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“What is The Best Diet?”

"What is the best diet?" The burning question of the year, right?! What is the best diet? What should I eat to lose weight or change my body composition? What diet is best for my genetics or my autoimmune condition? There are so many diets touted as “the best” – There’s plant-based, ketogenic, paleo, Mediterranean, low lectin, low histamine, low-FODMAP, GAPS, SCD, AI. . .and the list goes on. And don’t even get me started on how “researching” them all can absolutely feel like information overload! How do you pick the best for you? I will make it super simple by starting with what all of these “best diets” have in common, and then we will move on to how we can find your best diet!

First things first: Vegetables

Among all diets, vegetables are agreeably healthy. Are you eating 10+ servings of vegetables per day? If not, we need to start there. It is super important to eat enough vegetables with our best diet because they are packed with essential micronutrients and antioxidants our body needs! Now if you have GI issues, cooked veggies might work better than raw, and that’s ok! However you eat them, try to incorporate various colorful veggies into most or all meals. Pro tip—who says you can’t eat veggies for breakfast?

Here is one of my favorite veggie-packed recipes to help you make sure you are getting enough green in your day!

There's Power in Protein

Protein is generally agreed upon as essential to some degree in most diets. Protein is used to build, repair, and maintain all the cells in the body. That means nerves, muscles, and organs which are subject to daily stress and damage need protein for resiliency and strength. Protein has other specialized jobs such as fighting infection, acting as hormones, and supporting all sorts of biochemical reactions needed for energy production and detoxification.

Now the amount of protein you should eat, however, is extremely controversial! The recommended amount ranges from one extreme to another. To start, just make sure to include some protein with each meal—one serving of meat or two servings of eggs, nuts, and/or legumes.

For those who want a specific number-- I usually recommend 1-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight as a very general starting point (disclaimer: this is not medical advice 😉). First off, let's find your weight in kilograms! To calculate this number: divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, let's use 150lbs. 150 divided by 2.2 = 68! So the person in our example weighs 68 kg and therefore would need between 68 g (1 g/kg) and 112.5 g (1.5 g/kg) of protein per day. I tend to suggest protein on the higher end of that scale for individuals experiencing high stress (mental or physical); otherwise, 1 g per kg may be a more natural way for many people to eat.

The Benefits of Fiber

Fiber, for the most part, is regarded as healthy among different diet plans! Fiber is usually only a problem in the case of GI issues, which hopefully are temporary if you go through the process to resolve them! We know that fiber from plants feeds beneficial gut bacteria, which in large supports immunity, hormone balance, vitamin production, and detoxification. We also know that historically many populations ate significantly more fiber than the average American and suffered less from chronic disease. Therefore, a moderate to high amount of fiber is likely beneficial for the human body. US government guidelines suggest 25g per day; I recommend 30-50g per day depending on the person. Focusing on fiber at each meal instead of carbs makes food choices much more obvious, and weight and digestion are often much easier to maintain.

The Truth about Fat

Finally, we are going to chat about everyone's favorite macronutrient, fat. Yes, fat is generally considered healthy as long as you're reading an article published before 1970 or after 1987. There was a period where fat was touted as unhealthy, and low-fat everything was all the rage. However, since then, we've realized some things. . .like guess who paid for most of those studies to be published? The food industry! More specifically-the corn, sugar, and dairy industries. (Yes, even scientific research is influenced by money and politics unfortunately.)

Now how much and what type of fat to eat is still again a bit of an argument. In this area, plant fats such as avocado and olives are across the board are highly regarded as good sources of fat. They are high in monounsaturated fat, which is agreeably healthy for cardiovascular and brain health.

I believe that quality is king when it comes to choosing meat. It's not about the specific amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in a product. It's more important to think about the big picture of what else you're eating and where the meat came from. Drinking champagne and eating fast food burgers every day is probably not wise, but neither is scarfing low-fat yogurt and diet soda. It's not because there's too much of any one specific ingredient but that the quality in either set of foods is poor due to an excessive amount of chemical additives and processing. So would someone who ate vegetables and beef from a cow that lived a happy, stress-free life roaming and grazing freely be healthier than someone who ate processed low-fat convenience foods? I would say yes. The topic of how much fat to eat involves more conversation. Still, most experts agree that some amount of fat (especially whole, unprocessed plant fat) is beneficial to the body.

So What is the *BEST* Diet?

The secret behind the best diet is the one where you’re getting vegetables/fiber, protein, and healthy fats. And if/when you get confused about what to eat, remember the bottom line: at every meal, we need protein, fat, and fiber—with color—to support energy production, cellular repair, and detoxification. If you develop a specific condition such as GI issues or an autoimmune disease, then consider working with a knowledgeable practitioner to develop a customized meal plan, like me!

My three month, six month, or twelve month meal planning service is one way to get you started on your best “diet” for 2021! You can choose from Vegan, Paleo, Kid-Friendly, and Healthy Family plans all of which include recipes, shopping lists, and nutrition information! If you are looking for a more specific plan, you can opt for a personalized plan! With the personalized plan, I will take into account individual calorie needs, family size, and food preferences.

But please don’t get sucked into every new diet thinking it’s the answer to all life’s problems. When I recommend a more specialized diet, it’s almost always temporary because research seems to tell us that long-term humans do well on a largely varied diet—not eating the same five foods every day forever. Sometimes food is the cause, but sometimes it’s the effect of a deeper issue. And once that issue is resolved, the food sensitivities or weight problem or the hormone imbalance goes away!

Think you may have some underlying issues of inflammation? This Metabolic Reset blog post breaks down popular cleanses and how a reset can help those deeper issues you may be experiencing.

Yes, food is vitally important. What we eat matters. Most important, don’t forget to eat real food!

Which area do you need to prioritize for your “best diet”? Shoot me a message @carolinafunctionalnutrition. I would love to hear your “best diet” goals!


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