Scientifically, What Is the Perfect Diet?

Eat to maintain a healthy body composition.

Scientifically, what would be the perfect diet? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

There has long been a debate about what the one perfect diet is. Traditionally, a diet was simply the way that you ate. Over time it has evolved to mean, "restricting your current intake of food to lose weight." Regardless of which definition you prefer, there is one perfect diet that does both.

The perfect diet is out there, but not in the way that you think. There is no one perfect diet that works for every single person on this entire planet. That's impossible. Each person has a different set of nutritional requirements to keep them healthy. Many diets will sustain you or keep you alive. That doesn't mean that they are good for you long term. Your perfect diet should not just keep you alive, it should help you thrive. It should give you the best possible intake of nutrients to allow your body to be as healthy as it can be.

Rather than one universal diet, there is a set of principles to determine what diet is perfect for you. A perfect diet should:

Be High in Nutrients

Move away from the food group philosophy and toward a nutrient philosophy. Eat nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. You do not specifically need to consume milk and milk alternatives, meat and meat alternatives, and grain products. Most nutrient recommendations are based on making sure that people have sufficient nutrients. They do not focus on getting optimal nutrients (especially vitamins). The recommended daily intake (RDI) does not focus on providing optimal nutrition. It also does not focus on how to improve the current state of your health. Make sure that you at least hit the RDI for each nutrient. Choose foods that are high in vitamins and minerals. Foods are the most nutrient-dense when they are fresh, so choose fresh as often as possible. Work with a dietician to determine if there are any nutrients you will benefit from in higher amounts.

Balance Blood Sugar

Balance your insulin and blood sugar because of the connection to other hormones in the body. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. When it's too high you end up storing fat. Eating carbohydrates in moderation is important for hormonal balance. The percentage of calories from carbohydrates is far too high for many people. Eating protein or fat with carbohydrates is another way to slow the release of sugar. This can help to prevent insulin spikes.

Provide Food Security

Your diet should be financially feasible and readily available. You may overlook the ability to buy food. Not everyone has the option to eat food regularly. Contribute to food systems that support those who go hungry. Everyone deserves to eat healthy food. Our system can change if there's enough demand for it.

Be Affordable

Eat the highest-quality food that you can afford without breaking the bank. Put a higher proportion of income into better-quality food to invest in your health. You will reduce the amount of money needed to treat chronic conditions down the line.

Be Low in Processed Foods

Processed food or a food product is a combination of foods and/or chemicals that have been subjected to some type of processing to make them more palatable or accessible to eat. There are countless studies that point to health risks related to a diet high in processed food. Instead, eat real food. Food is anything that comes naturally from the earth. It is not altered, modified, or processed. Food can be raised or grown, like animals or vegetables, and is alive before consumption.

Contain Variety

You want to eat a wide variety of foods. Most people tend to get little variety, consuming the same types of foods all year. Change your diet each quarter and eat what's in season. Opt for different varieties of vegetables and fruits that you see in your average grocery store. Shopping at different stores will open up your options. It's also easy to grow some of your own vegetables. Order seeds that grow well in your area and add variety to your plate.

Be Sustainable Long-term

A perfect diet will be sustainable and have a positive environmental impact. It should put nutrients back into the soil to keep it healthy for future generations. There is a direct correlation between the quality of our food and our health.

Healthy soil = healthy food = healthy people

Provide Adequate Hydration

Water is an overlooked component of health. Make sure that your intake of fluids doesn't dilute you so much that you are losing all your electrolytes. You also don't want to drink so little that you're dehydrated. Find the right balance of water for you based on activity level, outside temperature, and your sweat rate.

Fuel for Your Activity Level

Eat to maintain a healthy body composition. Plan your calorie consumption based on the amount of energy you are burning. If you are gaining unwanted weight or not losing weight while trying to, you are consuming too many calories. On the other end, if you are starting to lose weight when you aren’t trying to, your calorie intake is too low.

Have a Balanced Social Component

Lack of social connection is a greater predictor of illness than any specific food choice on its own. When people go on super-strict diets or follow quirky health trends that leave them with only a few food options, their social connections suffer. I'm not advocating for eating at every social engagement. If your diet is socially isolating, you're on the wrong diet.

If you’re looking to be even healthier, there’s so much more to the picture than just nutrition. I love sharing information about other aspects of health to help you live a richer life.

This question originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

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