on January 2, 2011
I had been eating (very) low-carb and high-protein for the better part of a decade - and I had gotten a lot of practice arrogantly dismissing suggestions (from any source) that I should change anything about my diet.
It is a testimony to the insightfulness of this book that it persuaded me to change.
How was I persuaded?
* The Jaminets are highly educated (Ph.D.s both), but not they're not nutritionists and are not bound by any party line.
* They amass a huge volume of scientific literature in support of their assertions - about 1/3 of every page is journal citations.
* They write clearly, and are clearly motivated by a desire to share the keys they've discovered for better health.
* Time after time, while reading, I exclaimed "so *that's* why!" - there's an overarching framework they build, and after reading it I have a much broader and deeper understanding of health and nutrition.
The changes I made were:
1. Eat a modest amount (15-20%) of calories as carbs from what they call "safe starches" (rice & potatoes in my case.)
2. Eat a large (~70%) of calories from fat. In particular, I consume dramatically more butter (kerrygold!), and I've added a fair bit of coconut oil too.
3. (As a result, the amount of protein I eat has dropped somewhat.)
4. Supplementing with a mix of the vitamins they recommend.
5. Doing a 24-hour fast once a week.
Results: (after 1.5 months or so.)
1. I'm no longer "brain-dead" and unable to think in the evenings after work.
2. I no longer have fruit or chocolate cravings.
3. I'm much happier, and wake up looking forward to the day.
4. I've been much more social.
5. The extra starch has not resulted in weight gain. (I always gained weight when eating carbs before.)
6. It looks like the fasting (which I've never tried before) is helping my alertness and also contributing to healthy weight loss.
It took less than a week for me to notice dramatic changes. The diet guidelines are straightforward and fit on a page, but the explanatory material is priceless. The Jaminets post on an ongoing basis at their perfecthealthdiet dot com blog as well.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
on October 29, 2010
The Perfect Health Diet is an extremely well referenced and supported diet book. I have read maybe fifty health and nutrition books, many in the "low carb", "paleo", "traditional eating" and "whole foods" categories. This book is the best that I have read. Every issue is discussed in detail.
The end product is a diet that has similar macronutrient ratios to Pacific islanders with high levels of longevity and resistance to disease. How they deduce that such a diet is optimal is pretty interesting. The authors use the premise that your body can convert one type of macronutrient to another, but such conversion may not be optimal. Why go completely high protein when your body will just make glucose from protein? Why go high carb when the carbohydrates above 600 calories a day are converted to saturated fat? The authors also point to the nutrients in human milk as evidence on what might be optimal to eat. The discussion of macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates) was the most detailed I have seen in any nutrition book for a non-professional audience.
The diet is a "paleolithic" diet in that it suggests avoiding food toxins such as fructose (sugar), grains other than white rice, legumes and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The book is quite specific about the evidence on these toxins. The diet is fine with so-called "safe starches", such as potatoes and white rice. It ends up being a high fat diet by calories as protein and carbohydrates are given generous upper bounds. Coconut oil is praised.
A section on supplements gives reasonable advice to focus on a few key nutrients and to avoid a few other common supplements. All the advice is quite reasonable.
Readers who still need to be convinced that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are not the causes of heart disease might start with a more basic book that fights all the introductory fights (Good Calories, Bad Calories by Taubes is one, albeit lengthy suggestion). But for someone buying into the basic paradigm and looking to optimize their own health through nutrition, the Perfect Health Diet is the best book to buy.
on January 24, 2012
Don't let the somewhat corny title of this book put you off. This book is a wonderful and very simple introduction to real healthy eating for anyone currently eating a average-quality diet.
Great things about this book:
1. For those that just want the facts super-fast this book gives you a one page summary of the eating plan within the first 6 pages of the book. The book also contains lots of extra information backing up their conclusions as well, for those that want it.
2. This book is about eating healthily and how to improve your health and reduce your risk of getting ill in the future with diet - rather than just about mere weight loss - which is so refreshing. Slow weight normalisation is a side effect of following this diet for sure, but it is not the primary focus.
3. The research for the book began when the authors were each working to improve their own health issues through diet. The authors are genuinely nice people that are passionate about helping others get the same results they have and the subject of a healthy diet and this comes through clearly on every page of this book.
4. The diet the authors recommend is made up of 20% carbs, 65% fat and 15% protein. So it is a low/moderate carb, high fat and moderate protein diet by calories, and 35% animal foods and 65% plant foods by weight. This is very similar to a traditional Pacific Islander diet, the authors explain.
The sections explaining the facts of fats, carbs and protein are of a very high quality and seem to summarise the work of all the best books I have read on nutrition and diet lately. The problems with a high carb diet are clearly spelled out as are the benefits of a high fat diet.
5. The book also recommends avoiding all grains (other than rice), legumes, dry lean meats, vegetable oils and pasteurised dairy products and recommends eating unlimited non-starchy vegetables (750 grams a day or more or 1.5 pounds), 200 - 450 grams or so (0.5 to 1 pound) of fatty meat/seafood/eggs, about 4 teaspoons of healthy fats (ghee, lard and coconut oil and a bit of olive oil), and snacking on nuts, cheese and fruit.
The authors warn that while fibre can be helpful, for some people too much fibre can be a real problem.
6. Where this book differs from many others in the same (reduced-carb and traditional foods) vein is that it explains that, yes, while your body can make the glucose it needs from protein when you eat a low carb diet, this process taxes the body unnecessarily and the conversion may be inefficient. This is especially true for those that are ill, the authors explain.
Despite my making a bit of a hobby of reading a large amount of very good books on healthy eating and diet in recent years, no other book had made these same points. So having this explained so well finally was wonderful and it explained a lot!
(I did really well on a 20 grams of carbohydrate a day diet for 6 - 9 months or so. I felt well and had no more hypoglycemia and lost a lot of weight. But after that 6 months was up my body seemed to really struggle with it, perhaps due to the fact I have severe metabolic, endocrine, and cardiac problems. (I'm housebound and 95% bedbound and very disabled.) When I finally went back up to 50 - 75 grams of carbs a day (years later) I felt so much better, and finally was able to start losing some of the weight that had crept back on on my super-low carb regime. It was also a much more pleasant way to eat; being able to have 5 cups of veggies a day and a bit of fruit! I feel like staying on this super-low carb diet for so long delayed my health from beginning to improve as well, as it made my body work harder than it had to on food assimilation which of course leaves less metabolic energy and bodily resources left over for the work of healing.)
The book explains that eating very low carb and making your body convert proteins to carbs puts strain on the liver and uses up bodily resources, generates ammonia as a toxic by-product, puts a person at risk of glucose deprivation if the are ill or lacking in certain nutrients and makes nutrient deficiencies more likely due to lower fruit and vegetable intake. Very low carbohydrate intake can also cause problems with vitamin C utilisation that may even lead to scurvy, as vitamin C is stimulated by insulin. For these reasons they recommend eating an amount of carbs daily which is very close to how much the body actually needs; 200 - 400 carb calories daily (or roughly 50 - 100 grams of carbs daily).
I agree with the authors that healthy people will likely have few problems converting one macronutrients to another (such as protein to carbs, and carbs to fat) but for those of us that are ill it is best to save your body the work and to eat foods in the appropriate macro-nutrient percentages to start with. That just seems to make so much sense!
Things about the book I am not sure about, to some entent:
1. I'm not convinced that all of us can handle the foods the authors describe as "safe starches" and in those amounts. For me eating rice with meals gives me so much carbohydrate it leaves me feeling spacey, hungry and unsatisfied. I am also unconvinced that eating rice is better for you than eating the same amount of carbs in vegetable form, as the authors even say themselves in the book that rice is low in nutrients compared to other foods, calorie for calorie. There is no real nutrition in it, and so for me no reason to eat it - and lots of reasons not to.
I found it even more surprising that not only did the authors recommend eating rice often, but they even extended this to processed foods like rice crackers and rice noodles. Foods many of us with an interest in healthy eating and nutrient-dense eating just wouldn't want to eat at all.
I recommend trying the authors' "safe starches" idea and seeing if it works for you, but being aware that for some of us these foods may be best avoided or minimised and eating LOTS of non-starchy veggies and 2-3 serves of fruit may work better for you.
2. Like many others I also cannot tolerate any of the dairy products the author recommends and also have egg allergy issues. I feel these issues could have been discussed a bit more in the book, as they are so so common. I also think fermented foods and drinks could have been emphasised more and disagree with the authors' assertions that nuts and seeds need only be soeaked if you eat a lot of them. For those of us with lots of gut and digestion problems, soaking all nuts and seeds can make a wonderful difference that is really noticeable.
(I wish so much I had learned about the importance of soaking nuts and eating fermented foods sooner!)
3. While this book provides a great summary of many of many of the best books on nutrition, the same cannot be said of the information given on supplements. This information was very patchy, incomplete and just plain wrong in many instances and it does not at all tally with the information given by those that are the genuine experts in this field. The information seems to come from strange sources, and not from genuine experts in the field. The RDAs are quoted a lot and discussed as if they were important and trustworthy and no names of orthomolecular experts or similar are really mentioned.
Such an average quality and incomplete guide may be okay for healthy people but for anyone battling serious health issues I would urge them to read far more deeply on this topic than this book allows and to ignore much of the information given in this book.
Despite what the authors of this book claim, those of us with serious health issues absolutely need intelligent and often intensive and wide-ranging supplementation along with a healthy diet before we can start to regain our health. We need as much of each nutrient as we actually need, and not just how much the RDA has been arbitrarily set at. Supplement plans must be individualised, as much as possible. We also need to take the right balance of nutrients, and not lots of one thing and none of another related thing. This has absolutely been my experience and holds true for vast numbers of other patients.
This sort of diet change is always the first step in improcving health however, and for some lucky people it may be enough. For others it is just the first essential step of many others!
(See: Detoxify or Die,Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone: Megavitamin Therapeutics for Families and Physicians,Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life and Dr. Atkins' Vita-Nutrient Solution: Nature's Answer to Drugs and others, for more information on this topic.)
4. The book could have done with having wider margins and more white space on the page, as well as fewer black and white images of foods (many of which looked awful or were hard to make out). Overall the book was very well put together and well edited, however.
Even if you have read the wonderful books by Taubes, Fallon and Enig, Gedgaudes, Cordain, Price, Sisson, Schwartzbein, Shanahan, Eades etc. this book is still worth reading.
I rate this as a 5 star book for healthy people who want to learn to eat better, but not quite a 5 star book when it comes to being a complete guide for those battling serious illnesses. It isn't a complete guide to health for ill people, just a very solid starting point on diet. So that is why I give the book 4 stars overall.
Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E. (HFME) and Health, Healing & Hummingbirds (HHH)
on February 8, 2012
Perfect Health Diet completes what Atkins began, and the so-called "Paleo diet" movement continues. If you are at all interested in improving your health with an approach based on solid science, you want this book.
Background: I was an Atkins dieter in the 1990's. Lost a lot of weight, but staying on it was difficult.
Last year I came off a bout of depression determined to beat it without drugs. I stopped eating sugar and (surprise!) started losing weight. Since exercise is also helpful to depression, I thought that it would be better if I kept losing weight to reduce my chance of injury while exercising. Along the way I found that many of the things that are recommended in the Perfect Health Diet greatly helped me in losing weight.
I lost a total of seventy pounds. As a man at fifty-five years old and 195 pounds, I am now in better physical condition than I was in my 20's. This is due in large part to the dietary recommendations in the Perfect Health Diet.
What is even better is that the recommendations in the Perfect Health Diet led to removing the last things that were contributing to my depression. I believe now that grains and omega-6 in vegetable oil was making me depressed. That's why adding omega-3 fish oil to your diet helps fight depression, something I had started doing without understanding why.
To go back to the beginning, the Atkins diet had two flaws which undermined long-term weight loss:
1) Atkins diet "phases" lead to the idea that somehow you lose your weight and then slowly phase back into eating "normal" food. Atkins didn't say this exactly, but it's implied.
2) When Atkins wrote the Diet Revolution book, he didn't have access to the research that we have now, and couldn't see that some fats (high omega-6 vegetable oils) are bad for you, while some carbs in moderation (rice, sweet potato) are okay. His blanket recommendation to get rid of all carbs would have been better focused on SUGAR, FRUCTOSE and GRAINS.
The Perfect Health Diet is written so that you can read to whatever depth of scientific detail you want to. I am about done with my third time through. My particular health issue is depression, and the Perfect Health Diet has many links to dietary causes of depression. The most helpful aspect is that it is written from the perspective that this way of eating is a PERMANENT change, and that this way of eating is based on sound science, including cultural and epidemiology studies, not just lab experiments.
This book is a good companion volume to "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" by Gary Taubes.
The only qualification that I would add is that the book recommends eating a lot of fish rather than using supplements for omega-3. This recommendation is based on the observation that most fish oil capsules are stored at room temperature and the oil may go rancid without you knowing it. My answer is to take fish oil as a liquid and KEEP IT REFRIGERATED. It's lemon or lime flavored and refrigeration keeps the the fishy taste down. No capsules needed, and it's actually cheaper than capsules.
Again, as a person who has lost seventy pounds and now enjoy a life free of depression. I wholeheartedly recommend the Perfect Health Diet.
on October 12, 2011
I am a former long-time vegetarian who has turned to a paleo-style diet in an attempt to treat chronic fatigue and autoimmune issues. The diet I follow is almost identical to the Perfect Health Diet, and I learned a lot from this book, especially about the importance of short-chain fatty acids, the role of fiber in a healthy diet, the reactivity of sugars, and ketogenic fasting. However, I am giving the book only two stars because a) I am deducting a star because the book lacks an index; and b) the authors claim that food toxins are found exclusively in non-paleo foods, and ignore the toxicity of animal products.
The authors base their prohibitions of grains, legumes and vegetable oils on the concept of toxins inherent in these foods which cause various forms of damage to the body. However, they do not address the fact that environmental toxins accumulate in fat tissue, so unless you're eating animals that ate food that was never touched by pesticides, drank filtered water, lived in uncontamined bodies of water, or breathed filtered air, you're eating the chemicals that accumulated in their bodies. Animal liver, which the Jaminets recommend eating weekly, will contain even higher levels of toxins than fatty tissue, because the job of the liver is to filter toxins. Even though I eat only naturally-fed, humanely-raised animal products, I try to protect myself from the environmental toxins that will inevitably end up in those foods by taking chlorella and regularly going to the sauna. A good detox strategy is an essential part of modern-day paleo eating on our filthy planet. Within the context of our food system, it is certainly not true to say that "animal foods are generally non-toxic" (p.120).
I believe that the only mention of environmental toxins in this book is a recommendation not to eat tuna and swordfish because they are more likely to be contaminated than fish such as salmon and herring. But then the Jaminets go on to recommend eating farmed salmon, which researchers have found to contain much higher levels of PCBs, dioxins, and pesticides than wild salmon. The researchers, at the University at Albany Institute for Health and the Environment, recommend limiting consumption of farmed salmon to once or twice a month, based on EPA guidelines. (The Jaminets would have you eat up to a pound a week).
Farmed fish is acceptable to the Jaminets, as is feedlot beef, because it is naturally low in omega-6 fatty acids. And while they say it might be nice to buy pastured poultry and eggs, because the EFA ratio is better, it's more important to limit your consumption to a few times a week. According to the Jaminets, "animal foods should be selected for their fat content" (111). There is no discussion anywhere in this book of any other health problems associated with eating factory-farmed animal foods, and not a whisper of any environmental or moral reasons to choose naturally-raised animal products. It seems the Jaminets have focused their research so narrowly on technical questions of nutrition, that they really don't know much about the larger context of food production. For example, they seem to think that free-range chickens eat only "vegetables and insects, not cereal grains" (p. 110), but it's really not possible to raise healthy pastured chickens without supplementing their diet with feed. And in encouraging vegetarians to eat eggs and dairy, they claim that "no animals are killed to obtain these foods" (p. 269). As every vegan knows, almost all male chicks and calves in the egg and dairy industries are killed. They've never heard the slogan "veal depends on dairy"? They're not going to convince any vegans this way.
Animal products contain some inherent toxins too: considering the vast amount of research that went into this book, it's hard to believe that the authors missed the news about heme iron (the kind found in red meat): it has been found to form carcinogenic compounds in the gut (although research is inconclusive yet about whether eating fresh, unprocessed red meat causes colon cancer). However, this damage has been observed to be countered by the presence of chlorophyll in the gut. So to protect myself from this toxin, I always eat green, leafy vegetables at the same time I eat red meat. The authors do suggest always cooking meat with vegetables, but a more balanced book would have discussed the toxicity of heme iron. They do mention the opioid-like peptides, allergens, and naturally-occuring hormones found in milk, and they warn against copper build-up from eating too much beef liver.
In addition to environmental toxins, anyone contemplating buying some random piece of meat at Kroger's should know what else is likely to be in there: antibiotics and hormones, dyes, additives, etc. Oh, and that it was irradiated to kill the nasty things that result from feeding animals food they weren't designed to eat and from filthy industrial slaughterhouses. But if we are to believe the Jaminets, it's perfectly safe to eat animals that have eaten GMO corn and soy, although we ourselves should not eat anything genetically modified. According to them, "the best way to detoxify genetically modified grains" is to "let animals eat them first" (p. 156). In this heavily foot-noted book, this statement conspicuously lacks any references, such as studies comparing the tissue of animals that ate GMO feed vs. non-GMO feed. The Jaminets did, after all, just get done telling us that "such is the complexity of biology that seemingly innocuous genetic alterations can have far-reaching effects" (p.156).
I noticed a few other convenient inconsistencies which raised a flicker on my BS-detector and reduced my trust in the authors: on page 75 we read that Americans eat 3770 calories a day (roughly accurate, as of 2002, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization); but on page 174, to bolster their argument that Americans are undernourished, they claim that the average male "modern office worker" eats 2560 calories per day and his female co-worker a mere 1760 calories. In the section on grains, they tell us that because eating wheat germ increases stool weight, that means that eating wheat causes "large amounts of food to be excreted instead of digested" (p.123), although anyone who has read the section on fiber might wonder if that extra stool weight is actually made up of gut bacteria that proliferated feeding on the fiber. And it was just plain weird to see them recommending spirulina as a source of long-chain omega-3s for vegetarians, since spirulina is known to produce neurotoxins, something you'd think the authors would know about.
For anyone interested in paleo-style eating, I do recommend this book for its fascinating technical content; however, it needs to be placed within the larger context of industrial food production. There are many books covering that subject: Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma go in-depth; The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat gives a quick overview, and tells you what to do with your relatively non-toxic, ethically-produced meat.
on February 9, 2011
As a nutrition student, and nutrition consultation business owner, and collegiate athlete, I spend a significant amount of time (at least 2 hours/day) reading books on nutrition and health. Out of the 25 or so nutrition books that I've read in the last year, I have to say that "The Perfect Health Diet" is the best.
It is probably the best researched and most well written nutrition book that I have ever read. Not only did a huge amount of research go in to creating the guidelines, the science and rationale is incredibly well explained. The strategies in this book are, for the most part, not particularly new to someone who has been studying evolutionary/ancestral nutrition, but are better explained and implemented than other books, and is an incredibly powerful for improving health.
This book is THE most important tool you can give to someone who is suffering from a chronic disease of almost ANY type. The body cannot health itself, from metabolic damage or chronic infection, while it is constantly ingesting food toxins or is malnourished. The Jaminet's do a fantastic job of explaining why and how to do these exact things to heal yourself.
The basic ideas are to eliminate foods that humans are not well adapted to, primarily
1. Vegetable/grain/seed oils
2. Fructose and excessive sugar
3. Cereal grains
and then to replace them with foods abundant in micronutrients.
I have only one wish for this book. Although the primary aim is health and longevity, I wish it had more information on specifically maximizing physical recovery and sports performance. This is not a criticism, as it is outside the scope of this book, but I would be interested to hear the author's ideas on this.
If anyone you know is suffering from a health disorder, chronic disease, or just wants to enjoy a higher quality of life, get them to read this book.
on January 1, 2011
"The Perfect Health Diet" is clearly a labor of love. The Jaminets first researched this eating plan when trying to solve their own health problems, and they were so happy with the results that they self-published this book in order to share their findings with others. Their honest enthusiasm comes through on every page. They are not trying to sell a brand of supplements or smoothies or breakfast bars, or to get their own reality TV show. They just want to spread the news, so that other people can feel as good as they do. (Judging from their blog, they also seem to be genuinely nice people.)
On the whole, their recommendations will be somewhat familiar to anyone who's followed the South Beach, Atkins, or paleo diet: low carb, high in good fats, with a focus on unprocessed meat, fruit, and vegetables. Some aspects are more paleo than South Beach, especially their prohibition on cereal grains (not just processed white flour products) and legumes.
In the above respects, I think they're on pretty solid ground. However, some of their other, more specific, recommendations and claims seem to be well in advance of the science. (Full disclosure: I am not a scientist, and I base the following on my discussions of the book with my wife, who is a research pharmacologist.) For example, they're very big on coconut oil, and on white rice as a source of carbs. They do cite research papers for these positions, but the science pro and con is still very unsettled. While the Jaminets may turn out to be entirely correct, the reader should understand that they could just as likely be proven entirely wrong as the science develops. Similarly, I think they get a little carried away when making claims for what their plan can do (most notably, that cancer can be reversed through diet).
The book itself is quite technical -- the Jaminets acknowledge that they were writing for specialists as well as the general reader -- but not to the point of incomprehensibility. Their practical recommendations are clearly set forth in separate chapters, so it would be easy to go straight to them and skip the technical discussions. The layout, while functional, has a self-published look about it, with narrow margins and no apparent consciousness in the use of white space.
on December 6, 2010
This is a great and mind-opening book presenting the Jaminets' ideas on how to eat for health and longevity. The key ideas are clearly explained, with the reasoning behind them laid out, including references to research. They emphasize the principles, rather than laying out meal plans. They recommend a low carb (but not very low carb), moderate protein, high fat diet, with a few essential "details" - no grains (except white rice) or legumes, no vegetable oils (except olive oil and coconut oil, which is encouraged), and fairly limited fructose (including sucrose and HFCS). The fats will thus be mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, which may be shocking to you or to others who ask about it. You can have all the non-starchy vegetables you want, and modest amounts of starches such as potatoes. Food quality is emphasized and the particulars of that are explained.
If you're paying attention, you'll realize this rules out the main calorie sources in most people's diets, notably bread, cereals, soda, pastries, pizza, sandwiches, etc., so it is a big change. All restaurant food becomes suspect because salad dressings and cooking oils will almost certainly be vegetable oils. I have been working towards eating this way for a couple of months, while also investigating my recently discovered glucose tolerance problem. I find there are lots of delicious foods I can eat, I am not having a problem so far with what I should not eat, and I feel good. My energy is more stable, hunger is a mild feeling that can be ignored if desired, I am becoming leaner, and the diet controls my blood sugar nicely.
I am fairly new to many of the ideas in this book, and not totally convinced yet, but this is probably due to ignorance on my part. I can't say any of it is wrong, just surprising. Trying to pressure a loved one into eating this way would not be easy, since much of it goes against conventional dietary advice. After reading this you may get the feeling, as I have, that conventional advice is startlingly wrong.
I should disclose that I am a physicist, like Paul Jaminet, and my wife is a biologist and physician, so I can't be sure the writing would appeal as strongly to others as it does to me. Still, I think the writing is very clear.
on July 27, 2011
Perfect Health Diet: Four Steps to Renewed Health, Youthful Vitality, and Long Life was recommended by Chris Kresser (Healthy Sceptic blog). I admit I was skeptical: the titel, at first glance, comes across as pretentious, and the front page has a weird 80s feel to it. Anyway, Chris knows his stuff, so I bought it.
The PHD book is priceless. Yes, this is the best book about diet. I had been on a Paleo diet for a month when I got the book. I was motivated to change my diet, but after reading the book, first quickly once, and then more carefully a second time, I was even more motivated. I was convinced that I had to make a change for life.
Other reviewers have summarized the contents well, so I will not. Eliminate processed foods, grains (except rice), legumes and most sugars. Stick to high fat diary. Bottom line in terms of macronutrient ratios is: not too much carbs, plenty of good fats, and ideally some protein restriction.
I believe better authors could not have been found. Even though Shou-Ching Jaminet is a cancer researcher, none of them came to this from a medical or nutrition background, which is probably an advantage. They have experienced chronic disease themselves, and were committed to find solutions and understand pathways that were not well understood. They have enormous intellectual capacity (scrutinizing studies from PubMed the way they do is, well, impressive). They are open minded. And, not the least, I think they are driven by not only intellectual curiosity, but alturism, which, gives the whole project a very humane and caring feel to it.
What is the difference between this diet and the Paleo diet?
There are many variations of the Paleo diet, but Cordain at least recommends lean meats, which is the opposite of what the PHD recommends. The PHD "allows" full fat diary and rice, which is not recommended by most other Paleo diets. The PHD also has a rather specific macronutrient ratio recommendation.
Well, I started on a Paleo / GAPS protocol about a month before I got this book, so I cannot really say that all the improvements I have had can be attributed to this book. And after 48 hours without any processed foods, grains, legumes, sugar (apart from low carb from starches) and diary, I went from standing, sitting and walking with great joint pain, to only slight pain. A skin condition I had improved as well.
Two weeks after I got the book, I tried using almost only rice as my carbohydrate source for 10 days. That increased my joint pain slightly. I think I in any case might have been in the high range of the carbohydrate intake during this period, which might be the reason for the change to the worse, rather than the type of starch I ate. The other thing though, is that once I started eating rice, and maybe too generous portions, my carb cravings were significantly elevated. I will try to stick mostly to sweet potatoes, taro, pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, berries and fruits (in the morning) for carbs.
I have started implementing their supplement regime. I was skeptical at first, because, like many people, I prefer getting micronutrients from food, not supplements. But I decided to try since I had some heath issues and blood panel results that had to be improved. After about two weeks, I feel a bit better. I have a bit more energy and my head feels clearer.
Am I skeptical to anything? Not much.
- As I said, they convinced me to try their supplement regime and I do not regret it. I think anyone with an autoimmune condition, chronic disease - even a suspected chronic infection - should do so. For those who are fortunate to be 100% healthy and full of energy, well, maybe they do not need to take all the supplements if the diet is very dialed in.
- At first I thought the macronutrient ratios were a bit too rigid. After reading the book a second time, I felt they presented a convincing argument. I will never weigh and measure my food, so I do not know exactly what my macro ratios look like, but the book provides very useful guidance.
- Then, rice. I would have liked to see a bit more on why they think rice is a "safe" grain. Also, since it is not very nutrient dense, I think it gets a bit too much favorable mention. Eating food with low nutrient density and then taking lots of supplements does not sound like a perfect health diet. But this is a detail - people do not have to eat a lot of rice on this diet, and it is good to know that it is pretty okay to eat it from time to time.
I have used their blog a lot, for tweaking my supplement regime, for recipes etc. It is an excellent companion to the book.
For the next edition, I have the following wishes:
- An index
- Improvements in lay-out (sorry, but it is incredibly ugly): margins needed, footnotes can be smaller, table of contents more reader friendly etc.
- A chapter with summary recommendations for common autoimmune conditions and chronic infections.
- A bit more info on diary. Why high fat diary is okay for most people, and for what conditions diary should be eliminated completely (and why).
I honestly think this book is such a treasure. I have translated and adapted the main recommendations into my native language for my family. It is difficult to persuade anyone about diet, but it is difficult not to try with people you really love. I do not doubt for a second that following the recommendations contained in this book can go a long way in reversing, even curing diseases, and definitely preventing diseases. I feel very grateful to Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Thank you.
on November 19, 2010
This is by far the best book that I've read on healthy eating and nutrition. I have been following a lowcarb/paleo diet for over eight years and continue to read the latest books in this genre but rarely learn anything new. This book is different and has led me to modify my diet in several ways.
It presents the scientific evidence, backed up by over 600 citations, most of which include an internet link. But what makes this book so special is that not only does it review the scientific literature in more detail than any other book of this type that I have read, it does so in a completely readable fashion.
In the preface they state that the book was written for three groups: healthy people who want to optimize their health, chronic disease sufferers who want to improve their health, and doctors who want more effective ways to treat their patients. They admit that it was not easy to write for all three audiences, but, in my opinion, they have succeeded admirably. I first ordered the PDF version of the book from their website about two months before the book became available. Comparing the two versions, one can see how they continued to work to make the book as readable as possible -- the PDF version was good but the final book is even better.
Their five page introduction gives a concise summary of the contents of the book, including a one page description of their recommended diet. Most of the remainder of the book is divided into four steps: (1) how to optimize the macronutrients, (2) what "toxic" foods to avoid, (3) what supplements are recommended, and (4) how to heal and prevent disease.
It should be emphasized that this is not a weight loss book -- they devote only seven pages to weight loss under the fourth step. However, the advice they offer is much better than most books completely devoted to weight loss. They emphasis that the best weight loss diet is a diet for life -- the perfect health diet.
Finally, this is one of those rare books that rewards multiple readings. I have read it several times and each time I feel that I come away with deeper insights. I put this book in the same category as the writings of the health bloggers (and scientists) Stephan Guyenet and Chris Masterjohn. This is the highest praise that I can give to any book on healthy eating.
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