For years there have been debates about what constitutes a perfect diet. Historically, a diet was simply the food we ate. As time passed, the concept of ‘a perfect diet’ emerged which has long bewildered us due to conflicting opinions and an amass of information available online.
In fact, there is no one diet that would work for every single human on the planet. Each human has a different nutritional requirement according to their bodily needs and functions. Some diets may help you lose those kilos, some may help you gain the muscle, some may help get rid of water retention, some may help you gain weight and some may simply help you stay alive. Each diet would clearly not suit every individual as they may not work in the long term. A perfect diet, crafted exclusively for your needs would make you strong from inside out, boost your energy levels and most importantly, make you feel good about yourself.
Instead of opting for a diet that works for everyone around you or over the virtual world, below mentioned are some characteristics that determine what should constitute a perfect diet, for you:
- Importance of Nutrients: Instead of focusing on the food group philosophy, focus should be on the nutrient philosophy. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), should be consumed for each nutrient separately and not for a meal collectively.
- Balance in Blood sugar: Insulin and blood sugar levels are deeply connected with our hormones. A slightest imbalance in our hormonal levels can adversely affect the insulin levels. When insulin levels increase, the body ends up storing excessive fat.
- Ensure Food Security: Following a fad diet which is easily accessible on the internet, but not easy on the pocket is never a wise option. In order to ensure that every section of the society gets an opportunity to eat healthy food, emphasis should be paid to contribute to food systems that support the less fortunate as well.
- Reduce Processed Food items: Processed food items are essentially a combination of food and chemicals that have been processed under specific conditions over prolonged periods of time to make them suitable for consumption. There are countless studies to prove the adverse health effects of consuming processed food. It is imperative that REAL FOOD; one which is available in its natural form is consumed regularly.
- Variety is the spice of life: As most people tend to consume selective food all year, it is often difficult for them to maintain a healthy diet in the long run. In order to regularly enjoy a healthy diet, it is imperative to opt for seasonal vegetables and fruits; otherwise there is nothing better than growing your favourite ones in your kitchen garden.
- Sustainable food choices: A perfect diet will not only be nutrient rich for our body but also nutrient rich for the soil, where it came from. There is a direct correlation between the quality of food we consume and our health. A healthy soil would translate to healthy food which would translate to good health for each of us.
- Adequate Hydration: While 60% of an adult human body is made up of water, it is often the most ignored element in our diet. There has to be an adequate balance of water in our body to avoid either dilution of electrolytes or dehydration. The right balance of water depends on one’s level of activity, outside temperature and the rate of sweat.
- Enhance the Activity level: In order to maximize the benefit derived from the diet, calorie consumption should be planned in accordance to the amount of energy one is burning.
- Importance of Social Component: With the influx of social media and OTT channels at a click of a button, most of us have forgotten to step out from the comfort of our homes to socialize. A lack of social connection is a much greater illness than any specific food choice. In order to ensure one’s diet is perfect to the T, it should be socially inclusive.
Keeping in mind all the above features comprising a perfect diet, it is important to note that consuming a healthy diet is essential to keep diseases at bay. Due to the fast nature of our work and lifestyle, more and more people are consuming foods that are high in energy, fats and free of sugar and salt. As a result, they don’t end up consuming enough fruits, vegetables and other dietary fibres like whole grains. In order to compensate for the lack of the nutrients derived from fruits and green vegetables, there is an increased intake of supplements for the same. While supplements are an easy way out, they end up creating a vicious cycle of dependency.
Another question to ponder here is whether the essentials for a healthy diet are similar for women and men. For beginners, the calorie needs are higher for men than women due to their overall larger body structure and weight. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) calculate that men burn about 400 calories more than women in a given day. Even though the percentage of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the same for both, the total intake of macronutrients is higher in men.
In case of Vitamins and Minerals, women have higher needs for calcium, iron and folic acid than men due to hormonal changes associated with child bearing and menstruation. An adult woman needs about 1000 mg calcium compared to a man’s need of 800 mg calcium. Additionally, during monthly blood loss during menstruation, a woman needs 18 mg of iron per day compared to 8 mg for men. During pregnancy, a woman is advised to consume at least 600 mg of folic acid daily to nurture the fetus and prevent any body dysfunctions, compared to only 400 mg for men everyday.
While all food categories are essential for each gender, the percentage of nutritional intake of calories, macronutrients, vitamin and minerals is different in each individual. Overall, there is a need for increased awareness for the curation of a perfect diet for each individual according to their gender and surrounding conditions. It is imperative to consult specialists to make smarter nutritional choices and move towards better health, fitness and weight management.