Is There a Best Diet?

Can you change your diet 10 minutes at a time?

The “best diet” question is one many experts answer.

When I was writing the nutrition chapter for a 2019 Medical Textbook, my editor asked which diet was I going to recommend and steered me towards the Mediterranean diet.

I did not recommend a diet. 

Later the editor (doctor running a medical school) said my approach was the most innovative he had seen in nutrition.  He embraced it.

Why?  While we are all human beings, we are uniquely different.  Recent scientific advancements have shown this to be even truer. 

#1 You are truly unique: Epigenetics and the Microbiome

Epigenetics is the software that turns on and off your genes, triggering them to express themselves, or not.  So even if you have a “bad” or “good” gene, that doesn’t mean it is turned on or off.  For nutrition, this means that poor nutrition can make our genes express themselves unfavorably, to make us more prone to disease.  It also means we can use nutrition as a tool to “reprogram” some genes.  The more dramatic the diet change, the more powerful.  For instance, a 2020 Study found that a Ketogenic diet blocked negative DNA expression (methylation), protecting against seizures, metabolic disease and aiding in treatment of some cancers.  Another study showed a whopping 30% of skeletal muscle genes re-expressed themselves after 18 months on the ketogenic diet. Yet, low carb may not work for everyone.  We inherit our genes and epigenetics (software) from our ancestors and their ancestors. 

Our microbiome is the community of bacteria that lives in our gut, supporting our digestion, health, mood and immunity.  We also inherit this from our parents, and the extent to which we inherit more of it from our mother depends on whether we were born through the birth canal or a C-Section.  Truly we pick up bacteria in her birth canal that further seed our microbiome.  This studyshows that C-Section babies have more colic because they did not get those extra bacteria for early digestive development.

You are part of a group, regionally and over time.

You are unique to your history, culture, location, and environment.  You are more like others from the same areas, especially if your family has been in one location for generations.  The Mediterranean diet is best for those in or from that region.  A higher protein, fish-based diet would logically work for people from fishing regions.  While there is no one-sized fits all diet, there are guideposts to your healthy diet.

You can you fix your nutrition in 10 minutes, even immediately, but it may take some thought and patience.  It can take years of noticing and changing patterns.  It takes only a moment to execute, but will-power to stay consistent.  Next, I cover the steps to your best diet.

#2 Steps to your best diet:

Step 1: Remove villain foods from your diet (this gets you 80% there!).

Step 2: Eat whole foods in alignment with your culture, geographic history, and family history.

Step 1: Remove Villain Foods

Decrease Sugar. Why?

Processed sugar is not food.  It is a chemical.  Even worse, your body is only able to put the fructose component of processed sugar in two places: metabolism for burning or liver for storage.  Thus excess fructose can be a path to fatty liver disease.  Indeed, with sugar increasing in American diets we have seen an increase in juvenile fatty liver disease.  To decrease sugar, avoid adding sugar, avoid drinks with sugar and keep in mind 85% of processed foods have added sugar.  Sugar has other evil properties like being addictive (dose dependent), driving up insulin, thereby hardening your arteries, and more!  I will cover this more in a nutrition article.  Go with whole foods!

Decrease Processed and Fast Food. Why?

Processed food is more chemicals than food.  Your body thrives on nutrient diversity and density.  It is not designed to absorb chemicals and turn those into energy.  Our miraculous bodies are resilient, so we can eat processed foods, but over time, these chemicals take their toll.  Fast foods include all those chemicals of processed foods and are mostly cooked in oils created over the past 50 years, that our bodies find harder to digest.  These oils are associated with multiple cancers and metabolic diseases.

Consider Your Carbs

Approximately 70% of Americans are insulin insensitive, meaning carbs are causing stress on their system.  This also means that 30% do not have this issue.  Insulin insensitivity is associated with metabolic disease (progression includes high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and alzheimers), weight gain and other unpleasant health outcomes.  The way to reverse or reduce insulin insensitivity is to reduce carbs, with guidance from a nutritionist and your doctor.

Decrease Frequency of Meals. Why?

Decrease number of meals and even intermittent fast (saves time).  Decreasing the window in which you eat, as well as the number of times you eat, gives your digestive system time to recover and rejuvenate.  Our body’s resilient process called Autophagy, cleaning out dead or sick cells in our body, occurs after digestion is complete.  Autophagy increases intermittent fasting, i.e. when we eat within a time window.

Step 2. Eat Whole Foods in Alignment with Your Genes and History

Stay on the outer walls of the grocery store.  This keeps you in whole foods territory!  Consider whether your family was in one place in Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East or South America for generations and more recently moved.  Or were they nomadic, moving each generation.  Consider the food of the regions where your ancestors were most recently as well as for the most time.  Consider what your parents eat, especially your mother, as you inherited more of your microbiome from her.  Finally, consider what will work for you culturally. 

Summary: Path to Your Ideal Diet:

  1. Understand your genetics, family history and locations
  2. Eliminate villain foods, integrate intermittent fasting, and consider carbs
  3. Eat whole foods in alignment with your genetics, culture and family history

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