Is the Perfect Health Diet for you? (with Paul Jaminet)
We came across "The Perfect Health Diet" a few weeks ago. "The Perfect Health Diet" is a diet/program created by Paul Jaminet. It excludes grains, bread, and pasta, and recommends allocating 2/3 of our diet to plant foods, and 1/3 to animal.
On the surface, it sounds a lot like the Paleo diet. In fact, Paul describes it as "Gourmet Paleo". But there are also some distinctions such as excluding legumes, peanuts, and beans. As well as deeming certain starches as 'safe starches' such as white rice.
We wanted to ask Paul about his nutritional philosophy to find out the reasoning behind the diet. Here is what he had to say:
Us: First, tell us briefly what you do, and the mission behind your blog + book.
Paul: Our mission is to help people who are sick regain their health, to help those who are healthy achieve optimal fitness and lifelong good health, and to help everyone enjoy the longest possible healthspan.
Us: What are the key differences between the Perfect Health Diet and Paleo/Primal?
Paul: There are historical and dietary differences. We started from a Paleo template β Art de Vany's Paleo diet β and PHD was the result of 5 years of work figuring out how to fix certain problems that developed on our implementation of Art's diet and some other health problems that pre-dated our adoption of Paleo.
PHD is to a great extent based on the biomedical literature β what nutritional parameters work best in a wide range of studies β but when we finally worked the diet out, we went back and realized that the diet we had migrated to, and which did fix our health problems, was actually closer to genuine Paleolithic diets than the popular "Paleo" diets.
For instance, Paleolithic humans got their carbs primarily from starches, but "Paleo" diets generally recommended fruit. After we developed our diet, we fleshed out its rationale by going back to evolutionary arguments and finding more sources of evolutionary evidence β not just what people ate in the Paleolithic, but what mammals eat, the composition of human breast milk, and what the reward system of the human brain tries to get us to eat.
So we pull from many sources of evidence to find the optimal human diet. Fortunately, they all point in the same direction.
Our diet is quite close to Primal. We're friendlier to starches and saturated fats than most Paleo diets. We are low-carb by American standards but not all that low-carb by Paleo standards; for instance, whereas Mark Sisson recommends less than 150 g carbs, we recommend specifically 100-150 g.
Our diet could be called "gourmet Paleo," in that we recommend very tasty food combinations, often foods that combine starches and fats. Our diet is closer to the diets of Pacific islander and East Asian hunter-gatherers, such as the Kitavans, than most Paleo diets.
Us: So let's talk about cholesterol, particularly eggs. Some people tell you to limit your eggs to a couple at most a week, while others tell you it's OK to eat as many as you want. Where do you stand?
Paul: We recommend eating 2-3 egg yolks a day for nutrients, primarily choline but also carotenoids and other nutrients. Dietary cholesterol is generally healthful. Heritage breeds of chicken that are free to wander and feed on insects β their natural diet β produce healthier eggs than commercial coops.
Us: Next up is fruit. Do you think you should limit the amount of fruit you eat per day to 1 piece, if you're trying to eat because of the sugar content?
Paul: No. We think 3 servings (about 1 pound) a day of fruits or sugary in-ground vegetables (beets, carrots) is probably about optimal. It doesn't have to be fruit, it could be beets or something like that, but if you like fruit there's nothing wrong with having 3 pieces of fruit a day.
Us: Why do you consider potatoes and sweet potatoes safe starches? And why do you not recommend legumes?
Paul: "Safe starches" are starchy plants that have no toxins after cooking β that is without counting sugar or starch as a toxin. Potatoes are low in toxins as long as they're kept dry and cool and away from light from harvest to eating.
Sweet potatoes have a few toxins, but nothing that seriously interferes with human biology.
Legumes, like cereal grains, developed toxins that specifically attack mammalian digestive tracts. While long soaking and thorough cooking can detoxify most (not all) legume toxins, few people have time for such steps, and industrial food producers certainly don't follow them.
We think it's a good general rule to avoid beans and peanuts.
Us: Is there a specific exercise regimen that works well in combination with the Perfect Health Diet?
Paul: We don't recommend a specific exercise regimen. I do have my own ideas about how exercise should be done, but these ideas are not unique to me.
Some resources I would recommend include Chris Highcock's Hillfit book for basic starting fitness steps for sedentary people, Kelly Starrett's mobility WOD Youtube videos for mobility, Todd Hargrove's blog on movement, Martin Berkhan's Leangains for coordination of feeding and fasting with intense workouts and rest days.
In general I think a good week has 1 or 2 days of intense resistance exercise, especially exercises for the major muscle groups and joints such as deadlifts for hip-hinging, squats for legs, pressing and pulling for the upper body as in push-ups and pull-ups.
A week should also include regular aerobic exercise such as running that gets the pulse up and makes you sweat, mobility exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi, play, and a number of rest days (not activity free days, but days free of strenuous effort). Rest is important.
Us: Cravings, especially after dinner is a huge obstacle for many people that causes late night snacking. What tips do you have for people to avoid this problem?
Paul: I generally take cravings to indicate malnourishment of some kind. It could be as simple as being too low-carb. If you read the Reader Results stories on our blog, you'll see one thing our diet is very effective at is eliminating food cravings.
If there is a mild hunger during a period of fasting, I would suggest taking a spoon of coconut oil. This can help suppress appetite and over time makes it easier to fast.
Us: Any future plans such as a new book in the horizon?
Paul: We're in the midst of writing a new edition of our book. It will come out in December with Scribner. We're very happy to be able to refine our ideas, include reader success stories, and hope to reach a large mainstream audience.
Because our diet allows the use of rice/potato/tapioca gluten-free products, including noodles, breads, crackers, and pizza crusts, it is more accessible to ordinary people than most Paleo diets.
In addition to spreading our brand of Paleo, we're hoping to influence how people think about health and healing. We believe diet is an essential element in true healing, and that the effectiveness of Paleo diets for curing chronic diseases is something that the mainstream is missing. We hope to remedy that oversight.
We're also working on a cookbook, but that won't come out until 2013.
Us: Thanks a lot for answering our questions.