In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with what kind of diet to follow. Keto, Atkins, Vegan, The Zone, Weight Watchers and as I am typing this I am certain a new one is approaching us! As easy at it would be to pick a certain diet and follow it, the issue becomes what diet fits our unique needs, where we are in life, and physiology (along with palate!) In this blog I talk about how to choose the best nutrition plan based on which category fits your needs the best whether it is age, lifestyle, or disease prevention. You will notice many of the groups should consume similar foods and avoid others which isn’t a coincidence is it?
1.Weight loss/Obesity – I put this category first due to it being the most preventable for diseases on the list and also contributes to all of them. – As much as I am not a fan of a keto diet (90% of calories from fat), I am a fan of someone doing a modified version for weight loss. The macro ratio I have found best for most is 50% fat, 30% protein and 20% carbs. As the body fat starts to come off you can slowly start to incorporate more carbs in your diet. One strategy that has to be implemented is intermittent fasting. I suggest starting slowly with just one day a week for the first few weeks and bump this to most days of the week as time goes on. The one concern is if you’re prone to blood sugar issues then eating closer to your workout time is recommended as well as more frequent timing of meals. Proper water consumption is paramount, and I recommend half your body weight in ounces as a good start. The majority of their diet should be filled with as many vegetables as possible, lean grass-fed meats, and limited starchy carbs.
2. Autoimmune disease- MS, lupus, Type 1 diabetes, graves disease, celiac, myocarditis are just some of the diseases that fall into this category. Eliminating inflammation in this diet is the number one objective. Eating a whole food based diet has been shown to make a tremendous difference in keeping symptoms at bay. Leafy greens, pumpkin, onions, apples, fatty fish, turmeric, probiotics, green tea, and sulfur rich foods (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage.) The big foods to avoid here are sugar, alcohol, animal products, gluten, soy, and trans fats.
3.Cancer- Unfortunately cancer will strike upwards of 40% of the population and eating the right foods can help prevent it from happening. Some of the best foods and spices to help prevent cancer are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables, flaxseed, garlic, nuts, turmeric, berries, beans, cinnamon, and fatty fish. There is some evidence that shows a lower protein diet could decrease your risk of getting cancer (lower IGF-1), but the studies aren’t conclusive. Top foods to avoid are processed meats, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, non-organic fruits and vegetables ( pesticides), and alcohol.
4. Cardiovascular Disease – Unfortunately 1 in 4 deaths is due to heart disease which makes it the number one leading cause of death worldwide. There are many causes of heart disease, but controlling what you eat ranks high on that list. Top foods to add to your diet to prevent heart disease are a wide variety of vegetables with the best being leafy greens (romaine, swiss chard, collard greens), berries, healthy fat foods like avocados, fatty fish and olive oil, walnuts, dark chocolate, tomatoes, and green tea. Foods to avoid would be trans fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, and a diet too high in salt.
5. Children under 10 – This group could be split into 2 based on when most of the brain development has taken place, but for simplicity I kept it under one group. Foods that I recommend are eggs (brain development), berries (immune system), dairy in moderation (bones), fish (nervous system and bones), plenty of foods with beta carotene like sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and kale (growth and vision.) Foods to avoid for this group would be anything in a box (common theme at schools!), fruit snacks, sports drinks, and breakfast cereals.
6. Adolescent ages 10-19 – When I think of this group, the first few things that come to mind are iron rich foods like red meat, turkey, spinach, broccoli, legumes, and dark chocolate. Foods with plenty of B vitamins like whole grains, eggs, seeds, citrus fruits, as well as foods that will help with bone building like fatty fish (moderation to avoid too much mercury), green leafy vegetables, dairy foods in moderation, and almonds. Top foods to avoid would be soft drinks, fast food, foods with too much sugar and fat as well as too much omega-6 foods like corn and soy oil (decrease acne.)
7.Middle Age – the reality is I am 44 and eating a healthy diet is more important now than ever before, and the years where the rate of disease increases is coming. The top foods I recommend are water (yes water due to sense of thirst dropping as we age), calcium rich foods like dairy in moderation, broccoli, foods high in Vitamin C for collagen (citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes), tuna, shellfish, beef, eggs, cruciferous vegetables (for men to help with proper testosterone levels), slightly higher protein amounts, omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of vitamin D and calcium rich foods (for perimenopausal women.) Foods to avoid for both men and women would be alcohol, fast food, refined sugars, and boxed foods (these are the most foods this demographic consumes.)
8. Elderly – This demographic of the population is increasing at the highest rate more than any other. The first group of foods I think of for this group is anything to help create optimal bone density. Foods like kale, and romaine for vitamin K, fatty fish like sardines and salmon for vitamin D, dairy products in moderation, low salt diets to not leach out too much calcium, as well as not too much phosphoric acid (soft drinks) to leach calcium from the bones as well. Plenty of water to help maintain proper hydration and regular bowel movements. Foods to avoid are anything that will disrupt a proper immune system, bone density, and GI issues like too much dairy, raw seafoods, anything unpasteurized, soft drinks, and anything processed.
9. Athlete – This category can be split into distinct sports, age, level, etc,. but I will keep it as simple as possible. – 1 hour a day athletes can follow a diet of 40% carbs/ 30% protein/ 30% fat – 2 hour a day athletes can follow a diet of 50% carbs/ 30% protein/ 20% fat Most athletes should supplement with 3-5 grams of glutamine before the day begins on an empty stomach, 1-2 fasted workouts everyday depending on where they are in their season (peak, wt loss,etc), consume 3/4 of their body weight in ounces of water per day, proper electrolyte consumption if they are in a hot/humid environment, eat a higher protein/fat meal closer to their workout time while eating a higher percentage of carbohydrates at night. Getting a wide variety of nutrient dense foods is important for this group, and I recommend as many vegetables as possible, lean grass-fed meats, and starchy carbs in proper amounts depending on exercise volume and intensity.