The first step in preventive medicine is to diet while you are healthy. If you are already sick, the diet will prevent the sickness from getting worse; it will support the immune system and the medications. A proper diet when you are healthy will make it less likely you will get sick.
A proper diet differs from person to person. It’s important to design your diet according to the genetic map of your family and characteristics of your body. By “dieting” I do not mean being undernourished, but eating a healthy balance of nutrients to supply your body’s daily energy needs. Balance is important, for if a person only eats protein, fat, or carbohydrates, after a while, the body’s organs can start to deteriorate.
Here are some aspects that should be taken into consideration while designing your personal diet:
Personalizing the diet
Not everyone should have the same diet. People come in different shapes and sizes, and they have different genetic makeups. A person must know how their body responds to certain foods. They must identify whether they (or their family) is prone to gain weight, whether they have a depressive or a nervous personality, or whether there is a family history of certain diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Families that are genetically susceptible to heart attacks should eat vegetables and fruits instead of too much protein or foods high in fats.
Maintaining an ideal weight range is important. While certain foods should be eaten in smaller amounts, this does not mean eating nothing. For instance, if a person has diabetes, they can’t have too much sugar – but no sugar is also bad for them.
A person who works hard outdoors will have a different diet from a person who works in an office. Some people are allergic to certain foods. Other people have a low basal metabolism or suffer from psychological distress. Food preferences also change according to cultures: a preferred food in one society may not be accepted in another.
Determining your ideal weight
Each person’s ideal weight is different. It differs depending on a person’s height, as well as the weight of their fatty tissues, muscles, and bones. A rough way to figure out your ideal weight is to add or subtract five from the last two digits of your height in centimeters. For example, someone who is 180 cm (5.90 feet) tall should weigh between 75-85 kg (165-187 lb). The most important thing is to set a healthy, ideal weight, and stick to it for life. Going over your ideal weight can lead to obesity and a slew of other health problems.
Determining body mass index
Obesity means an extreme excess of fat in a person’s body. Therefore, if your ideal weight is 60 kg (132 lb.) but you weigh 80 kg (176 lb.), knowing how much of the excess 20kg is fat or muscle is possible by determining your body mass index. If this excess of 20 kg (44 lb.) is 5 kg (11 lb.) of muscle and 15 kg (33 lb.) of fat, you can lose 15 kg of excess fat with a better diet and exercise. Losing mass from one’s muscles is harmful to the body, as it causes protein loss. Protein loss shouldn’t happen while you’re also losing weight.
The basal metabolic rate
This is the total energy, per 24 hours, that one expends while at rest. This changes according to a person’s physiological and biochemical structure. 30% of basal metabolism is used by the liver, 19% by the brain, and 18% by the skeletal muscles. Those with higher muscle mass index have a higher basal metabolism. If fewer calories are taken in than the basal metabolism needs, weight is lost; if more calories are taken in, weight is gained. Those with a higher basal metabolic rate lose weight much easier. One must take this rate into consideration when building their ideal diet.
Climate has an effect on one’s organs and metabolism. A change in climate conditions changes the energy demands on the body. The colder the climate, the more calories one needs. Gastrointestinal diseases are common in Siberian children who have diet-related malnutrition. Conversely, those living near the poles are less likely to have heart and vascular diseases, even though they eat diets high in fat and protein.
Age and gender
In the elderly, losing weight can cause urinary tract infections. A child under five on a long-term, low-calorie diet is at risk of pneumonia, low blood pressure, hypocalcemia, and abdominal swelling. Supplementary micronutrients such as thiamine, folic acid, vitamins A, C, E, and K, and iron should be given, along with carbohydrates, to children suffering from malnutrition. Care should be taken not to disrupt the balance of the basic substances in the body.
Unbalanced diets cause functional disorders and diseases in the organs. In high protein diets, which are preferable for terms of fat loss, especially in diabetic patients, cardiovascular and nephritic problems have been observed when the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat have deteriorated. In menopausal patients who lose weight through high protein diets there can be a significant decrease in bone density due to imbalances in protein, sodium, calcium, and potassium, which can lead to fractures.
Imbalanced diets are often accompanied by diseases. Moderately high protein diets may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Low fat, high carbohydrate diets may be more suitable for these people. Instead of a single type of food, the most favored diets are those which are more complex than others.
Mixed diets do not reduce the risk of colon cancer. However, eating lots of fibrous, pulpy foods has been shown to reduce it.
Determining meal times
We eat more than we need to. True hunger is when stomach cramps begin, and this happens about 18-24 hours after one’s last meal. We should not confuse hunger and mild hunger. Mild hunger is not feeling full in the stomach. Long-term memory is facilitated in the case of mild hunger and molecular mechanisms are accelerated, and thus we become conditioned to eat at regimented times.
Physiological mealtimes should be preferred to traditional mealtimes. Foods that give energy, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, can only be metabolized after a certain period of time. Since it takes the longest (8 hours) for fat to metabolize, it should be at least 8 hours between meals; otherwise, the body stores that excess fat. So someone who sleeps for 8 hours can eat two meals a day.
Duration of meals
The relationship between hunger, nutrition, eating speed, and putting on weight was studied in obese children, and it was found that the feeling of hunger and eating speed were four times higher in obese children than normal children. Therefore, that’s why they eat more and the feeling of fullness takes longer to kick in. Meals should be chewed for a long time: a brain’s satiety center only registers a feeling of fullness after around 30 minutes.
Amount of food
The volume of a normal stomach is 1000-1500 cc. It is necessary to leave space for the stomach’s contents to shake easily and for the stomach to add the enzymes and the slurries that break the food down and carry it towards the intestines. In this case, it is necessary to leave 2/3 of the stomach for water and food, and 1/3 empty. The total amount of food and water should not exceed 700-1000 cc.
Exercise strengthens muscles. During a workout, biochemical events in the body are accelerated, toxins are excreted more easily from the body, and weight is lost. Before determining a workout program, it is important to make sure there isn’t any significant abnormality in the body’s biochemistry, or an injury. For the best results, it is important to know which muscles work more in terms of energy spent during a workout. For example, the energy spent by the front thigh muscles and the forearm muscles is not the same. A workout should proceed gradually, so as not to cause injury.
Drinking enough water
The water lost by daily metabolic activities and sweating should be recovered. The amount of water consumed per resting day is 1800-2000 cc. A person will need more water if they are exercising.
A Prophetic diet
Certain religions have guidelines for which foods to eat together at the same time. For instance, in Judaism, meat and dairy products should not be cooked together; some Orthodox Jews would not combine meat and fish. Many Muslims look at the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) diet and see that he did not eat the following kinds of food together: milk and sour food, milk and meat, or milk and eggs. He also avoided two hot or cold foods at the same time, as well as two fried or dried foods. The Prophet (pbuh) did not prefer to eat extremely hot food and said blessings would be with cooler food. Religious traditions also have certain dietary prohibitions. For instance, Judaism and Islam prohibit eating certain animals, and permitted animals have to be slaughtered according to the religious law.
Diet is an important part of one’s health, but it’s not the only factor. Health is determined by many things, including culture, genetics, education, and other lifestyle factors.