Finding Your Healthiest Diet

Posted by Dr. Rick Cohen on Aug 27th 2019

In last week’s post I shared with you information that shows why what you eat makes such a huge difference to your health and longevity. This week I want to provide you with a meaningful strategy on how you can determine your personalized “healthy” diet.​

In last week’s post I shared with you information that shows why what you eat makes such a huge difference to your health and longevity. This week I want to provide you with a meaningful strategy on how you can determine your personalized “healthy” diet.

Avoid toxic foods.

Whether you eat paleo, keto, low carb, vegan, Whole30, low fat, Mediterranean, intuitively, organically etc. we all need to avoid eating things that are toxic to us. This means processed oils, simple sugars, bleached flours, coloring and preservatives and pesticides. This means choose organic when possible especially when eating the dirty dozen foods.

And if it comes in a box or can, you need to check it before buying and eating even when purchased from a “natural food” store like Whole Foods or Sprouts.

Eat a wide variety of foods.

Does your diet consist mostly of these foods? Wheat, corn, dairy, meat, potatoes, corn, rice, chicken, eggs, tomatoes, oranges and apples. If so, you are like most Americans.

When you eat a wide variety of foods you not only provide nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, you foster a healthy gut microbiome and reduce the likelihood of developing food intolerances and allergies.

Here’s what you should aim for.

A wide variety of vegetables both leafy and starchy (sweat potatoes and squash), fresh herbs and spices, small amounts of fruits (mainly berries), fresh eggs, goat, sheep and cow cheese in moderation, nuts, fish, and pasture raised animals (not just the flesh, the more of the animal you consume the better.

Whole grains such as colored and wild rice, quinoa and legumes such as garbanzo beans, lentils, split peas and white beans are also fine for most. Top it off with dark chocolate and occasional red wine and to no surprise you wind up with a diet more like France, Spain and Israel. With some variation this also holds true for traditional Asian or Hispanic diets.

Gauge how you feel and look.

Food can become very personal to people. But know whether you are low-fat, Paleo, Vegan, Keto, Gluten-free, Whole 30, raw foodist, if you don’t wake up energized and sleep deep, have trouble staying lean and/or if you are faced with an health issue or chronic disease then something needs to change. Food is not only your best medicine it can be your worst health enemy.

Assess your gut microbiome

We are learning that healthy gut microbiome may be one of the most important physiological goals for all to achieve. Advanced diagnostic assays from Viome allow you to very specifically analyze your microbiome and from this, they are using computer algorithms based on large continually growing population data to provide recommendations to both your superfoods to eat daily and those which you need to eat to avoid.

Our gut microbiome is always changing so you will want to repeat this every 4 months for the first year and then every 6 months to continually adjust your diet to provide a rich and diverse but microbiome which will provide huge benefits to your health.

In addition, it is important to know is that by creating a rich and diverse gut microbiome, you will improve your ability to metabolize carbohydrates and improve your metabolic health. This will make the next step easier to achieve.

My Viome test results revealed that my superfoods to eat regularly are blackberries, cranberries, kale, sweet potato, bone broth, oregano, cilantro, dark turkey, rainbow trout and white beans while I need to avoid rice flour, oranges, cucumber, hemp, kombucha and bananas. This information has given me guidance in choosing foods to eat and improved my digestive health.

Keep blood sugar swings low.

While chronically elevated levels of blood sugar can cause accelerated health issues and earn you the medical diagnostic tag of diabetes, it is critical to understand that even mildly elevated levels and even worse, blood sugars that go too high after meals, lead to chronic disease and advanced aging.

Within a few years, technology will be available to non-invasively track your blood sugar at any time to gauge how individual foods effect you.

You can do this now with a simple transmitter CGM devise that painlessly sticks into your abdomen. The most accurate on the market is called DexcomG6. While used primarily by people with Diabetes, proactive people truly interested in health are using this to fine-tune their diet.

Using this device, you can determine which type, how many and when you can best utilize carbohydrates. Maybe a ½ banana is Ok to eat with some nut butter but only after physical activity is Ok but ½ cup of white rice with veggies is not. Although if you have the rice with some chicken and drink red wine with dinner you are just fine!

For those not quite ready to take a deep physiological dive, I recommend regular blood assessments for fasting insulin levels (ideal is less than 5) and triglyceride/HDL ratio (ideal is less than 1.5).

While this will not tell you how each specific food or meal effects you, it can give you some insight into your overall metabolic health and ability to keep blood sugar levels stable. If these markers are too high, then you can adjust your diet and lifestyle and then recheck these makers every 3 months until you reach the ideal levels.

Perform a once in a lifetime DNA assessment

Just as we are all different on the outsider our personal food and nutrients requirement are unique. Clearly cultures such as the Inuit, Okinawans, Sardinians, Latin Americans, and Slavic cultures all eat differently.

So how and why should we all need a similar diet just because we happen to now live in the United States. Throw in mixed ancestry and we can only guess what is best for us. Fortunately, you can perform a DNA assessment that will provide you with insights on what specific types of foods and macronutrients are genetically best for you. I recommend The DNA Company for one of the most advanced and comprehensive genetics assessment.

The Take Home Message

Please ignore nutrition headlines based on a large population studies. They are always changing and do not take into account our individual ancestry, genetics or lifestyle needs.

Take care of yourself!

Avoid toxins

Eat a wide variety of whole foods

Pay attention to how you look and feel in general when you eat foods

Dig deeper by assessing your genetic needs.

Fine tune these needs with periodic microbiome assessment

Tracking and adjust your meals so to keep your blood sugar fluctuations small.