In my research on optimal food for optimal health, I have read countless books and scholarly articles. I have considered and adopted many dietary protocols ranging from vegan to Paleo. Having found sufficient scientific evidence to confirm that we are indeed omnivores, who thrive on a variety of whole, unprocessed foods – of plant and animal origin – it was refreshing to read the Jaminets’ Perfect Health Diet (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. Learn more about it on Perfecthealthdiet.com.
- Disease, premature aging, and impaired health have four primary causes: malnutrition, food toxicity, evolutionarily discordant lifestyles, and chronic infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.
- These causes go together. People who eat toxic, nutrient-poor diets are more likely to contract chronic infections and do not easily recover from them.
- Yet the body has amazing powers of recovery. On a healthy diet, the immune system can tackle and defeat most infections.
- A diet like the Perfect Health Diet should be the first treatment option in most diseases and an adjunct to therapy.
Often you’ll hear you should ‘eat a healthy diet’. But what is a healthy diet? Simply recommending real, unprocessed food is great, but carnivore and vegan diets can qualify as whole food diet and yet some real food diets can be nutrient poor and toxin rich. Most people have some vague ideas as to what a healthy diet is, which probably doesn’t come from synthesizing research studies. That’s where Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet come in with the thoroughly researched PHD. PHD is divided into five sections:
- Part 1 begins with a big picture perspective – looking at hunter-gatherer diets, other mammalian diets, human breast milk and body composition for clues.
- Part 2 covers the macronutrients, the types of fats and carbohydrates, ideal protein, fat, carbohydrate intakes and macronutrient ratios.
- Part 3, 4, and 5. The Jaminets have come to the conclusion that chronic disease is largely caused by toxins, malnutrition and chronic infections.
The Role of Chronic Infections
I completely agree with the Jaminets in their opinion that chronic infections are the causes of aging and disease. Chronic bacterial and viral infections are quite widespread, are associated with many chronic diseases and seem to have a strong role in autoimmune diseases, depression and cancer. In my research, most people have a dozen or more chronic infections in their body.
To clear chronic infections, the Jaminets primarily recommend measures to strengthen the immune system such as an 8 hour eating window to promote autophagy (self-cannibalization) and vitamins A, D and K2 (all found in butter, hehe). One thing I noticed in my research is that while many people have chronic infections, those with a weak or poorly regulated immune system were the ones who are far more likely to develop chronic diseases. Following a nutrient rich diet like PHD will make it far less likely you will develop a chronic disease. Additionally, I personally recommend an infrared sauna, which clears chronic infections safely and effectively with regular use.
The New Edition
The new edition of Perfect Health Diet was released in December 2012. Paul Jaminet has a two part series on what’s new in the new edition. The new edition is longer with 50% more pages and new content. The recommendations have changed a little and there are new sections on weight loss, blood lipids and how to be in tune with our circadian rhythm.
In the weight loss section the Jaminets discuss the food reward hypothesis of obesity, which has been a hot topic in the blogosphere over the past two years. They make the following points:
- The cafeteria diet and the refined ‘high fat diet’, which are fed to rats and mice to induce obesity, are very palatable and rewarding yet also nutrient poor and toxin rich.
Nutrient hunger is a plausible and logical explanation for overeating nutrient poor junk food and obesity.
Obesity is a chronic disease. We should be able to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight by addressing the same things that underpin other chronic diseases – toxins, malnutrition and infections.
- ‘A healthy diet is a delicious and satisfying diet’ and ‘every meal should be delicious.’
Another new feature of the new edition are ‘reader reports’ – testimonials of readers from the blog who have experienced health improvements from eating a PHD style diet. While testimonials are hardly gold standard scientific research, some of the reader reports in PHD are of people overcoming chronic health problems, which should be quite intriguing and motivating for someone new to Paleo or The Perfect Health Diet.
At the moment PHD is the best book I’ve read on the subject of diet and health and is the book I would recommend to people interested in weight loss or in improving their health. There is much to commend the book:
- PHD is a thoroughly researched book with more than 1,000 citations. The scientific approach and the citations should be convincing to the most hardened skeptic.
- Even though PHD is scientific, the science is not too complicated and can be understood by the average person.
- 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.
- Recommending 3 pounds (1.35kg) of plant food per day dispels the popular misconception that Paleo diets are all about eating meat.
- The Jaminets approach the subject of nutrition in quite a unique way, touching on breast milk, mammalian diets, the economical approach to nutrition, chronic infections, etc. The arguments are logical and intuitive as well as being supported by evidence.
- Readers may be happy to learn that starches deemed safe, including potatoes, white rice and other root vegetables, comprise an integral part of 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.
- The economical approach to nutrition in the book makes it practical for most people.
- They provide very specific and easy to follow recommendations.
- They accurately address controversial topics such as saturated fat (filet mignon, anyone?), salt, and others.
What Others are Saying About The Perfect Health Diet
“This is more than a diet. It’s a program for perfect health. The result of 5 years of research, the Perfect Health Diet enabled scientists Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet to cure their own chronic diseases. With more than 600 citations to the scientific literature, Perfect Health Diet explains simply and clearly how to optimize your diet for a lifetime of great health. I’ve read hundreds of books on nutrition and health in my life, and Perfect Health Diet is at the top of the list.” ~ Chris Kresser, M.S., Lac; integrative medicine practitioner and blogger at ChrisKresser.com
“The Perfect Health Diet is the missing link. It bridges the gap between the philosophical, broad-based, almost intuitive ancestral approach to health and the hard-core data hounds who need to see proof at every step. The authors are scientists through and through, an astrophysicist and a molecular biologist, who deftly wield the scepter of cold, hard science while paying homage to the inescapable wisdom of traditional, ancestral, evolutionary health.” ~ Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint and founder of marksdailyapple.com
“From the best of what we know about ancestral science and the natural world comes a modern-day formula proven to return us to optimal health. The Perfect Health Diet delivers exactly what it promises.” ~ Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, authors of It Starts With Food
“The sanest overview of what to eat I have ever seen. If you are going to read only one thing on the subject, read this.” ~ Seth Roberts, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at UC Berkeley and author of The Shangri-La Diet
“Whenever any of my clients ask me a health/performance diet question, I just tell them to go to Perfect Health Diet; I trust that anything that appears in the book has been thoroughly researched and examined. One of my best friends was on the diet while undergoing chemo and his blood work numbers were so good that they would have been considered average…for a person without cancer. This book is my number one nutritional resource for my family, friends, and clients.” ~ Court Wing, Co-founder and Head of Training, CrossFit NYC
“This book provides the missing link between Paleolithic diets and complete health and vitality, and provides a complete foundation for total ancestral health in the modern age.” ~ Aaron Blaisdell, Professor of Psychology at UCLA and President of the Ancestral Health Society
If you had to pick only one diet and health book for yourself or for someone you know, the Perfect Health Diet would be that book. I know a lot about health and nutrition and I learned something new on every page. Perfect Health Diet is a compilation of the most current nutrition facts, expert opinion and historical wisdom, guiding those seeking natural healing, optimal health and longevity. Again, learn more about it on Perfecthealthdiet.com. Highly recommended!