Is There One Single Diet That Is Best? (And Why Something Called The “Perfect Health Diet” Heavily Influences Most of Ben Greenfield’s Dietary Decisions).

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Is there one single diet that helps people perform their best, avoid gut distress, or be healthiest?

I actually explored this question in a post you can read here, but ultimately, the best diet will vary from person to person, based on genetics, level of activity, body size, goals and more.

As a matter of fact, in a recent Rich Roll podcast, vegan athlete Rich Roll and celebrity trainer Vinnie Tortorich go head-to-head on vegan vs. omnivore diets, and the health implications of each approach (Rich, Vinnie and I are planning a live Spreecast this March to debate this topic more). And when you look at Rich’s and Vinnie’s health and performance, both are successful in their own right.

When you look at my own personal diet, it is primarily based on the foods and recommendations from my Superhuman Food Pyramid. But when I try to explain the science behind how I structure both my own diet as well as the diet of the athletes and clients who I coach and advise, I rely heavily on concepts from the Perfect Health Diet book (which is also the source of “Food Plate” pictured above).

I’ve certainly had to modify the Perfect Health Diet to allow for “low carb” phases that allow me to be metabolically efficient for my Ironman triathlon training, and also added in high-calorie “engineered” fuels like Superfuel to support my high levels of physical activity, but ultimately, if you want to know the science behind why I do what I do, the Perfect Health Diet book is a must-read.

So today, I interview Paul Jaminet, the author of the Perfect Health Diet. I’d highly recommend that as a background to today’s podcast, you listen to my previous interview with Paul, and during this interview, my questions include:

1. Why did you release a second edition of the book?

2. Just as a quick review of our previous podcast, can you walk people through a sample day of eating on a PHD diet?

3. You say that compared to apes and other mammals, we humans have lost our guts. What do you mean by that, and why is it important when it comes to choosing optimal macronutrient ratios?

4. As you talk about macronutrients, you begin with protein, and you  list a “toxicity range” for protein. We have lots of listeners who are trying to hit certain protein ranges for muscle repair and recovery, so what is the toxicity range for protein and how did you arrive at the value you use in the book?

5. How can the basic daily need for glucose be partially supplied by conversion of ketone bodies into glucose, and based on this what would natural carb intake for the average person be in the PHD, both in or not in ketogenesis?

6. You talk about basic natural glucose needs in the book, and part of it got me thinking about potential “joint pain” or injury in low carb athletes. How could glucose potentially help your joints?

7. You say that a low carb diet could increase your risk of hyperglycemia. How?

8. How can a high-fat diet help to produce more muscle?

9. You say that MCT‘s have antimicrobial activity, but that they seem to be benign toward probiotic bacteria. Any idea how they achieve this selectivity?

10. You also have anecdotes in your book about curing migraines/headaches with Ketogenic PHD. Any idea of the mechanism of action?

11. You choose potassium to fructose ratio to rank sugary foods. Why choose that ratio?

12. You seem to be somewhat against fructose consumption, but aren’t the studies that you cite feeding subjects diets that are extremely high in fructose? If so, what do you think is an “OK” amount of fructose?

13. What are some strategies to decrease glycemic index of starchy foods?

14. If you’re trying to lose weight, what should your lowest daily calorie intake be?

15. Why do you say hunger is a sign of danger?

16. What is the optimal length of a fast, and why?

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about the Perfect Health Diet? Leave them below!

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21 thoughts on “Is There One Single Diet That Is Best? (And Why Something Called The “Perfect Health Diet” Heavily Influences Most of Ben Greenfield’s Dietary Decisions).

  1. I love their website, not only because of the vast information there (they really seem to follow up to date literature about everything, I wonder how a human is capable of keeping in mind that much stuff) but also for their helpful attitude towards people and the way they are also promoting spiritual health and gratitude.

  2. Hi Ben,

    1. What do you think of the books convict conditioning 1 and 2?
    2. What do you think of he book body by science?
    3. Currently, I'm experimenting with convict conditioning program to figure out what is the best amount of time to recover in between workouts (right now, it seems to around 1.5 to 2 weeks). Do you think that I could use greasing the groove concept by doing half my max reps for each of the 6 big exercises in the book once every day in between full workouts to improve my max reps?

    Thanks,

    1. I haven't read convict conditioning, but I interviewed Doug McGuff right here on http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com (do search for it on upper right) and actually use some of his super slow protocols with myself and the athletes I coach. Rather than using half your max rep to grease the groove, I'd think about just doing ONE rep of your full max rep. In other words, lift very heavy stuff with perfect form, but just do it occasionally.Ben

      1. Is that going to translate into more max repetitions or just max amount of weight I can lift in one rep? To clarify, I'm aiming for max repetitions.

  3. Ben,

    This was a good interview, wish you could have gone longer. I follow your site, bought your books and the super human encoder. I did a ketogenic diet for a few months but hit the wall on it…fatique, lipid panel through the roof and thyroid took a hit. I am now back to eating starches per what you and Robb Wolf have to say …and have come around to the okayness of the safe starch idea. I am a cyclist and find this might be a better mix for me than what Peter Attia does…you were great on Jimmy Moore !!!

    Barbara

    1. Yes, I had about 10 questions I didn't even get to! Including:17. You say that there are risks of having too many gut bacteria. Why?18. You caution against consumption of alcohol on days when you consume salmon and sardines. Why?19. You caution against use of fish oil capsules. Why?20. One of the principles in your book is to avoid plants that are traditionally eaten by mammals. Why?21. You talk about gluten in wheat, which most of us know is dangerous, but you also mentioned opiods. Why?22. Which starch plants can be rendered safer by cooking?23. You aren't a fan of pork. Why not?24. You talk about dangers of Vitamin D deficiency, but also don't necessarily endorse high-dose Vitamin D supplementation. Why not?25. Why don't you recommend supplementing with calcium?26. You also don't seem to be a fan of iron supplementation. Why not?27. What kind of magnesium do you recommend?28. You recommend iodine? Why, and how much?But we ran out of time!

  4. Hi Ben. thanks for the information. i am primarily interested in diet for nagging injuries. i also believe the body needs safe starches. i really appreciate this perspective. regarding injuries
    im not sure if this is the place to ask the question (wanted to call in, but i dont have a mic), but as far as cold water therapy, im using an unheated pool in northern ca. i did 14 mins alternating with heat for 10. im trying to aid a nagging adductor/ hamstring. is it best to do smaller increments, say 3-4 mins in ice or cold/ followed by 3-4 mins in heat and alternating that 4 -5 times. last nite was my first time bumping up my time to 14 mins and i felt like i was really weak coming out of the water…and it took me about 10 mins to get to aplace where i wasnt scared. i dont know what would have brought that on, maybe shock from the cold pool. any thoughts would be great…thanks ben.

  5. Interesting stuff. How is breast milk applicable to adult nutrition? Don't infants and adults have different requirements. i.e. doubling in size in a year versus weight maintenance?

    1. Hi Vegpedlr,

      There are different requirements but we can estimate what the differences are and correct for them. The main difference is that the infant brain is larger in proportion to body size, and the infant brain is growing very fast compared to the rest of the body, so breast milk is designed more for brain nutrition and less for bodily nutrition than is the optimal adult diet.

      See our book for a more detailed discussion.

  6. Hi Paul,

    So if you do low carb and then occasionally eat a meal with a lot of carbs, as long as it has a lot of fat and vinegar it should not really make you hyperglycemic?
    Even if it does make you hyperglycemic, what is the danger lets say if it happens once in two weeks?

    If you eat only two means a day, how can you get 1 pound of starches and 1 pound of sugary plants into two meals?

    1. Hi Stoll – I was also curious about how to get all of that food into two meals a day. Not only the starches and sugary plants, but also the 1/2 to 1 pound of meat, and three egg yolks.

      That said, I read the new book when it came out, and decided to give this way of eating a try. And I must say that I have had alot of positive effects from it (after some initial getting used to eating starches again). This is after struggling for about 7 years while going through menopause and post-menopause with tons of hormonal issues, as well as weight gain. I tried a bunch of different things to help stabilize the hormones and lose the weight, and nothing was working. After a few months of the "Perfect Health Diet" way of eating, I am finally losing weight, I feel much more satisfied after meals (not hungry all the time, like before), and I have alot more energy, sleep better, moods are better, etc. I can't wait until my next full hormone and nutrient panel (in about 5 months) to see if the diet has made a difference.

  7. I have listend to nearly every recent interview with Paul and I haven't got bored yet! He even published the book for Antipodeans… how good is that? All those unasked questions are answered in the book which is a MUST READ. We've been eating the PHD for years, so nice to see it in print.

    And what a lovely person to interview. I'm sure the Jaminets would be great dinner guests… and they would feel at home at our table.

  8. Hey Ben,

    I’m reading the Perfect Health Diet and I have a question about the Legumes section-the authors reference the toxins of kidney beans, soy beans, fava beans, peanuts and alfalfa sprouts but I’m wondering about garbanzo beans, black beans and pinto/refried beans. I LOVE me so good hummus, black bean and sweet potato burritos and the tasty refrieds at Chipotle!

    Do I need to stop eating those to eliminate harmful toxins??

    Any insight would be hugely appreciated!

    Cheers,

    Andy Eastman

  9. Listening to this interview one thing that kept recurring was the breaking of macronutrients into percentages. But wrt. protein he was saying that (if I recall) 600 calories (150g) of protein was the upper limit for protein toxicity.

    In big build cycles I may be burning over 4000-5000+ calories/day. 600/4000 = 15% not the 30% that the interview kept coming back to.

    So in these times where I want to cap my protein at 150g/600 calories (do I still want to do this – from a toxicity perspective it sounds like yes), what is the breakdown of the fat/carb macros?

    And an unrelated question: Of these 3 which is best given a bedtime caloric deficit of 1500+ calories:
    – not eating 1-2 hrs before bed and not giving in to the snack desire in the middle of the night.
    – not eating 1-2 hrs before bed, but giving in and having a midnight small snack of a few nuts or a protein shake
    – eating something (if so what?) before bed, knowing it’s sub-optimal, but at least getting through the night restfully (unless the food keeps you up – *sigh*)

    ?

    Cheers,
    Rick…

  10. Hi Ben,

    Did you ever ask Paul questions #9 & 10? It would be interesting to know the answers to those questions.

    Ryan

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