The word diet has officially been abducted by the peddlers of the quick fix, the spot reduction and worst of all the overnight transformation. Your diet is what you eat – regularly, every day, over and over. It is not what you eat (or as is often the case, don’t eat) over a “21-day cleanse.” While we do think there is a place in the world for cleanses – they are a terrific means of resetting the system – four juices a day do not represent a sustainable and balanced form of diet. Similarly, most of these highly calorically restrictive diets may yield short-term results but at the cost of long-term success and, unfortunately, in some cases, health.
What Diet is Best For You?
There are advocates of many forms of diets – Atkins, South Beach, Paleo and Mediterranean are just a few of those popularized at the moment. And the advocates of each are staunch in their support – oftentimes saying in no uncertain terms that their diet is the one true diet unto which all others must bow down before it. If that were really the case you would think that the scientific community would have long ago provided some degree of unequivocal support. The scientific community instead has tended to push a message that doesn’t really sell books – when asked what the best diet is the common refrain is: well, it’s complicated.
The answer is such because, firstly, we don’t really know a startling amount about nutrition. Secondly, different societies and individuals have had staggering amounts of success on radically different diets. The most long-lived population in the world, a small community in Japan, eats plenty of raw fish and white rice. Yes, that white rice, the kind everyone has told you to stop eating as it’s the source of many (if not all) of the world’s evils. When examining this community with other “long-lived” communities the one thing that stands out is just how different many of their diets are. Sure, none of them have a diet high in fast food and sweets, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. There are some things that we know, with certainty, are not going to help us look and feel better or live longer.
dietary needs are unique
Excitingly, we’re now discovering that we’re able to discern a great deal from our genetics as to what sort of diet is most appropriate for us at the individual level. Depending on our genetic markers we are able to
understand how well our body metabolizes different types of fats, our predisposition toward alternately high and low HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, our muscle fiber composition and a vast store of other equally pertinent information. When we consider this alongside acknowledging that different societies have managed to build radically different and yet successful diets it starts to make sense how these secluded, more genetically homogeneous societies have in some cases happened upon the sort of diet that best suited their genetic makeup.
So is there one perfect diet? Absolutely not. Our genetic makeup, lifestyle, goals and a whole host of other factors determine what diet is right for us at the individual level. While Paleo may be great for your friend, spouse or coworker you may find the Mediterranean diet far more efficacious and satisfying. Intelligent experimentation is key in discovering what works for you. Pair that with data about your genetics and you’ve gone a long way toward finally figuring out the “perfect” diet.