This month we review a book that will help you lose weight with a whole food diet and put your body in peak physical condition at the same time.
The Thrive Diet:
The Whole Food Way to Lose Weight, Reduce Stress,
and Stay Healthy for Life
By Brendan Brazier
Da Capo Press, 2007
In The Thrive Diet Brazier details his personal eating plan made up of whole foods including fruits, vegetables, pseudograins, and raw nuts and seeds. Pseudograins like amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and wild rice that most people think of as grains are really classified as grasses. He meets his own energy needs not from refined carbohydrates but from fruits, vegetables, and these pseudograins.
Brazier's eating philosophy is clearly revealed in The Thrive Diet Pyramid that offers a dramatic contrast from the traditional food pyramid issued by the USDA with its emphasis on meat and dairy. The most important element of Brazier's pyramid is its base that includes colorful, fiber-rich vegetables and leafy greens. The next level is the protein and carbohydrate from natural sugar, with fruits, legumes, seeds, and pseudograins supplying these needs. Dietary fats come from cold-pressed oils, nuts, and avocados. At the peak of the pyramid are starchy vegetables and whole grains that compose the smallest portion of the diet. Conspicuously absent are processed foods, refined grains, and sugar.
The goal of this diet is to consume more whole plant foods with enzymes that facilitate digestion. Brazier recognizes it's also important to keep the body alkaline. If the body is acidic, the person is prone to an increase in body fat, the development of kidney stones, a loss of bone mass, and a reduced level of growth hormones.
"Low-grade metabolic acidosis affects the body at the cellular level and is responsible for an increase of free radicals and a decrease in the production of cellular energy," says Brazier. "In addition to these serious concerns virus and bacteria are able to thrive in an acidic body, again possibly leading to numerous diseases."
The author provides a chart pH EFFECTS OF SELECTED THRIVE DIET FOODS to help the reader navigate through the task of determining the acidity and alkalinity of foods. Vegetables are highly alkaline forming. Pseudograins, squash, sweet potatoes, and yams are alkaline forming, but not as much as vegetables. Fruits are also alkaline forming. Grapefruit, lemons, limes, mangos, most melons, and papayas are the most highly alkaline forming fruits.
Sesame seeds are alkaline forming while pumpkin and sunflower seeds are slightly alkaline. Flax, hemp, and white chia seeds are neutral while legumes, brown rice, oats, and spelt are slightly acidic.
The chart FOODS COMMON IN THE TYPICAL NORTH AMERICAN DIET clearly reveals why there is a health crisis in this country. The list of highly acid-forming foods includes the stuff Americans love: commercial breakfast cereals, pasta, refined wheat flour, white rice, beef, pork, poultry, shellfish, butter, cheese, cream, milk, artificial sweeteners, white sugar, candy, coffee, margarine, roasted peanuts, prescription drugs, soft drinks, soy protein isolate, and whey protein isolate. These foods place a great amount of stress on the body.
At the heart of the book is Brazier's 12-week meal plan with a daily schedule that includes suggestions for three meals plus three snacks. Each food selection refers to a page with the recipe for that item. The recipe section gives directions for preparing pancakes smoothies, cereals, energy bars, burgers, pizzas, vegetables, soups, salads, salad dressings, crackers, sauces-dips-spreads, drinks, and desserts. The diet is composed mostly of raw whole foods. In some cases the reader has the option of eating the item cooked or raw.
The author has attempted to use as few ingredients as possible in each recipe. "I like to prepare complete balanced meals and nourishing snacks within a few minutes," he says.
The reader is also introduced to items that are not commonplace in the American diet. In his chapter Staple Foods for the Thrive Diet he provides information on "next-level foods." These items are not essential to the diet but are worthy additions to it. "Because they are easy to digest and have a neutral or high pH, they can help reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and speed recovery," he says." They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other health promoting properties." In this next-level foods list are acai, chlorella, coconut, green tea, green tea seed oil, maca, rooibos, white chia, and yerba mate. Chlorella and maca are superfoods that Brazier consumes daily and recommends for everyone.
In addition to making healthful food choices, those selections impact the environment in a positive way. "Simply by changing our eating habits we can significantly reduce pollution, and in doing so improve our health and the health of generations to come," he writes.
Triathlete Brazier is well aware of the importance of exercise. A moderate amount of exercise along with proper nutrition is important in maintaining good health. He details what foods and beverages should be consumed before, during, and after vigorous exercise. Seven pages of "exercise-specific recipes" appear in this chapter instead of the recipe section.
The Appendix features a discussion of vitamins and minerals, a glossary, a resource list, and references. There is also separate recipe index.
Brendan Brazier is to be commended for assembling this vast amount of nutritional information to support his diet and health plan, all documented in his references. As we read page after page, we kept exclaiming, "We didn't know that!" The Thrive Diet is more than a program to lose weight. It is a lifestyle change that has a pronounced affect on the body, turning it from acidic and disease-prone to alkaline and healthful. By focusing on this plan, readers may not become triathletes, but they will find increased energy and vitality.
Reviewed September 2008