Is there such a thing as the perfect diet?

Photo by Gor Davtyan on Unsplash

Would you be surprised if I told you that there was no such thing?

Food guidelines are population based – that is, they are designed for the “average” person.  Trouble is, we are all individuals, and when we start nit-picking about things like health, and biology, nobody really meets the exact definition of average. I’m not dismissing food guidelines (after all, they are exactly that, guidelines!) but I am acknowledging that for many people, they are just a starting point, not a set of inflexible rules.

There is a baby science, nutrigenomics, which hopes that one day, practitioners will be able to build a perfect diet for an individual, based on their specific DNA profile, plus health factors, but that is a long way off yet (do not believe people who profess to be able to deliver it now #snakeoilsalesmen)

However, the drive to pursue the perfect diet has led to the rise of a new eating disorder – orthorexia.  Sadly, for those suffering from this disorder, and basically anyone who has ever tried to identify and follow such a diet, the reality is that this diet…does…not…exist.

Certainly, there are better patterns of eating, principally those involving whole, fresh foods, but are those patterns perfect?  Nope, not a one of them.

But right now, there are not any diets that are scientifically able to cure anything.  Manage a chronic health condition well enough to make that person feel pretty good? – yes, some diets can do that.  But only as long, as that person continues to follow that eating plan.  It’s like taking medication – if you stop taking it, your symptoms return.

But what works for one person, does not work for everyone.  Beware of the health gurus who claim that eating XYZ cured their incurable health conditions.  Because when you delve into their back stories, the common thread is most of them were eating a nutritionally poor diet, and, engaging in other unhealthy behaviours.  So naturally, once they started eating well, and taking better care of themselves, they started to see an improvement in their health. 

But claiming one variation of diet is better than another?  From a scientific viewpoint, if a diet is nutritionally dense, contains a wide variety of foods, and does not contain anything that can act as a trigger for an individual (e.g. someone with coeliac disease and gluten), then the specific foods in that diet aren’t that important.

So, if you feel that your diet isn’t working for you, and you’re not sure what to do about it, talk to a dietitian or nutritionist.  And make sure that professional is prepared to work with you to develop the best diet for you – not one that is imposed from the top down.

Ultimately, the perfect diet for you, is the diet that helps to keep you healthy, provides enough energy for all your daily activities, and – this is important! – you enjoy eating.