If your New Year’s resolution is to change your diet to follow the latest trend, you may do more harm than good.
Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and get in shape, both of which usually involve going on a diet. If you’re thinking about changing the way you eat this year to reach whatever health goal you have in mind, you will be submerged by recommendations on the web, in the press, and perhaps from those around you. They’ll argue that you should adopt only one way to eat, because according to them, theirs is the best diet to reach your goals. With so many different diets out there, they can’t all be right for all of us. And they’re not.
In fact, each person is biochemically and metabolically unique. Different people metabolize the same food very differently: surprisingly, blood sugar levels can vary from one person to the next with the exact same food. That means that someone reaping the benefits of one diet may have entirely different-even disastrous-results following a different one. 1
Here are some surprising examples of different reactions to foods:
-Some people thrive on raw foods, but others feel miserable.
-Some people are lactose intolerant, while others can consume milk with no problem.
-Sushi can cause a spike in the glycemic index of certain people even more than ice cream.
-Certain people can drink black tea or coffee before bed without a problem while others can not.
Furthermore, heavy consumption of coffee raises the risk of heart disease only among those who are slow metabolizers of caffeine but has beneficial effects in fast metabolizers. For the latter, who have a particular gene, the CYP1A2*1A, it is believed that caffeine is cleared quickly from their system, leaving only the beneficial effects of the polyphenols found in coffee. 2
So what influences whether a diet works for you or not? Some determinants are:
–Stage of life
While it could be complicated and costly to go through testing to find out what foods are best for your unique profile, there are simpler ways to find out: Your body sends you signals and feedback all the time. However, there are basic dietary principles that show certain choices are beneficial for most people most of the time. For example:
-Studies show that most vegetarians in general have a lower body weight, longer lifespan and typically suffer less from diseases than those who eat meat.3
– The Mediterranean Diet, the most studied in the world, has been shown conclusively to lower the risk of disease and improve quality of life.
Here are 8 of the most popular Diet Types today:
–Raw Food: all raw, plant-based foods, preferably organic
–Vegetarian: Lacto-ovo vegetarian (containing dairy & eggs) is the most popular vegetarian diet, Lacto-Vegetarian, Fruitarian, Ovo-Vegetarian, Pesco (fish) Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian)
–Vegan: no animal products or animal sourced products (eg honey). This diet follows ethical beliefs as well as health principles.
–Paleo: foods presumed to be from the Paleo-lithic era: fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat and roots; but not dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, salt, legumes or any processed food.
–Mediterranean or Southern European
–High Protein/Low Carb
–High Protein & High Fat/Low Carb (the “Atkins Diet”)
–Ketogenic: high healthy fat/low carb diet. It encourages the body to use fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. While problematic for some (those with Type 1 Diabetes), this diet has been used for decades to treat epilepsy and is now being explored for other uses, particularly in brain-related diseases (Alzheimer’s, ADHD) and cancer.
So how do you find the diet that’s right for you?
–Listen to your body’s wisdom: certain signs will tell you if your diet or way of eating is helping or hurting you. Among those signs could be head-aches, joint pain, insomnia, skin problems and indigestion.
–Know that your reactions can change over time: For example, much to my parents’ surprise, I could drink black tea before bed with no problem-when I was 19. Today, decades later, that is no longer the case.
–Take into consideration your lifestyle, stage of life, personal health condition, and family health history.
–Read about the different styles of eating and determine which one might correspond to your situation and tastes.
–Try different styles and observe how you feel. Listen to your body’s signals.
I have tried low-carb diets and felt miserable, especially when there’s a lot of animal protein in it. After trying different ways of eating, I know I need at least one day a week in which I have no meat at all. I’ve learned fairly recently that a good source of healthy fats, especially at breakfast, keeps ravenous hunger pains and late afternoon snacking at bay.
What about you? Have you tried different diets that others swore by, only to find they were not for you?
Here’s a book I recommend to find out more about this topic:
-Dr. W. Lee Cowden, Connie Strasheim, “Foods that Fit a Unique You” ACIM Press, Sept. 2014
1.”Blood Sugar Levels in Response to Foods are Highly Individual”, The Weizmann Institute of Science, November 2015: https://www.weizmann-usa.org/news-media/news-releases/blood-sugar-levels-in-response-to-foods-are-highly-individual
2.”Coffee, CYP1A2 Genotype, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction” Cornelis, El-Sohemy, Kabagambe, et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, March 2006: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16522833
“CYP1A2 genotype modifies the association between coffee intake and the risk of hypertension”. Palatini, Ceolotto, Ragazzo, et al., Journal of Hypertension, August 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19451835
3.”Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes”, Tonstad, Butler, Yan, Fraser; Diabetes Care, May 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671114/