Do you find it hard to eat a healthy diet … because you’re not quite sure what that actually means? It seems like everyone has a different opinion about what constitutes a healthy diet. Should you follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans? Should you count calories or focus more on macronutrients? What about supposedly “heart healthy” grains? Is low-carb a better way to go?

It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re trying to do the right thing, but there’s so much conflicting information out there. Whether your goal is to lose weight, stay healthy as you age, increase your energy, or improve your athletic performance, the right diet plays a huge role in your health and wellness. But how can you be sure what the right diet is?

There’s a lot of confusion about what to eat, and for good reason. Historically, clinical trials and medical studies have been conducted using mostly white males, with the results extrapolated to different patient groups. We now know that what works for one group doesn’t automatically work for another, but there is still a problematic lack of diversity in clinical trials and medical research.

Genetic differences influence how we process and react to different medications or treatments. For instance, 75 percent of Pacific Islanders don’t produce an enzyme needed to activate the blood thinner Plavix. And African Americans, who are often affected by asthma, don’t respond as well as caucasians to some of the most commonly prescribed asthma medications.

The same is true of diet. Genetic variants — which can be, but are not always, associated with race and ethnicity — influence numerous functions throughout the body, including how we process various foods, how we use and store energy, and how susceptible we are to weight gain (or regain). A study that found whole grains to be healthy for one group may not hold true for another group. You may lack an enzyme that is required to digest carbohydrates, but the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories. Following this advice could lead to continued intestinal distress, fatigue, and weight gain.

In short, that means there is no one diet that works for everyone. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly how your body works. Our DNA test analyzes more than 80 different genetic markers to determine how you respond to different foods, how likely you are to store excess fat, which nutritional deficiencies you may be at risk of, and numerous other factors that help determine your ideal diet type. From our research, we have identified four broad healthy diet types:

Low-carb diet

People who have difficulty digesting carbohydrates tend to do best on a diet that is low in carbs, especially refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, and sugar. Low-carb diets are often effective for weight loss. If weight loss is the goal, the diet may consist of an initial phase where carb intake is very low, followed by a maintenance phase where carbohydrates represent up to 40 percent of total daily calories.

A low-carb diet should contain a variety of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, particularly leafy greens. Protein sources can include legumes, fish, seafood, and poultry. Foods with added sugar should be avoided, especially if the goal is weight loss.

Low-fat diet

Individuals with certain genetic variants that make them more sensitive to dietary fat are at a greater risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, and should adhere to a diet that is lower in fat. This diet should limit foods such as fatty meats, butter, full-fat dairy products, fried foods, ice cream, and other desserts.

A low-fat diet can include a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. Avoid fried foods, such as French fries. Processed and refined grains should be avoided, although whole grains are allowed. For protein, limit red meat, and remove any visible fat and skin from meat, fish, and poultry. Avoid cheese, and choose low-fat dairy products without added sugar. In a low-fat diet, dietary fat should not exceed 25 percent of total daily calories.

Mediterranean diet

Widely recognized as one of the healthiest ways of eating, a Mediterranean diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods, primarily plant foods. It emphasizes healthy sources of fat, including olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. Animal products are eaten only in moderation. Wine is also allowed in moderation. Sugar, soda, refined grains, and processed foods should be avoided.

A Mediterranean diet consists of roughly 45 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein, and 35 percent fat.

Balanced diet

The final diet type is a balanced diet, which contains an array of nutrient-dense foods from all macronutrient groups: fats, carbohydrates, and protein. As with the other diet types, fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors are recommended. Red meat should be limited, and foods with added sugar should be avoided.

Variations can exist within all four diet types. For example, you could adapt any of them to accommodate a vegetarian diet. Low-carb diets could be adapted to a ketogenic diet, where carbs represent only 5-10 percent of total daily calories, which causes the body to shift its primary source of energy from carbohydrates to fat. Ketogenic diets can be very effective for weight loss, and have been used to treat health conditions such as epilepsy and PCOS.

What is your ideal diet type? Find out with your personalized genetic report from Vivaliti DNA and finally put an end to the confusion about what to eat! Eating a diet that’s tailored to your individual genetics can help you meet your health goals, lose weight, and avoid age-related disease. Request a consultation with a Vivaliti Health Coach today to learn more!