With this interview we continue (we hope so) a series of interviews to authors of international reputation.
Please forgive some mistakes, we are not English-mother tongue… As you can see, the interview is in both, English and Italian.
With great pleasure that we welcome Paul Jaminet to our blog, author, together with his wife Shou-Ching, of the famous best seller about diet and lifestyle: “Perfect Health Diet” and owner of one of the best blogs in the web: Perfect Health Diet.
Angelo: Hello Paul, how are you? Can you give us a brief overview of your career?
I am a former astrophysicist turned software entrepreneur. I started developing health problems in my 30s, partly due consequences of a long course of antibiotics accompanied by a bad diet (mainly bread, cheese, and Coca-Cola). These health problems got worse every year and threatened to become disabling. I discovered the Paleo diet in 2005 and this fixed some problems but caused some new ones, mainly (as I realized over the next year) because it introduced some nutrient deficiencies. My wife and I spent the next five years studying how to optimize nutrition on a natural whole foods diet, and that led us to develop the Perfect Health Diet.
Angelo: Many authors assert that more is held low insulin more is better. How do you comment this? Why do you suggest some starch, in particular rice, in the diet?
No, I don’t believe that in biology or health you want to go to extremes. Every compound that our bodies have evolved, such as insulin, has an optimal level. You don’t want to go lower or higher.
Hormones like insulin serve a coordinating function: they help keep all the cells and tissues of the body working in concert, like the players in a symphony orchestra. If you take away insulin, you take away a coordinating signal. That is not likely to be good for people.
I suggest starches such as white rice or white potatoes because humans are healthiest with a certain amount of glucose in the diet. We estimate that the optimal amount of carbohydrates for best health is around 30% of total calories, and most of these should come from starch. White rice and white potatoes are great sources because after cooking they are low in toxins. Some other starches, such as wheat, appear to contain toxins that give trouble to many people – maybe everyone.
Angelo: What is your personal view about fructose?
Fructose is, like glucose, a nutrient up to a point, but we need even less fructose than we do glucose. A sufficient amount of fructose for good health is around 25 g per day, which is the amount in a half kilogram of fruit (about 3 servings). In general, people should plan to eat a half kilogram per day of starchy plants like white rice and white potatoes, a half kilogram of fruit and berries, and at least a half kilogram of other vegetables.
Angelo: What is your perspective on the paleo diet and intermittent fasting?
It is very good to eat like Paleolithic humans, by eating natural whole foods and cooking them gently. Industrial foods are not nourishing, and foods cooked at high temperatures contain toxins. In that sense the Paleo diet is a very good diet. On the other hand, what many people call the “Paleo diet” is too restrictive, missing whole classes of foods such as starches, and missing many important nutrients. Such restrictive diets can easily cause health problems. It is important to eat a nutrient-rich, balanced Paleolithic-style diet such as our Perfect Health Diet.
Intermittent fasting is extremely good for us. It is almost an essential practice for lifelong good health and healthy aging. It was a natural part of Paleolithic – they didn’t have refrigerators and couldn’t store food, so they had to exercise and hunt and gather food before they could eat. Our bodies need this kind of stimulation to be optimally healthy. There is a time for feeding and a time for fasting. Modern people give the body too little time for fasting, and this damages their health.
Angelo: What are the most important differences between paleo diet and health perfect diet?
Well, the Perfect Health Diet is a Paleolithic-style diet, in fact it is probably closer to what Paleolithic humans actually ate than popular “Paleo” diets. Popular Paleo diet is meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds; and not too many seeds. These diets are not very close to actual Paleolithic diets, which generally contained significant amounts of starch, mostly from tubers.
The biggest difference between Paleo diets and the Perfect Health Diet is that PHD recommends a broader range of foods, combined in delicious proportions. We have been called “ancestral gourmet cuisine”. We noticed that when you optimize the healthfulness of the diet, you end up with something very close to classic gourmet cuisines – delicious! This makes sense, because our brain evolved to make us healthy and successful, and it encourages us by making us happy when we eat as we should. So when we assemble meals in the most healthful food combinations, our brain makes us happy and delighted.
On Paleo, most people eat too few carbs, and they start having cravings for sugar and alcohol, and don’t feel as well as they should. This is because their diet is imbalanced and lacking in nutrients. One thing we have found on the Perfect Health Diet is that people are never hungry and fasting is easy, because their bodies are satisfied and lack nothing.
Angelo: Could you explain how to do a 16-8 hours of IT? If I am hungry what can I eat during the 16 hours of fast? Better fats, carbohydrates or proteins?
Food intake should occur only within an 8 hour feeding window that lies entirely within daytime hours. You should end your daytime with a small dessert, say a bowl of berries or a glass of milk. Then, you should eat no calories for the next 16 hours. What you can eat during the 16 hour fast is a vegetable soup, containing water, electrolytes such as salt, potassium in vegetables such as tomatoes and onions and celery, and calcium from bones; and mineral water with some magnesium. This soup relieves the stress of fasting. It is important not to become dehydrated during a fast. If a fast is still stressful after vegetable soup and mineral water, then a small amount of protein may be eaten – say, a piece of leftover meat.
It is also important to eat sufficient food during the feeding window. If fasting is difficult or leads to health problems, it is usually because of undereating during the feeding window. In the Paleo world, people commonly undereat carbohydrates, and this can generate problems when fasting. Fasting is best combined with a highly nourishing, balanced diet.
Angelo: What is your point of view about vitamin D and omega 3 supplementation?
It is best to get plenty of sun exposure on bare skin to generate vitamin D naturally. However, this is often impossible in the modern world, especially for those who live at northern latitudes in the winter. In such cases, D should be supplemented.
Omega 3 fats should not be supplemented. Rather, an oily marine fish like salmon should be eaten once per week. This will provide the optimal amount of omega-3 fats for good health, and the fats will be fresh. Unfortunately, omega-3 fats are fragile, and often become rancid in supplemental capsules.
Angelo: Let’s talk about saturated fats, cholesterol and arachidonic acid, what is your personal point of view about these fats?
All three of these are nourishing parts of the diet, up to a certain amount. One should not avoid foods rich in these, such as butter or egg yolks.
In general, anything that is a large part of an animal’s body is a large part of our own bodies too, and therefore is nourishing for us. There is no reason to be afraid of these nutrients.
Angelo: what is your personal point of view about legumes and cereals? And diary? Even whole diaries…
Legumes and cereals are problematic because they hold their seeds above ground and they evolved in grasslands where they were fed upon by herbivorous mammals like horses and cows. To protect their seeds, they evolved compounds that sabotage mammalian digestion. This means they can sabotage human digestion, and if the toxins make their way into the body, then they can damage other parts of the body besides the gut.
In the case of white rice, these toxins are destroyed in normal cooking, so white rice is what we call a “safe starch”. But among other legumes and cereals, like soybeans and wheat, the toxins are not destroyed in cooking. I think it is safest to avoid these foods.
Dairy is a complex case. We recommend fatty and fermented dairy foods – cheese, yogurt, butter. Whole milk is acceptable in small doses, but we don’t recommend making it a substitute for meals.
Angelo: Would you add anything to the interview? Future projects, useful links…
We believe the Perfect Health Diet is the most healthful of all popular diets. We are trying to prove its value to the larger world. A few projects:
– We offer Perfect Health Retreats, 1 to 2 week health retreats, at a luxury beach resort in North Carolina. We offer free health coaching before and after the retreats to participants, in exchange for letting us track their health results. We hope to prove that an ancestral diet and lifestyle can cure most diseases and lead to health improvements, easy weight loss, and improved mood and energy. So far, it is working. Click here.
– My wife and I are working on a cookbook, and on video courses teaching diet, nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, cooking, and health management. We hope these will make it much easier to learn and follow our health advice.
– My wife and I are both editors of the Journal of Evolution and Health, a project of the Ancestral Health Society to foster scholarly interactions between mainstream academic researchers and clinicians and the ancestral health community. This is a very important effort which will give a forum in which we can help prove that an ancestral diet and lifestyle is the healthiest way to live.
Angelo: thank you Paul for the interesting interview and for your enthusiasm!