Food is our first medicine. However, few people understand the relationship between wellness and dietary choices.
Unfortunately, thrifty salesmen exploit this confusion to sell products and diet fads that are based on false promises rather than objective science. As a result, most diets are largely ineffective in the long run, as even basic weight-loss diets typically end in unwanted weight being regained within 12 months.
But the ineffectiveness of fad diets doesn’t mean that you have to throw out the idea of dietary changes altogether. Instead, you should focus on forming healthy habits that help you stick to a personalized diet and improve your overall health and well-being.
Defining a Healthy Diet
You probably want to eat a healthier diet for better health, but you may be confused about which diets are truly “healthy.” The truth is that a healthy diet looks different for everybody. This is because your gut’s microbiome is different from anyone else’s, meaning that the way you digest food is different from even the closest of relatives.
That said, there are a few core tenants of a healthy diet that you should do your best to follow. The World Health Organization breaks down the core components of a healthy diet into the following four categories:
- Staples like bread, starches, or rice.
- Legumes like lentils or beans
- Fruits and vegetables
- Food from animal sources
Now, the WHO’s recommendations for a healthy diet shouldn’t be treated as a monolith, and it is certainly possible to eat a healthy, balanced diet without consuming any animal products. But, in general, these whole foods should form the backbone of your personalized diet plan.
Personalized nutrition is finally starting to gain traction amongst dietitians, nutritionists, and consumers. In part, this is due to advances in technology that utilizes genetic testing to determine which diet is right for your body. However, genes only account for five to ten percent of your predisposition to developing dietary conditions like diabetes and obesity.
The best way to create a personalized diet is to get in touch with a dietician or reputable nutritionist who will listen to you, understand your relationship with food, and be able to suggest dietary changes to help you overcome conditions like digestive issues and cardiovascular ailments.
Diets for Digestive Issues
Between 60 to 70 million Americans have a digestive disease. Yet, talking about conditions like GERD and IBS remains taboo in our society, as many folks prefer to hide their issue rather than make preventive, proactive dietary changes to improve digestion and alleviate symptoms.
If you suffer from a digestive issue, you may want to run an elimination diet with the help of a medical professional. Elimination diets are designed to help you identify the root cause of your digestive issue and help eliminate the offending food. You will have to keep an accurate food diary to ensure that your elimination diet is effective and there’s no guarantee that you’ll identify the source of your digestive complaints.
If you suffer from GERD, IBD, or ulcerative colitis, then you may want to consider running a low-residue diet. A low-residue diet limits foods that are particularly high in fiber like unrefined grains. Instead, you’ll eat more cooked or juiced fruits and vegetables as these will be easier to digest. You’ll also want to steer clear of caffeine for a while, as drinks like coffee can upset your stomach and lead to acid reflux.
It’s also worth pointing out that many digestive issues are caused by stress. That’s because our mental health is integrally connected to digestive health and excess stress may be the cause of symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome. Fortunately, you can still take a diet-first approach to deal with stress, and should seriously consider cutting out all ultra-processed, high-sugar foods for better physical and mental health.
Diets for Better Cardiovascular Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in the U.S. Yet, as a society, we’re still tempted to eat fast food on a near-daily basis. Unsurprisingly, the CDC reports a direct link between a heavily processed diet and your predisposition to developing cardiovascular conditions like coronary heart disease, heart attack, and varicose veins.
When looking for a diet that supports your cardiovascular system, you should prioritize the incredible benefits of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables help regulate blood sugar levels and support a healthy, active lifestyle. This is important, as living a sedentary lifestyle may lead to conditions like vein disease. Getting enough fruits and vegetables gives you the energy you need to exercise after a day spent sitting in front of a desk, which lowers your chances of developing conditions like spider veins and coronary heart disease.
There are no effective “one-size fits all” diets. Instead, you need to find a diet that works for your body and alleviates any health conditions you may be facing. In general, this diet should consist of whole foods like fruits and vegetables and should be personalized to suit your health goals and body. Taking a personalized approach to your diet ensures that the food you eat protects your health, and helps to support an active lifestyle.
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.
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