Both the nutrition school I attended, Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), and Hawthorn University, where I began a doctorate in Holistic Nutrition Education, used a term that is critical to understanding what’s best for YOUR body – BIO-INDIVIDUALITY™. Bio-Individuality™ is such an important concept in current nutrition theory, IIN even trademarked the term.
There’s no one-size-fits-all diet – each person is a unique individual with highly individualized nutritional requirements. Personal differences in anatomy, metabolism, body composition and cell structure all influence your overall health and the foods that make you feel your best. That’s why no single way of eating works for everyone. The food that is perfect for your unique body, age, and lifestyle may make another person gain weight and feel lethargic.
Men eat differently than women, children eat differently than adults, and we all have very different preferences. Our personal tastes and inclinations, natural shapes and sizes, blood types, metabolic rates and genetic backgrounds influence what foods will and won’t nourish us.
What did your ancestors eat?
One of the major factors shaping bio-individuality is ancestry. If many generations of your ancestors from Scandinavia were accustomed to eating dairy on a daily basis, it’s likely that your body will be able to assimilate dairy foods.
Most traditional African communities did not regularly consume milk products, by contrast, so it makes sense that a lot of people of African descent today are lactose intolerant.
I am gluten intolerant to the wheat grown in the United States. That means my body perceives the gluten protein as a foreign invader and responds accordingly. (Interestingly, I ate pizza almost everyday in Italy with no problem. The U.S. has been increasing the gluten present in the wheat it grows to unnatural proportions. Watch for another blog on that topic!)
How fast is your metabolism?
Another aspect of bio-individuality is metabolism, or the rate at which you convert food into energy. You may recall that as a teenager you could wolf down burgers, fries, soda and ice cream all in one meal, without any indigestion or tightening of your jeans. That’s because young people have faster metabolic rates and burn calories more quickly than adults. And if you’re now over 45-years old, as a kid or teen, you probably were outside moving around, not sitting in front of a video game. Even adults have different types of metabolic activity that all require varying proportions of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Knowing what you metabolize best will help you choose foods that support your individual body.
These are just a few of the factors that influence what foods will and won’t nourish you.
Ultimately, one person’s food may be another person’s poison, and that is why fad diets don’t work in the long run. You need to find the diet that works for you and your needs. People are different, and getting to know your own body is an essential step in staying healthy! Working with a health coach can help you determine the most beneficial ways of eating for your bio-individual body.