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Every year US News and World Report ranks the best diets. They factor in ease of maintenance, accessibility of ingredients, evidence-based results, and more. But their opinion is just one of many, and the answer to what the best diet is for you depends entirely on who you ask.
The conventional, mainstream answer will be that the best diet is low-fat, low-calorie, and avoids most saturated fat altogether. But we think that the diet that serves humans best is the one that has been consumed for centuries—even thousands of years.
However you break it down, ancestral dietary patterns are wildly different from today’s nutritional advice. While some argue that ancestral diets were bad because people didn’t live very long back then, the truth is that their shortened life spans were not a result of their diets. They existed in a world that was not sheltered from the elements, and where predators were a far greater threat. They did not have emergency medical services.
Today, the standard American diet has led to an epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease. If you ask government agencies that put out dietary guidelines or the medical community who still pushes margarine over saturated fat, the answer as to what diet is “best” will not be the same as ours.
There is no one diet that is good for everyone. You don’t even have to follow a specific diet to be able to eat a food plan that meets your body’s needs. Diet frameworks are helpful because they give you recipe ideas and provide guidance on what to eat for each meal of the day, but there may not always be a specific diet that works for you. When you’re asking the question of what diet is best for you, make sure that you first consider your nutritional needs.
Over the last week, we’ve delved into several versions of ancestral diets. They can widely vary in how much carbohydrate, protein, and fat you may eat, and what specific foods to consume. But they all hold to the ancient traditions of real food that is not processed and is rich in nutrients as nature intended.
Here’s a comparison of the diets we’ve covered this week. You can learn more about each of them in their own blog posts.
- Paleo: Lower in carbs, no grains/dairy/soy, moderate in protein and fats
- AIP: A version of the Paleo diet that limits certain types of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices
- Keto: Ultra-low in carbs and very high in fat, no grains, may or may not include dairy
- Primal: Lower in carbs, some fermented/soaked/sprouted grains, raw dairy, limited fermented soy, moderate in protein and fats
- Low FODMAP: Avoids specific types of carbs and most grains, likely to be lower in carbs and moderate in protein and fat
What Diet Is Best for You?
In considering what your nutritional needs are, you have to factor in:
- Your age
- Your sex
- Your activity level
- Your current health status (Do you have chronic/autoimmune disorders? Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? Are you obese?)
- Your economic situation
- Your access to food
- Your ability to cook and prepare foods
- Your food allergies or digestive health
All together, these can paint a picture of the diet that works best to meet all of your different needs. Sometimes it can be easy to see that a ketogenic diet or a Paleo diet might be the best fit. If you have blatant digestive issues, a Low FODMAP diet might be what you need. But, at other times, it may not be clear what could work best. In that case, finding a nutritionist who specializes in ancestral diets can be the best way to get the nutritional advice that you need to thrive.
Today’s Simple Step
No one knows your body better than you do! Even nutritionists will rely on you to provide an accurate report of your symptoms, health, and how food makes you feel so that they can help you. Use Cronometer online or an old-fashioned notebook to jot down what you eat, when, and how much. Add symptoms or other relevant details, like having a headache or feeling extra tired, and then you’ll have a full picture of how your diet may be affecting your health.
This Chia Muesli is a great example of a nutrient-dense, traditional dish that is Paleo and primal-friendly. It makes a great breakfast but can also stand in for a delicious, nourishing snack.