“You are what you eat.” We’ve heard that statement all our lives. But is it true? Diet and nutrition are the base of our health—for better or worse. The true question, then, is if what you eat does matter, what should you be eating to optimize health?
Misleading, Conflicting Information
Just when we think we have this whole diet and nutrition game figured out, someone changes the rules. Earlier this month, US Today ran a story stating that the American Heart Association suggests removing coconut oil from your diet. This comes after hearing for years of the benefits of coconut oil.
It’s been the same story for as long as any of us can remember: First, we’re told that a particular food or diet is good for us, only to be followed years or decades later with the news that, ooops, we were wrong! It can be challenging to determine what the best diet lifestyle is to reach your goals, whether those are to lose weight, be healthy, maintain weight, or get into competitive mode.
We Are Not Created Equally
Another important consideration in the diet and nutrition game is the ability to know yourself. Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all diet that works universally. One person can feel amazing on a vegan diet, whereas another person feels lethargic when not consuming animal protein.
How do you know which diet is right for you?
Sometimes, it comes down to trial and error. And sometimes, you need the help of a professional. The sad truth is that most Americans have been taught to eat what’s on their plate, and they aren’t as attuned to their bodies as they should be. And that can lead to all kinds of issues.
How Diet and Nutrition Affect Our Bodies
When it comes to nutrition, it’s pretty simple: food fuels our bodies. We use the three big fuels—our basic macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, and fat—in different ways as they’re being digested. Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel because they are easily and quickly converted into immediate (glucose) and stored (glycogen) energy. During low- to moderate-intensity activity, your body will use fat as fuel, and it will also turn to fat stores when your body is depleted of glycogen, such as in a low-carb diet. Protein feeds your muscles and is responsible for about 5–10% of your overall fuel.
When you change your diet, you change how your body gets fuel. And that can work really well in certain circumstances and with certain people. For instance, a ketogenic diet forces the body into ketosis by depriving it of its preferred fuel, carbs, and forcing it to use fat as energy. Another example is a bodybuilder loading up on proteins over fats and carbs to fuel muscle building and metabolism. And, if you’re the average person, you may strike a balance among all three fuels. All of these approaches can work depending on your goals and individual hormones and needs.
Which Diet Is Right for You?
It’s impossible to make a blanket statement and say, “The (fill in the blank) diet is the right diet!” Since we are all a little different, there are many factors to consider: lifestyle, goals, hormones, fat and muscle distribution, activity levels, etc. If you know your body well enough, you may be able to determine which diet and nutrition program is best for you, but if not, it might be time to get some help.
Functional medicine is the practice of focusing on the optimal functioning of the body through a holistic approach. You don’t have to be sick or even facing any particular issues to benefit from working with a functional medicine practitioner. In fact, some athletes choose to include a functional medicine practitioner on their team to ensure they are in prime condition at all times.
When you are tired of struggling with which diet and nutrition program is right for you, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the overall picture. My Health Detective can do that. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation and get on the path to better health.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.