There are thousands of approaches to diet that claim to be the right one, but the truth is that we’re all different: humans have widely varying metabolisms, health conditions, allergies, and digestive systems, and that means one universal approach to diet and exercise just doesn’t make sense. Because of this, dietary researchers have looked into nutrition genetics – relying on a DNA nutrition analysis as one of the most effective ways out there for determining how a person should be feeding and nurturing their body.
What is nutrition genetics?
Nutrition genetics – or “nutrigenetics” – is a scientific study that focuses on a person’s genes, and uses that information to examine how their unique makeup might inform their nutritional needs. The results of nutrigenetics are meant to inform you on dietary advice that makes sense for your nutrition genome, rather than the overly general trendy tips we typically receive from the health and wellness industry. Essentially, this increasingly-popular nutritional approach will provide you with a tailored health plan so you can eat the foods and take up the exercise routines that are best suited for your exact body. As with most diets and supposed “best” approaches to health and wellness, DNA analysis nutrition is still largely theoretical. Researchers continue to debate on which aspects of genetics should be taken into account, and how to translate those results into a tailored nutrition plan. There’s also the ongoing debate of nature versus nurture. For example, a DNA nutrition analysis might claim that you’re predisposed to not be able to handle regular amounts of sugar, but you might have grown up in a malnutrition that rendered you hyperglycemic – a.k.a., not enough sugar in your blood. So, a DNA nutrition analysis can likely tell you a lot about yourself and your health needs, but the best approach is to factor in your environment as well, take the DNA test results with a grain of salt, and proceed with caution.
What will a DNA nutrition analysis tell you about yourself?
If you’re interested in looking into your nutrition genome, there are quite a few tests on the market that will tell you about yourself from a nutritional perspective. Of course, general DNA tests allow you to receive a wide variety of information about yourself: like ancestry, family history, what sort of diseases or illnesses you’re more or less vulnerable to, and who your parents are. A DNA nutrition analysis will hone in on your nutrition genome, examining possible nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, food sensitivities, or whether or not you’re at greater risk for nutrition-related diseases or illnesses. The test will also explore your body’s relation to macronutrients and micronutrients: a.k.a., the nutrients your body needs in large amounts, and those your body needs in smaller amounts.
Macronutrients are known as the major base of a diet, and must be consumed in a balanced manner in order to enrich your health. Restricting any one of the categories is never a good idea. Instead, you need to opt for a macronutrient equity that makes the most sense for your body, whether or not that’s from a perspective of DNA analysis nutrition.
Carbohydrates (a.k.a. “carbs”) are often viewed in a negative light – well, unless you’re Regina George. Stigmatized as the crux of all weight gain, people on diets are likely to try and avoid carbohydrates. However, our bodies need carbs in order to function and thrive…as long as the proper balance is struck. Most carbohydrates are found in natural, plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, milk, grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. And these options will fall into one of three carbohydrate categories:
- Fiber: A complex carbohydrate that is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes.
- Starch: A complex carbohydrate made up of several sugar units bonded together. Starch is naturally found in vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes.
- Sugar: The simplest type of carbohydrate often naturally found in fruits, vegetables, or milks. The three types of sugar are fructose, sucrose, and lactose.
Carbs are our main source of fuel. Once they’re broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, they move into the body’s cells via insulin, and are eventually utilized for energy. In general, about 45-65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates – and where you should sit in this range might have something to do with your nutrition genome.
Fats suffer a reputation that is almost as bad as carbs’, but they’re equally important for maintaining a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle. Fats help our cells grow, protect our vital organs, aid with hormone production, and distribute vitamins and minerals throughout the body. There are two types of fats people consume:
- Saturated fats
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, like butter, margarine, coconut oil, whole fat dairy products, or marbled meat fat. These types of fats should make up around 5-6 percent of our daily total fat consumption – which is 20-35 percent of our entire diet.
- Unsaturated fats
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (like olive or canola oil), and are known for decreasing cholesterol and being rich in antioxidants (like vitamin E or omega-3s). And while saturated and unsaturated fats are essential for daily consumption, there’s one type of fat that should be avoided at all costs:
- Trans fats
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been artificially turned into saturated fats. They raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, which in turn increases stroke risk and heart disease. Trans fats are commonly found in fried foods, frozen foods, non-dairy creamers, and shortenings.
Protein is the one macronutrient that is most commonly glorified. Instead of people avoiding it like the plague, they tend to prioritize it over any other form of nutrition – especially athletes or bodybuilders. Protein is found throughout the body: in hair, bone, muscle, skin, and much more. It’s recommended that about 10-35 percent of our daily caloric intake be from protein, and that can vary widely depending on you (especially if you’re utilizing a DNA analysis nutrition plan). It’s made up of over 20 amino acids – nine of which are essential, and nine of which we get from our everyday diet. Proper protein intake is essential for building muscle and losing fat, but just as it’s possible to have too little each day, there’s definitely such a thing as too much protein. The diet and fitness industry markets a wide variety of protein-rich products to consumers – like powders, bars, drinks, or sweets. However, many of these products contain amounts of protein that are too high for the body to absorb at once. In general, it’s recommended that people get their protein from natural sources, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
In general, fruits and vegetables tend to have lower levels of protein, but some particularly higher sources include broccoli, asparagus, corn, brussels sprouts, and artichokes.
Legumes (including beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, or edamame) are quite rich in plant-based protein.
- Nuts and seeds
This protein-rich category includes almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
- Whole grains
Whole grains like teff, wheat, rice, quinoa, millet, oats, kamut, or buckwheat are quite high in protein content.
- Animal protein
Animals are another great source of protein, if you happen to eat them. Poultry (chicken, duck, or turkey) and seafood (fish, mollusks, or crustaceans) are typically the healthiest choice, but red meats are also decent options for protein intake (like beef, pork, veal, lamb, goat, or mutton). Processed meats should always be avoided – like bacon, hot dogs, sausage, or cold cuts.
DNA analysis nutrition might help you have a better understanding of micronutrients, and which ones make the most sense for you to prioritize. Because the body requires them in smaller amounts, micronutrients often get overlooked. As a result, many people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, which leaves them more susceptible to disease or illness. To enjoy a balanced lifestyle, you’ll want to make sure you strike a good balance of vitamins and minerals to accompany your macronutrient requirements. You can usually get all of the vitamins and minerals you need from your everyday diet, but in some cases you might need to take supplements if you’re suffering from some sort of deficiency.
Vitamins are organic substances that either fall under the category “fat-soluble” or “water-soluble.” Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamins C and B-complex.
Minerals are found in soil or water: inorganic elements that are absorbed by plants or consumed by animals. This includes calcium, potassium, sodium, copper, iodine, zinc, and more.