I was interested in reading this particular book after seeing it mentioned in several of my usual nutrition haunts.
There’s useful information within, and there are a few recipes I’ll try.1 I could, in fact, do his Phase 1 diet with little difficulty. Beyond that? It’s not something I’m going to do, and where it winds up at Phase 3 (ie, the rest of your life) is simply not somewhere I want to go.
His “Phase 1″ diet involves eating protein portions the size of your palm and as much greens and other low-carb vegetables as you like. Pumpkin is limited to 1 cup per day, beets and carrots are allowed raw only. His vegetable list is about what you see on any low-carb diet. What really got me interested is that he’s claiming we are in a summer mode, and we should tell our genes that Winter is Now in order to let go of fat. There’s a lot about that in Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival, a book I really liked and found fascinating.
A deviation from most low-carb plans is that the dairy allowed in the form of fresh cheeses like ricotta, mozzarella and yogurt (1/2 cup to 1 cup) and only a maximum of 1 ounce of aged cheese is permitted. Eggs are in the dairy section and are permitted.
Virtually any soy substitute is permitted for meat or dairy, which I find kind of baffling in a book that complains quite a lot about how lousy the modern diet is. He even lists seitan as OK, which surprised me.
Also included are a two snacks each to consist of 1/4 cup unsalted, raw nuts (except peanuts – they should be roasted). He recommends eight to ten glasses of water daily, as most diets do. Men may have two glasses of red wine a day, and women may have one. After the first two weeks, you can add back up to two servings of a list of fruits, though he says they will slow weight loss. Avocado and tomato are on the fruit list (they *are* fruits, after all), so you can’t have them the first couple of weeks. The fruits are all the lower sugar ones you’d find on lower carb diets.
That all sounds pretty do-able to me. This is where it gets a bit sideways:
As you continue in Phase 1, slowly cut back on the size of your protein portions and simultaneously upsize your portions of “Friendly Vegetables,” especially leafy greens. In doing so, you’ll decrease the amount of calorie-dense but micronutrient-sparse food and increase the amount of those denser in micronutrients but lower in calories. For example, if you’re already eating 2 cups of salad or cooked vegetables a day, up it to 3 cups. If you’re already at 3 cups, take it to 4 or 5 cups. If you have always been a big veggie fan, you can eat even more. By the end of your sixth week in Phase 1, your protein servings should be roughly half the size of your palm.
His goal is to get you to a mostly raw vegan diet. He uses meat and sometimes cheese as a seasoning in the Phase 3 meal plans. He’s very big on tofu shirataki noodles, in particular, but soy is all over the place. I guarantee our ancestors, primates or humanoid, were NOT eating soy.
Over the past twelve or more weeks, you’ve transitioned from Phase 1 of Diet Evolution, which emulates the diet people ate roughly a century ago, to Phase 2, based on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our earlier ancestors. As a result, you’ve normalized your weight—or are on a steady course to do so—enhanced your health, and are well on the way to making permanent changes in your lifestyle.
Uh, apparently, he’s never looked at a cookbook from a century ago. I have, and l can say that people were afraid of raw vegetables. They cooked everything, and certainly, they ate plenty of bread and cooked root veggies.
As far as hunter-gatherers, there seems to be some romanticism that they were out gathering plants all day. This is simply not possible for half the year in a lot of places that humans *did* live before agriculture. They were killing animals, especially in the fall when the animals were fattest, and when they needed that fat themselves to make it through the winter. Furthermore, have you ever eaten wild fruit? We’ve subdued fruits so that they produce small seeds and lots of sugar because we’re smart, have thumbs and love sugar. Wild fruit is very seedy and has it’s own future as it’s primary concern, not ours. Never mind the fact that plants were only available seasonally and for relatively short periods for each. We can have damn near anything we want, any time. Do you really think a hunter-gatherer would have killed a fowl and then only eaten the white meat without the skin? If you believe that one, I have a bridge to sell you, as the kids used to say.
Phase 3 reaches back even earlier for inspiration. I regard the Longevity phase as the natural culmination of my program. But I am well aware that it is not for everyone. Up to now, you have been eating both cooked and raw foods, the latter primarily in the form of salads. In Phase 3, you eat primarily raw food, as our earliest ancestors did. For them, the opportunity to consume meat and other animal sources of protein was not a daily event; they relied instead on plant protein, consuming most of it raw.
So, in other words, our primate ancestors because the first humans ate mostly meat. I’m not really sure what he thinks plants were like before we started mucking around with them and growing them ourselves, but our guts simply cannot get enough nutrition out of what was available then.
In particular, people like to point out that gorillas are big and strong, a close relative of humans and eat mostly plants (they also eat insects). What goes *in* to a gorilla is low in fat. They get protein from plants, but they eat an enormous quantity of them. Dr. Gundry specifically says you should get your protein by eating lots of vegetables. He also says you should cut your nut portion to 1/8 of a cup for each of two snacks, so less protein there. I can’t find the quote right now, but he eats an entire bag of pre-cut and washed romaine per day in addition to lots of other vegetables.
Anyway, we aren’t gorillas. Our small intestine does 50% of our nutrient extraction and our colon does 20% (estimates, obviously). A gorilla (and other large plant-eating primates) are set up opposite this. They extract most of their nutrients in their large intestine and cecum.
This difference is highly significant. In a herbivore such as the gorilla, the caecum and colon harbour huge colonies of bacteria which ferment carbohydrates, particularly fibre, and use it to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA) — principally acetic, proprionic and butyric acids. These are then absorbed into the body to be used as a source of energy.
So, the gorilla’s diet looks like it’s mostly carbs, but the gorilla gets something quite different out of it. It eats foods containing 5.9% fat, 37.1% carbohydrate and 57% protein. After it’s bacteria do their job, it’s estimated they wind up getting more like 24.3% protein, 15.8% carbs and 59.8% fat. Our systems just can’t do that.
Based on what I see in his Phase 3 meal plans, it looks like he’s suggesting around 800 calories a day. Throughout the book he stresses not counting calories or weighing foods. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. Both of those things are a pain in the ass, but the critic in me says that it’s so he can take your calories waaaaay down without you knowing. By the time you figure that out, you’re already doing it!
I find it really hard to believe I wouldn’t be hungry on that little protein, never mind the calories. Every time I’ve tried to reduce protein, I get hungry and can’t control my appetite. The only time I’ve gotten away with that, I was taking HCG! Getting a lot of protein from soy is no solution either. When I tried that, I got to my fattest *ever*, and it completely fucked up my hormones.
All that aside though, the dirty little secret of every diet is that you can’t ever really go off of it. If you go back to what you were eating before, you gain the weight back and then some. Watch this space for more about that.
1The Seed-Sar Salad recipe is fantastic. I don’t see it attributed at this link, but the text is identical to that in the book. I used half walnuts and half sunflower seeds because I didn’t have pumpkin seeds, but wow, was it tasty.