One size might fit all when it comes to scarves and those plastic ponchos from amusement parks, but not when it comes to nutrition. It can feel like there's a new diet trend every month - no dairy, no gluten, low fat, high fat, low carb - but just because it's helpful for some people, that doesn't mean it's ideal for you. Translating your body’s subtle (or not-so-subtle) responses to what you eat into an optimized master-plan for wellness is a skill that takes cultivating.
Why is individualized nutrition important?
Mayo Clinic research shows that an individualized diet based on your genetics, gut microbiome, and lifestyle is more effective in controlling blood sugar levels than one that considers only nutritional composition of food. Researchers found that similar foods had different impacts on each person's body, primarily due to the unique composition of each person's gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria within the digestive tract.
When you listen to your body and learn to tune into its signals, you can start to gain a better understanding of what foods tend to help you feel energized, nourished, strong, and satisfied.
How to Find the Right Individualized Diet
In one blog post, there's no way we can nail down a personalized nutrition plan perfectly suited to your needs (we don't know you that well, yet). However, there are a few factors that can be a great starting point for finding a lifestyle that's easy to maintain and makes you feel your best.
1. Energy levels
Ever notice how certain foods give you a burst of energy followed by a sluggish feeling? Or how a workout feels more difficult after certain meals? Make a mental note of those foods - or even keep a diary for a few days to make note of how you feel after different foods. While everything can be enjoyed in moderation, it's helpful to ask yourself "is this going to make me feel energized and at my best?"
Your digestion is another major indicator of your overall health. If you're dealing with constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, or other digestive issues, it's often an indicator that something is off with your diet or microbiome. For example, if you notice you often get heartburn when you drink your morning coffee, it might be worth swapping it out for green tea or another morning beverage. A temporary elimination diet - where you eliminate and then reintroduce common trigger foods one at a time - can be a helpful way to get to know your body better. However, be sure to work with a healthcare practitioner before eliminating entire food groups from your diet to ensure you're still getting adequate nutrition.
3. Nutrition Goals & Management of Health Conditions
The nutrition plan of a professional athlete is going to look much different than that of someone with a typical 9-5 job - and the "average" person's diet might look different than that of someone with a chronic health condition such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Whether you're looking to gain muscle, improve athletic performance, manage a health condition, or just improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life, your nutrition and diet should reflect your goals. That's a very individual decision, and a dietician, trainer, or healthcare provider can help identify ways you can tailor your nutritional choices to your goals.
Your schedule, budget, the type of food you have access to, how often you go out to eat, and how much time and energy you can put into cooking all play a part in how you nourish yourself. While many diets might yield similar health results, the best diet for you is the one that you can realistically stick to long-term. For some people, that might be tracking their macronutrients. For others, it might be a whole food, plant-based diet. As cliché as it may sound, it's more important to think in terms of lifestyle than short-term yo-yo dieting plans.
Similarly, an individualized nutrition plan should take your own food preferences into consideration. Rather than adapting to a popular diet you don't enjoy, an individualized plan should have space for you to enjoy your favorite foods and try new foods. It's much easier to stay on track and motivated when you're not feeling deprived or depleted.
Ready to get started with individualized nutrition?
While the tips above are a great place to start, it's best to work with a professional to create the most effective individualized nutrition plan. Doctors, dieticians, certified personal trainers, functional doctors, and other trusted medical experts can help identify potential health conditions and offer testing that can lead to a more accurate and personalized approach. They can also offer long-term support to help regularly adjust your plan to suit your goals.
With a few adjustments you'll likely find that a personalized diet helps you feel your best, supports health outcomes, and is tailored to your lifestyle.