Ever wondered why certain diets work wonders for some and not others? Leading expert on culinary genomics and BioCeuticals guest speaker, Amanda Archibald, says it could be less to do with willpower and more to do with genes.
Trying to figure out what you should (and shouldn’t) be eating can be incredibly confusing. A personalised diet based on our own DNA takes away the guesswork around which ingredient, or which choice of fat, works best for each individual.
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We each have a unique gene blueprint. The variations in our genes not only shape our nutritional needs (as well as shed light on how exercise and lifestyle factors influence gene behaviour), but can also be the reason some people find it harder to lose weight and others may be prone to gut problems. It’s why one-size-fits-all trend diets don’t work for everyone.
Taking a personalised approach to diet provides you with the ultimate guide to food – right down to the nutrients you need, how much and even how to cook your food for optimal health.
The power of your genes
Humans share 99 per cent of the same genes and genes respond to food the same way in all of us. Variants in the remaining one per cent of genes, called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs, account for the difference between us. SNPs explain our traits like eye colour and also explain why some people can eat insatiably and never gain weight, and others are not so lucky.
Genomic testing identifies gene variations and allows health practitioners trained in nutrigenomics to fine-tune diet and exercise to work in harmony with our unique gene combination. You might need more foods rich in vitamin D, whereas they might need more seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
What is culinary genomics?
Culinary genomics combines the fields of nutrigenomics (how food influences your genes) and the culinary arts. It ultimately puts the right ingredients, prepared in the right way, onto your plate, ensuring the transfer of nutrition information to your genes. While eating for your genes is personalised, there are some broad approaches that can be adopted by everyone. Some of my top tips for eating for your genes include:
1. The Basics
Don’t eat the same foods day in, day out. Each ingredient has a unique nutrition signature and variety is important. Try to choose a wide variety of food, mixing up cooked and raw ingredients, with an emphasis on cruciferous vegetables, herbs and spices. Eat seasonally, as each season also brings unique nutrition information through in-season produce.
2. Master Genes
Our master genes (considered potentially more influential than other genes) direct and determine the efficiency of important processes in the body, such as how we handle inflammation, oxidative stress, detoxification and how we metabolise fats and carbohydrates. Foods that activate (or deactivate) these genes include blueberries, grapes, kale, onion, turmeric, watermelon, apples, leeks, edamame, bok choy, cabbage and radishes.
3. Oxidative Stress
Vegetables from the cruciferous family – like broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower, help to reduce oxidative stress which can lead to inflammation, but their effectiveness depends on how you prepare them. When you cut these vegetables, you activate a natural chemical process that produces the phytochemical sulforaphane, which helps to switch on powerful antioxidant genes to produce enzymes that fight oxidative stress. To maximise sulforaphane, you need to chop up your cruciferous veggies an hour before cooking.
Other foods provide essential nutrients that ensure the smooth running of essential biochemical cycles in our bodies – one of these cycles influences how well your brain handles mood, anxiety and even sleep. Add Brazil nuts, spinach, mushrooms, avocado, oranges, eggs and sunflower seeds to the shopping basket.
There’s no need for exotic superfoods. Lentils and sesame seeds for example, have a large number of vitamins and minerals that support the work of proteins created by our genes and are needed for good health.
6. Gut Health
Pay extra attention to ingredients like kombucha, asparagus, yoghurt, miso and tempeh. These are essential to the inner workings of your gut. We need a healthy gut to absorb all the key nutrients from foods and maximise the genomic process.
Before making changes to your diet always consult a dietitian or a healthcare professional.
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