Personalized nutrition is buzzy — and the idea of doing a DNA or stool test to determine the best diet based on your genetics or digestive system sounds impressive. But buyer beware, some experts say.
“There’s not enough information out there or studies yet to confirm their effectiveness,” says Keri Gans, RDN, author of “The Small Change Diet.” The research is still in its infancy, so it’s smarter to wait until we have more proof before you hand over your credit card number.
In the meantime, you can DIY a test or diet that works just as well. Here’s how:
“Really look at your reasons for changing your diet,” Gans says. Do you believe in the ethical reasons for going vegan or are you just avoiding animal products because you think it’ll clear up your acne? Are you giving up gluten because a celebrity says it helped her lose weight or do you honestly think you have an intolerance? “Focus on what matters most to you,” says Jackie S. Womble, RDN, an exercise physiologist and nutritionist.
If you’re curious about a Paleo or vegetarian diet, give it a try. Or if you’re the type who’s considering cutting back on carbs or cutting out certain foods entirely, try that. However, if you plan to go that route, do one thing at a time. Eliminate only gluten or only dairy or only soy. Don’t do them all at once, otherwise you won’t know which ingredient is causing the changes you feel.
“Give it about a month for your body to adjust to the plan and start feeling the effects,” Womble says. That said, if you get halfway through and continuing would be brutal, don’t force yourself — clearly it’s not the right plan for you.
The only way to know if the diet is making a difference is to track it. You can do this however is easiest for you, though many people like to use an app. “Food trackers like MyFitnessPal are a great way to document the foods you’ve eaten and how you are feeling after a meal,” Womble says. “This can be helpful when trying to identify trigger foods for certain medical conditions, as well as general fatigue, headaches or stomach pains.”
At the end of your test, take an honest look at your logs. If you feel better than you have on your former eating plan and you know you can keep this going, it’s likely your personal best diet. But keep in mind, “You don’t have to put an end date on this,” Gans says. “Try these things, see how you feel, allow yourself time to adjust and choose if you want to try something else.”
Even then, your diet may evolve over time to fit your lifestyle and beliefs as they shift. Your plan is your plan, so do you without the need to put a label on it.