earlier blog on the people that live the longest on earth, there is reason to believe that a glass or two of wine per day will do little damage. However, alcohol does disrupt sleep quality and is potentially very destructive if you are out of balance already.
Second one is meat consumption. Is meat consumption bad, or good? I think in this case it’s important to know, processed meat is carcinogenic, that means it’s just as bad as smoking. So leave the hot dogs, shoarma, sausages be. Important to note as well is the environmental impact of large scale animal agriculture. Therefore, I believe it’s important to consider what I mentioned before, how did the animal live, where did it live, and how did it end up on your plate.
The third and final food I will get into is dairy. Again, just like meat I think it’s important to consider how did the animal live, where did it live, and to what extent was the dairy processed before it enters your body. The it’s important to consider that a giant percentage of the population is intolerant to dairy. In Eastern Asia 90-100% are intolerant, and in Africa 70-90%. In North Eastern Europe people seem to be more tolerant in general with up to 73.7% of the people having the LCT gene that makes you tolerant. Nevertheless, as children we tend to be tolerant to dairy only to lose it as we grow into adulthood.
I think that it’s important to realize that diet is a dynamic phenomenon. Your dietary requirements change over time as a consequence of aging and other lifestyle factors. The clue above all therefore is to test things yourself. What works for you. And testing means adhering to a change for 30 days to have at least some meaningful feedback from your body. To make a process like this more efficient you could use either food trackers like myfitnesspal and Cronometer. You could also use the scale to see if you are gaining or losing weight, or use a centimeter to measure your waist. If you are not sure how certain foods make you feel a diary might be a better solution. Create scales from one to ten for your mood, level of bloating, sleepiness or whatever, and stick to noting this day in day out. Within a month you’ll be able to correlate what you eat with how you feel pretty well.
More Important Than Diet
If it comes to what are the most important building blocks of your health, diet is among the most important. However, there are two things that are definitely more powerful, one of which is a good night sleep. A good 8 hours per sleep per night all by itself can help you lose weight, increase your focus, and make you a smarter human being.
Second thing is fasting. Call it intermittent fasting, time-restricted eating, or just not eating for a prolonged period of time, it has amazing benefits. A daily fast between 12-16 hours will help you stay lean and regulate blood sugar. A prolonged fast a couple of times a year, raging from 24 hours to three days for example, helps your body repair old damage and provokes an excretion of a huge amount of stem cells. These cells can form into any other cell and are therefore very valuable in the process of regeneration.
Take Home Messages
To close this all down, here are the take home messages:
- Eliminate processed foods and processed sugar from your diet
- Try different things to figure out what’s best for you, use diet trackers, diaries and other measurements to generate objective findings
- If your body is out of balance, it could be useful to eliminate possible allergens like gluten, lactose, or night shade vegetables. That could be reintroduced later on.
- Generate an eating style that fits both your lifestyle and schedule
- Do not eat for 12-16 hours a day
- Sleep 8 hours a night
- Realizing step 1-6 above you already reached 90-95% of your diets’ potential
- Only after you managed to do the above, you can think about optimizing your diet to reach specific
I hope this post was useful to help you find a direction in discovering what your nutrition should look like. If you have any questions, please let me know.