Book Review: Perfect Health Diet
Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat
In my research for optimal food for health, I have read countless books and scholarly articles. I have considered dietary protocols ranging from mostly plant, to mostly animal based foods, from vegan to Paleo. Having found sufficient scientific evidence to confirm that we are indeed omnivores, who thrive on a variety of whole, naturally prepared foods - of plant and animal origin - it was refreshing to read the Jaminets’ “Perfect Health Diet”, henceforth referred to as PHD.
The authors, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet are husband and wife scientists from Harvard, an astrophysicist and a molecular biologist. Due to some personal chronic health challenges, and unsatisfactory results from conventional medicine, the pair embarked on an arduous research journey that culminated in discovering a health promoting diet and lifestyle. Elated and convinced that their work would help improve the health of others, they started a blog, and self-published an e-book with their findings, helping thousands, and creating demand for a print version.
PHD begins with an “evolutionary guide of healthful eating”, reflecting on Paleolithic health and physiology, and the visible decline post adoption of cereal grain agriculture. Employing the economic principle of declining marginal returns and deferring to biomedical scientific evidence, PHD prescribes optimal proportions of foods to eat, foods to avoid, supplements to include and health promoting lifestyle protocols to implement.
Considering fasting and autophagy (self-cannibalization), a brilliant case is made to “eat what you are”, to provide the building blocks of healthy tissue (fatty acids, amino acids and glucose) in the right proportions. Unless we eat nutrients in balance and in the “peak health range”, healthy body composition is not sustainable or achievable. For example, hunger will persist no matter how many calories consumed, until a sufficient amount of protein and carbohydrate is provided. Same goes for any missing or deficient vitamin, mineral or essential fat.
Building on the ancestral (Paleo, Primal) whole food, low toxin diet, which tends to be very low carb, PHD cautions that “the carb calories eaten exactly equal the body’s glucose utilization” so that we need not convert protein to glucose nor dispose of excess carbohydrates by conversion to fat. Readers may be happy to learn that starches deemed safe, including properly prepared potatoes, white rice and other root vegetables, comprise an integral part to this diet. After all, increased glucose is needed to nourish our larger brains and contrary to popular belief a very low carb diet will promote insulin resistance to spare glucose for later release to feed neurons. With insulin resistance health is impaired.
While far from fat phobic, PHD advises that we ‘ruthlessly purge high-omega-6 [linoleic acid] foods—especially seed, bean, and grain oils such as soybean, corn, canola, and safflower—from our diet’. Given the British Medical Journal subsequently published research study concluding that “substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease” , this is visionary. These polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are highly unstable and easily oxidized, while considered essential because the body cannot make them, are deemed dangerous to health in excessive amounts. The reason, omega 3 supplementation to dietary intake is recommended, is merely to compensate for our excessive dietary intake of omega 6.
The Jaminets consider short and medium chain fats safe; coconut oil, a beneficial addition for everyone. Perceived as benign, stable and non-toxic, saturated and monounsaturated fats which comprise the body’s major storage form of energy, can most easily be restricted or added, when calorie adjustments are warranted, to support activity level.
PHD warns that excess fibre, with proliferation of unhealthy gut flora is not conducive to health. Artificial light at night and lack of exposure to natural daylight disrupts sleep, suppresses immune, mental well-being, and contributes to weight gain. While eating within an eight hour window daily, helps prevent infection and increases life and health span.
This is but a glimpse of the many insights presented in this must read book. “The Perfect Health Diet”, a compilation of the most current nutrition facts, expert opinion and historical wisdom, will guide those seeking natural healing, to optimal health and longevity.