Book Review: The Perfect Health Diet
Book Review: The Perfect Health Diet
The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet Ph.D. & Shou-Ching Jaminet Ph.D. (Yinyang Press, Cambridge 2010) is not just another Paleo diet book. It is one of the most comprehensive, but concise, treatises on human nutrition on the market today. It is a MUST READ for anyone seriously interested in the science behind a good diet. For anyone who desires to embrace not only the ‘how’ but the ‘why’ of a diet ‘restart’ this is a great place to begin the journey. We did!
Before looking at a few ‘take away’ points we gleaned from The Perfect Health Diet it should be said that that the Jaminets have made a significant contribution to current thought on nutrition, especially when their information is reconciled and synthesized with the advice of other leading ‘paleo’ nutritional experts such as Christ Kresser, Robb Wolfe, Mark Sisson, and Dallas & Melissa Hartwig.
One caveat is that the reader may have the feeling that parts of this book were written by Ph.D.’s for other Ph.D.’s because some of the information is just too technical for mere mortals. Yet, those with science backgrounds might be stimulated by the discussion. At any rate, the reader will quickly see that all of the concepts articulated in the book are thoroughly documented with references to scientific studies and other strong evidence. But, an index for quick reference would be helpful.
The Jaminets make a compelling case that the diseases of modern society are the direct result of diet and may only be cured by diet. In other words, bad diet wrecks human health, but correct eating redeems it.
Our main ‘take away’ from The Perfect Health Diet is that carbs are an important part of the macronutrient picture in a ‘paleo’ lifestyle and seriously low carb diets are most likely unhealthy. And, it seems that the paleo gurus have begun to recognize that cavemen ate carbs, too.
The Jaminets are persuasive in their assertion that the ‘perfect’ balance of fats, carbs and protein favors fats as the dominant macronutrient for perfect health. This is contrary to what Americans have been told for the last fifty years! Anyone can look around and see that obesity is at an all time high – the high carb, low fat Standard American Diet (SAD) is not working out so well for us!
So, what do we eat? The Jaminets’ proposition is that the ideal “perfect health diet” is low to moderate in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and high in the right fats. The recommended macronutrient proportions are 20% carb, 65% fat and 15% protein.
Now we have the right science and a great plan courtesy of the Jaminets.
Inside The Perfect Health Diet
The authors go through four Steps required to reach ideal health: (1) optimize macronutrient ratios of fats, protein and carbs; (2) avoid foods that are toxic to the body; (3) eat the right micronutrients while avoiding others; and (4) heal and prevent disease through diet.
Step One – Macronutrients
In Step One we see that there are three basic macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Like everything in life, the key to ideal nutrition is the right balance of these macronutrients. The point is that the preferred source of fuel by human cells is fat, not carbs/glucose.
Daily carb and protein needs are small and eating more than the body can use is very, very bad. In America major health problems are associated with eating too many carbs. The resulting glucose overload leads to hyperglycemia (sugar poisoning) and hyperinsulinemia (insulin poisoning).
The reader is presented with a multitude of studies establishing that hyperglycemia increases the statistical odds of bad outcomes in every human health condition.
High blood glucose has negative outcomes for every health condition. Studies show that a reduction in glucose, and the corresponding reduction in insulin, accomplished through either reduced overall calorie intake or by an increased the percentage of fat intake, extends lifespan and reduces mortality from the most common health problems.
After a deeply esoteric primer on glucose, insulin and the like, the Jaminets do a thorough job of convincing the reader that the best way to deal with the potential health risks of hyperglycemia and the resultant hyperinsulinemia is to cap the number of protein and carb calories by eating a diet of mostly fats or to eat an overall calorie restricted diet.
Well, since carbs and protein must be capped to have a long and healthy life, what else is there to eat? Fat, of course!
If you ever wanted to dig deeper into the chemistry of fatty acids, here is the place. The distinctions between saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, is followed by a lengthy and in-depth discussion of (1) omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats; (2) long-chain saturated fats and monounsaturated fats; and (3) short-chain fatty acids. Lost yet? Not to worry – it’s well written and understandable if you try.
Omega-6 fats are not healthy in the amounts eaten by Americans. The effects of these bad fats may be offset by omega-3. How? The reduction of omega-6 is accomplished through the elimination of vegetable seed oils and the substitution of oils like butter, ghee, coconut oil, beef tallow and olive oil, and eating oily fish, such as salmon, anchovies and sardines, and meats low in omega-6, such as beef and lamb.
Saturated fats and monounsaturated fat are safe at any level, and can be eaten almost without limit. These fats are the primary fuel for cells and are a much healthier energy source than glucose. These fats are the primary fat found in dairy and animal foods, such as butter, ghee, cream, lard, beef tallow and egg yolks.
Coconut oil, palm oil and butter are a real plus because scientific studies establish that these fats are protective of the brain neurons, improve gut health, protect against infections and cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease as well. Yet another added benefit is that coconut oil has a proven to promote weight loss. Wow!
Fiber and the Gut
For folks with digestive problems there is a excellent explanation of the place of dietary fiber with an emphasis on how the wrong types of fiber, such as cereal grains containing gluten, can be toxic and roughage from the wrong fiber can damage the walls of the intestines. To their credit, the Jaminets emphasize the importance of good gut health, but appreciate that the gut is a complex system not to be tampered with lightly. [Note, Chris Kresser spends a great deal of time discussing gut health – leaky gut syndrome – and from his discussions you can see that is a most complicated and fragile system that needs individualized diagnosis and treatment.]
Part Two – Toxic Foods
In Part Two there is some great information on four hugely toxic foods – cereal grains, legumes, vegetable oils and fructose sugar. Guess what? These foods just happen to be the most common foods in the SAD.
There is a great account of how wheat gluten is so dangerous, and if you think you are not allergic to gluten – READ THIS SECTION OF THE BOOK! You will eliminate gluten from your diet immediately!
No more peanut butter? Soybeans, peanuts, lintels, kidney beans, and other legumes have toxicology similar to cereal grains and have similar negative effects on the gut, not to mention severe allergies evident in significant portions of the population.
Vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and other industrial seed oils are deemed the “liquid devils” by the Jaminets, and with good reason. The unrestrained use of these bad oils in the SAD has caused rampant rates of heart disease, cancer, liver disease and bowel disease in American society. Switching to coconut oil, palm oil and butter could save your life!
Finally, everyone should be shocked to learn how the over-consumption table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, especially in processed foods, is almost certain to result metabolic syndrome, the precursor to diabetes and obesity.
Step Four – Micronutrient Supplementation
Step Four provides recommendations for the right and wrong vitamin supplementation. The Jaminets are convincing in their conclusion that most Americans are malnourished even if they eat plenty of calories because they eat highly toxic, nutrient-poor processed foods – empty calories. What?
This is SHOCKING! Yet, the truth is that we are deficient in crucial micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. This situation can easily be improved through eating foods rich in nutrients and through appropriate nutrient supplementation.
In the good column, the Jaminets believe that the micronutrients most likely to improve health are, in order of importance, Vitamin D, vitamin K2, selenium, iodine, magnesium, copper, chromium and vitamin C. Their reasoning is logical and convincing. Yet, we would think that taking some of these supplements should be done under the supervision of a professional.
In the bad column are vitamin A, calcium, zinc, niacin (B3), vitamin E, folic acid and fish oil, for reasons worth reading about.
Part Four – Live Healthy
The Jaminets conclude this most important publication with list of ways to live healthy and prevent disease. These range from the obvious – keeping blood glucose and insulin low, lowering omega-6 and raising omega-3 and avoiding toxic foods – to more intricate suggestions, such as controlling vitamin D levels and engaging in several modes of fasting.
All things considered, the Jaminets have provided a serious foundation upon which anyone can rely to build a healthy future – we have and you should!
Johnnie & Melane Byrd, 2015