Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Nutrition Debate #38: The Perfect Health Diet

“The Perfect Health Diet is more than just a diet – it is a program for perfect health, “ say Paul Jaminet, Ph.D., and Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet, Ph.D., who developed it. “A diet like the Perfect Health Diet should be the first treatment option in most diseases and an adjunct to therapy in all,” they say at I say, you don’t have to have a disease to eat a diet for perfect health. After all, as we all know, “you are what you eat.”

The Perfect Health Diet was developed by “two scientists with a longstanding interest in diet and health. We have been experimenting with low-carb diets since 2005,” they say, and “have successfully healed our own ‘middle-age’ and chronic health problems through diet.” Their plan has adherents eating about two-thirds plant foods and one-third animal based foods by weight. Besides a high fat content, the diet is further characterized by complete avoidance of sugar and cereal grains. On their website they say, “Do not eat toxic foods, notably:

• Do not eat cereal grains – wheat, barley, oats, and corn – and foods that contain them – bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, and oatmeal. The exception is white rice, which we count among our “safe starches.” Rice noodles, rice crackers, and the like are fine.
• Do not eat calorie-rich legumes. Peas and green beans are fine. Soy and peanuts should be absolutely excluded.
• Do not eat food with added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Do not drink anything that contains sugar. Healthy drinks are water, tea and coffee.
• Polyunsaturated fats should be a small fraction of the diet (~4% of total calories). To achieve this, do not eat seed oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, or the like. The best cooking oils are coconut oil, clarified butter, and beef tallow; palm oil, lard, olive oil and avocado oil are next best.

“Eat nourishing foods: liver, egg yolks, seaweeds, and shellfish, vegetable and bone broths. Make sauces from an acid (lemon juice, vinegar), an oil, and herbs. Get sufficient salt.

“Take care to obtain adequate amounts of eight critical micronutrients: vitamin D, vitamin K2, iodine, selenium, magnesium, copper, chromium and vitamin C. Many of these can be obtained from sunlight (vitamin D) or what we call ‘supplemental foods:’ seaweed for iodine, Brazil nuts for selenium, beef liver for copper. Others may need to be supplemented.” They don’t recommend fish oil supplements, but they do recommend oily fish like salmon and sardines.

The authors of the Perfect Health Diet (PHD Diet, as they’re both PH.D.’s, get it?) consider their program low-carb. With 400-600 calories (100-150 grams) from carbohydrates (mostly “safe starches” like rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro), plus fruit and berries, it is lower than the Standard American Diet (SAD) which recommends 1200 calories (300 grams) a day from carbs. They suggest that if your metabolism is compromised (for example, by obesity or other manifestations associated with Metabolic Syndrome), you should lower the carbs further to ~200 carb calories (50 grams), a level they consider a “therapeutic ketogenic diet.”

Protein should be, they say, “a modest fraction of daily calories,” which they define at 200-400 calories (50-100 grams). That’s the same amount as in the SAD and about the same as I try to eat as well. “Fats should supply most (50-70%) daily calories,” they conclude. Taking the middle value for all three macronutrients, that produces 500 carb calories (125g), 300 protein calories (75g), and 1200 fat calories ( ̴ 133g) = 2000 calories total. The therapeutic ketogenic version would be 200 carb calories (50g.), 1700 calories total, and a good formulation for both weight loss and therapeutic features.

In many ways the Perfect Health Diet is similar to the Archivore program developed by Kurt Harris, M. D., discussed in columns #18 and 19 in this series. You can read them at The principles are similar, but Harris says his program is more rooted in ethnography and anthropology. Jaminet points to evolutionary indicators of the optimal diet for perfect health (e.g., breast milk for infants) and mammalian diets in general. Both agree, Jaminet concludes, “Fortunately, all of these sources of insight seem to be consistent in supporting low-carb, animal-food-rich diets – a result which is gratifying and should give us confidence.”

My absolute favorite thing about the PHD Diet is the graphical symbol (a pictogram) for the program that they created to depict the foods they recommend we eat and not eat. Check it out here:

© Dan Brown 1/29/12


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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I love your enthusiasm. Keep reading!