There are many diets out there, all claiming to bring you health, wellness and happiness. You can choose from fat-free, carb-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo and raw, just to name a few.
But can these very different diets all be healthy for you? What does a healthy diet actually look like?
A Healthy Diet is a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet should be synonymous with balance. That’s because the variety of food types within a well-balanced diet provide the human body with all the nutrients it needs. The human body needs carbohydrates, proteins and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals.
The genetic research conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has concluded that the best diet should be made up of one third fat, one third protein and one third carbohydrates. And if you want to improve on that recommendation, it’s better still to have a less, rather than more, carbohydrates in your diet.
Think about it, if you only eat fruit, you won’t get enough fat and protein. Similarly, vegan diets run the risk of leaving you deficient in amino acids and Vitamin B12, a very important vitamin for a healthy lifestyle.
A Healthy Diet is Healthy for You
Balance is an important component to any healthy diet, but it’s important that your diet supports your health and wellness, instead of just fitting inside a stereotypical food pyramid. Even the healthiest diet can be unhealthy for you if it’s not right for your body.
This is where the concept of Bio-individuality comes in. It’s an approach that customizes your diet based on your specific needs. You’re different from everyone else, and you may need certain nutrients more than others do. A personalized diet strategy can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.
For example, many people exhort the benefits of a paleo diet. They warn about the detrimental effects of too many carbohydrates, and processed sugar and foods.
But some people feel fatigued and heavy when their diet is so low in carbohydrates.
Honor Your Genetic Makeup
Where does your family come from?
Your genetic makeup can influence your body’s reaction to foods. This is what nutritional genomics is all about, and if you’re curious about how to craft a diet that’s well-suited for you, it might be valuable to look at your family tree.
For example, lactose intolerance is highest among people whose ancestry stems from Southeast Asia. On the other hand, people from Northern Europe can handle it much more easily.
At the end of the day, there are countless people subscribing to diets that they believe in. It’s up to you to find the perfect one for you. To get you started, here are some diets that experts deem healthy the world over.
Food Pyramid or Food Plate?
Back in 1992, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) came up with the Food Pyramid. It was meant to serve as a guideline for creating a balanced diet. It encouraged a variety of foods, and also suggested proportions and limitations within certain food groups.
However, it wasn’t the best guide. So, in 2011, the USDA replaced the Food Pyramid with the Food Plate.
The food plate is divided into almost equal quarters. There is a portion for vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins. Vegetables take up the most space, and fruits have the smallest space. Unfortunately, there’s no room for fat on this plate.
The Food Plate is an improvement on the earlier pyramid, and it does encourage variety and ample amounts of vegetables. But here are other guidelines for a healthy diet.
The Mediterranean Diet
By now, everyone’s heard of the Mediterranean diet. But did you know that it’s considered to be one of the healthiest diets in the world?
People who follow this diet eat ample amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and olive oil. They also eat lean protein, such as poultry and fish.
Of course, living along the Mediterranean Sea made this diet possible, but most people living in the United States can also enjoy this diet. You might have to be more intentional while grocery shopping, but most of us have access to these food groups even if we’re living away from this glorious part of the world.
Take a Cue from Blue Zone Diets
The five Blue Zones are located in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Asia. More centenarians live in these places than in any other part of the world. Surely, their diets contribute to their longevity, and add to their overall wellness and health.
So, what do their diets have in common?
In a recently published book called, The Blue Zones Solution, author Dan Buettner shared these common characteristics that every Blue Zone diet shared.
- Most of your food should come from plants. And the more legumes, the better.
- Don’t eat meat too often, and when you do, only consume 3 to 4 ounces of it.
- Only eat until your stomach is 80% full.
- Your smallest meal should be in the evening.
- It’s okay to drink alcohol regularly and moderately.
These characteristics are wonderful guidelines for many Americans, whose diets are generally very full of unhealthy fats, inflammatory sugars and far too much meat. And if Blue Zone inhabitants follow these practices and live long, healthy lives, it’s worth trying, right?
Limit Sugar and Processed Foods
Never before in human history have people eaten so much sugar and processed foods (where tons of sugar is hidden). This much sugar isn’t healthy for anyone, regardless of your Bio-individuality! Too much sugar opens the door to an onslaught of unhealthy conditions, like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, liver problems and so much more.
Even though it’s difficult to avoid sugar with all the convenient, processed foods in the grocery stores and restaurants, try to cut back on these products. They’re just not good for you, no matter what diet you follow.
Instead, try to eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Adding sugar, preservatives, additives and other harmful substances leaves you with a sub-par, and at times, harmful food source.
A healthy diet and your approach to food should be balanced. To find your perfect diet, look for one that honors your own Bio-individuality, and check out the diets of the world’s healthy and happy people. You’ll be sure to eat well and feel great.