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The Sirtfood diet has been all over the headlines. Its popularity is fueled by the fact that it includes red wine and chocolate! It was written by celebrity nutritionists Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten and suggests sirtfoods activate “skinny genes” in our body. Singer Adele says the diet helped her lose 100 pounds! There are other celebrities that have tried the diet as well. But what is it? How does it work? What do you eat?
What are sirts?
Sirt is short for sirtuins. These are a group of seven proteins found in the body that affect cell health and may be involved in metabolism, inflammation, and aging. Adding activators helps to promote the sirts into action, mimicking calorie restriction, and promoting weight loss. Activators are the so-called “sirtfoods”.
What are sirtfoods?
Sirtfoods are plant-based foods with properties that are said to activate the sirtuin proteins. These bio-active properties are polyphenols that we also find on the Mediterranean diet. For example, resveratrol from red wine, isoflavonoids from soybeans, oleuropein from olive oil, and epigallocatechin gallate from green tea.
Here is a list of the polyphenol rich foods, called sirtfoods:
- red wine
- extra virgin olive oil
- dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
- matcha green tea
- arugula (rocket)
- bird’s eye chili
How does the Sirtfood diet work?
The sirtfood diet is intended to last for 3 weeks. There seem to be a few variations, but all start with limiting calories to 1,000 for the first 3 days. Each day includes three “green juices” and 1 sirtfood-rich meal. The sirtfood green juice is a mixture of greens such as kale, parsley, celery, green apple, and green tea processed into a juice. Sirtfood-rich meals may include chicken, shrimp, salmon, and other lean meats. Eggs are permitted. Dairy is limited. This is followed by 4 days, at 1500 calories with two sirtfood-rich meals. Green juices are decreased to twice a day.
For the next 14 days, meals can be increased to 3 per day and juices decreased to once. There is no calorie recommendation. Expected weight loss is 7 pounds in 7 days and a steady 2-3 pounds per week after that. There is not an emphasis on exercise on the sirtfood diet, however, Adele admits she did work with a trainer and regularly did Pilates. There are a number of sirtfood diet books and cookbooks. Meal plans can be found on the sirtfood website.
Is there science behind the sirtfood diet?
Research shows calorie restriction increases sirtuin activity. The sirtfood diet is based on the premise that combining calorie restriction with the polyphenol activators in sirtfoods, further increases sirtuin activity resulting in significant weight loss.
As previously mentioned, the sirtfood diet in some ways mimics the Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on plant foods, olive oil, and nuts, which contain healthy polyphenols. On the sirtfood diet, however, the authors propose only certain polyphenols, such as those on the sirtfood list above, serve as sirtuin activators. Research is attempting to identify the most prominent of these activators.
In one study, a group of polyphenols called anthocyanidins were the most active. These are responsible for the red and purple pigments in foods such as cranberries and raspberries. Other polyphenols, such as catechins inhibited sirtuin activity. Another study finds the polyphenol resveratrol, found in red wine, a sirtuin activator.
While calorie restriction may increase sirtuin activity, and certain polyphenols may activate sirtuins, there is no real evidence that the combination is any more beneficial than calorie restriction alone.
Some things to consider…
A multitude of studies has linked the Mediterranean diet to reduced heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions. While the sirtfood diet includes many of the same foods, adhering to 1000 or even 1500 calories per day is not only difficult to achieve but impractical for most active people.
Furthermore, replacing some meals with juice is extreme and can lead to fatigue, irritability, and stress. Any diet of fewer than 1200 calories per day is not nutritionally adequate and not sustainable.
Additionally, losing 7 pounds in 7 days is not likely to be true weight loss but a loss of water weight. Rapid weight loss can potentially lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. The subsequent further weight loss of 2-3 pounds per week, is reasonable but would be expected with any calorie-reduced diet.
The fact that this is a 3-week “diet” makes it more of a quick fix and not a lifestyle change. Weight re-gain is more likely when lifelong eating habits are not corrected.
Check out what fitness and nutrition experts have to say about what they feel are the best ways to lose weight. The Best Lifestyle Changes For Weight Loss Shared By 80 Fitness And Nutrition Experts
The bottom line…
If you are looking for quick weight loss that includes eating healthy foods, the sirtfood diet may fit the bill. But in order to achieve and maintain weight loss for the long haul, you may need to go a step further.
A true weight loss diet is not a diet at all. It is a way of eating that promotes healthy foods, moderate portions, and regular exercise. A way of eating that avoids extremes that are bound to fail in the long run. It includes identifying triggers, such as stress, that lead to overeating and finding non-food alternatives.
The sirtfood diet is not one I would recommend to anyone looking for a lifelong, sustainable way to lose weight.
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Is all plant-based meat the same?
Plant-based meat and burgers have been gaining in popularity. As a result, they are showing up on fast food and restaurant menus more and more. The Impossible Burger was the first to make headlines in 2016. Burger King debuted it three years later, but it wasn’t without controversy. For example, some patrons complained the meatless burger was not vegan unless requesting it be made with “no mayo”.
Also, Burger King, disclosed that the Impossible Burger is cooked on the same grill as real meat burgers. Therefore it may have some bits of meat on it. A Burger King spokesperson added, however, that customers may request their Impossible Burger be cooked in the oven and not on the grill alongside meat.
Plant-based meat has also been criticized for its additives, and high sodium, and saturated fat contents. Moreover, saturated fats are unhealthy fats, that may lead to higher cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease. Foods high in sodium are also unhealthy and may result in higher blood pressure.
Let’ stake a look at five popular plant-based meat products and their nutritional values.
The first ingredient in the Impossible Burger is water. After that, we find soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, “natural flavors” and 2% or less of potato protein. This is followed by Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, and Soy Protein Isolate.
Potatoes are low in protein, however, the biological value of potato protein is very good. An article published in Nutrients states potato protein to be “comparable to egg whites” and is therefore an excellent source of some amino acids. The Impossible Burger also contains soy protein. Soy protein has a biological value similar to beef and is therefore a complete protein.
The Impossible Burger is fortified with added vitamins and minerals, such as Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), and Vitamin B12.
Impossible plant-based burger vs 93% lean/7% fat beef burger:
|Total Fat |
|Protein (grams)||19||24 |
On the plus side, the Impossible Burger has no cholesterol, 3 grams of dietary fiber, and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. It is also made with high-quality potato and soy proteins.
On the downside, it has 14 grams of total fat and 8 grams of saturated fat. This is significantly higher than that in the 93%/7% ground beef patty that has 8 grams of total fat and 3.3 grams of saturated fat. Calories and sodium levels are also higher in the Impossible burger.
Beyond Meat, The Beyond Burger
Similar to the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Meat burger ingredients also start with water. This is followed by Pea Protein, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, and Salt.
Unfortunately, the list of ingredients in this plant-based meat also includes coconut oil and cocoa butter. Consequently, resulting in 18 grams of total fat and five grams of saturated fat.
Beyond Meat plant-based burger vs 93%/7% beef burger:
|Total Fat (grams)||18|
|Vitamin A, |
(mung bean: folate
On the plus side, this plant-based burger has 2 grams of fiber, and zero cholesterol, as well as high-quality pea protein.
It is not as fortified as the Impossible Burger. However, the Beyond Meat Burger does have some added nutritional value. For example, it includes Apple Extract (a source of flavonoids and antioxidants), and Pomegranate Extract (a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E). It also includes Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, and Beet Juice Extract (for color). Flavonoids and antioxidants are important for lowering the risk of heart disease as well as other illnesses.
On the downside, At 260 calories and 18 grams of total fat, this 4-ounce patty comes in higher than both the Impossible Burger and the 93%/7% beef patty. Additionally, sodium, protein, and fiber contents are about the same for the two plant-protein burgers.
Lightlife Plant-Based Ground Meat
Similar to the other plant-based products, the first ingredient in Lightlife plant-based ground is water.
This is followed by pea protein, Canola Oil, Coconut Oil, Natural Flavors, Less Than 2% Modified Cellulose (from Plant Fiber), and Sea Salt. The list continues with Vinegar, Beet Powder (Color), Cane Sugar, and Cherry Powder (to promote color retention).
The Lightlife ground is also made with pea protein, which is a complete high-quality plant protein. Once again, however, the use of coconut oil adds unhealthy saturated fat.
Lightlife plant-based burger vs 93%/7% beef burger:
The Lightlife burger is similar in calorie, and protein content to the other plant-based burgers. Additionally, grams of total and saturated fats are about the same.
On the plus side: the Lightlife burger is made from high-quality pea protein, and has the least number of added ingredients.
On the downside: it has the most sodium and the least amount of fiber than either the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat burgers. The Lightlife burger has fewer vitamins and minerals.
Incogmeato Plant-Based Meat
Morning Star Farms started making plant-based foods back in 1974. At that time they launched three soy-based breakfast products. These breakfast links, patties, and slices and were some of the first plant-based foods readily available in the market. At that time, Morning Star Farms’ products were only available in the frozen aisle.
Since then they have expanded their company and product lines. The company has joined the fresh plant-based burger industry. Incogmeato is the plant-based meat brand in the Morning Star Farms family.
Incogmeato’s ingredient list begins with water. After that soy protein concentrate, canola oil, palm oil, methylcellulose, and <2% of natural flavors, as well as potato starch, dextrose, and salt complete the list.
Similar to Lightlife, Incogmeato uses only one protein source in its plant-based burger, and that is soy. As we mentioned earlier, soy protein is a complete protein. It has a biological value similar to beef, and therefore contains all of the essential amino acids found in animal proteins.
The Incogmeato plant-based meat contains palm oil which is another saturated fat. Consequently, this contributes to the 5 grams of saturated fat found in the burger. In addition, canola oil makes up the difference, resulting in 18 grams of total fat.
Additional ingredients in the Incogmeato burger provide some vitamins and minerals, including apple juice powder (color), yeast extract, corn starch, sunflower lecithin, vegetable juice concentrate (color), pectin, and citric acid. As well as Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Ascorbic Acid Calcium, Potassium, and Iron.
Incogmeato plant-based burger vs 93%/7% beef burger:
| Incogmeato |
|Total Fat (grams)||18||7.9|
|Vitamin B1, |
The calorie, sodium, and protein contents of the Incogmeato burger are equivalent to all the plant-based burgers we have discussed so far. Similarly, they all contain saturated fat.
On the plus side: the Incogmeato burger is made from high-quality soy protein and is made with palm oil instead of coconut oil. According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, both are saturated fats, however, palm oil is only 55% saturated while coconut oil is 85% saturated.
The Incogmeato burger has 8 grams of fiber, significantly more than the other plant-based meats, as well as, added vitamins and minerals.
On the downside: the Incogmeato burger has 18 grams of total fat, which is just slightly higher than the 14 and 17 grams in two of the other plant-based meats. The Incogmeato also has added sugar (dextrose).
Pure Farmland plant-based meat products are another option in the market. These are their Simply-Seasoned burgers.
The ingredients begin with water and include Coconut Oil, Soy Protein Concentrate, Isolated Soy Protein, Canola Oil, Less Than 2% Spice Natural Flavorings, and Roasted Garlic Powder. These are followed by dehydrated Garlic, Onion Powder, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Soy Fiber, and Sugar.
Similar to Incogmeato and Lightlife, Pure Farmland uses just soy protein. As stated earlier, soy protein is a complete protein and has a biological value similar to beef.
As in the case with all the plant-based products above, there is added saturated fat and in this case, once again coconut oil is used.
Pure Farmland burger vs 93%/7% beef burger:
|Total Fat (grams)||14||7.9 |
|Protein (grams)||16||24 |
|Calcium, Iron, |
The Pure Farmland burger is not fortified, however, it may contain B Vitamins and some minerals from the yeast extract. Further down the ingredient list, we find Red Beet Juice Concentrate (For Color), Paprika Oleoresin (For Color), Yeast Extract, and Cultured Dextrose. Followed by Maltodextrin (From Corn, Tapioca, and Potato), Methylcellulose, Citric Acid, and Soy Lecithin.
On the plus side, the Pure Farmland burger is made from soy protein, as well as the least amount of calories. It is tied with the Impossible burger having only 14 grams of total fat.
On the downside, the Pure Farmland burger has the most added salt and consequently the highest sodium content, as well as the least amount of protein in a 4 oz patty.
All of the vegetable protein plant-based meats we looked at have both good and not-so-good qualities. For instance, they all have added coconut or palm oil, and therefore, added saturated fat. Additionally, they all have additives that increase the sodium content, act as preservatives, or are added for color.
While some additives come from natural sources, such as beet juice, some come with controversy. For example, soy lecithin is one that is considered harmful by some, due to the solvents used in its processing.
All the plant-based meats have quality protein sources and some added vitamins and minerals.
Plant-based meat burgers vs 93%/7% beef burger:
|Nutrition||Impossible||Beyond Meat||Light Life||Incogmeato||Pure Farmland||93%/7%|
|Total Fat (grams)||14||18||17||18||14||7.9|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||8||5||5||5||7||3.3|
|Total Carbohydrates (grams)||9||5||6||12||11||0|
|Dietary Fiber (grams)||3||2||1||8||3||0|
|Total Sugar (grams)||<1||<1||<1||<1||<1||0|
|Vitamin/Minerals||Vitamin E, Vitamin C,|
B Vitamins, B12,
|Vitamin A, Vitamin C,|
Vitamin E, Potassium,
(mung bean: folate
|Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12,|
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C),
Calcium, Potassium, Iron
Potassium, B vitamins
from Yeast extract
Why not make your own plant-based burger at home?
Registered dietitian Julie Kay Andrews, owner of The Gourmet RD, has a plant-based burger recipe you’ll want to try. It’s her Chickpea and Watercress burger, made with chickpeas and a spicy garlic sauce.
Or try dietitian Nancy Macklin’s Five-Ingredient Veggie Burger recipe made with black beans and rolled oats.
In this writer’s opinion, as a plant-based eater, unless you are really yearning for the taste of a meat burger, the plant-based alternatives are not the best or healthiest choices. Their added saturated fat, high sodium content, and additives make them less desirable. However, they do provide fiber, quality plant protein, and some added vitamins, and minerals.
As a once in a while option these burger alternatives are an acceptable addition to a plant-based diet. There isn’t one that is significantly “better” than the other in terms of ingredients, calories, and nutrition. I vote for home made!
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Dairy and breast cancer.
Is milk an enemy when it comes to increasing our risk? Or is it an ally for its many known health benefits?
Our nourishment since birth.
Milk is something we have been drinking since infancy. For the first year of human life, it is our sole sustenance.
We encourage children to drink milk to support growth and bone development. Its rich calcium content makes it a desirable food for avoiding osteoporosis, or bone thinning. Milk is also an excellent source of protein. It provides the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain life. However, milk may be our enemy when it comes to increasing breast cancer risk.
What is it about milk?
The chemistry of milk
Milk is made up of water, fat, proteins, and carbohydrates, and, sugars. It also contains enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and phospholipids.
Milk is made up mostly of water. For example, about 87% is water and 13% solids. The solids consist of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Whole milk has about 8 grams of fat in an 8 oz serving. The fat in whole milk is about 65% saturated. We know saturated fats contribute to elevated cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Reduced-fat milk has less total fat and less saturated fat.
Reduced-fat and skim milk have fewer calories and grams of fat. 2% milk has about 5 grams of fat and skim milk < 1 gram in an 8 ounce serving.
There is little difference in the amount of calcium in relation to the fat content. One 8oz serving of milk has about 300 mg Ca.
Casein and whey protein are the main proteins in milk, with about 80% casein and 20% whey. Casein helps boost muscle growth. Whey provides some of the essential amino acids we need for cell growth. While protein is essential, research points to the benefits of plant proteins over animal proteins
Carbohydrates and sugars
The sugar in milk is primarily lactose. There about 12 grams in an 8oz serving. Lactose is not an added sugar but occurs naturally.
Lactose is quickly broken down into glucose as it is digested. Glucose is the prime source of energy for our bodies. Undigested lactose helps improve the absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Vitamins and Minerals
Milk contains Vitamin A, B vitamins, and small amounts of Vitamins C, E, and K. Vitamin D is added to the milk when it is fortified. Minerals include calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and others. Milk has very little iron.
Enzymes act to metabolize, or breakdown, some of the components in milk. For example, the enzyme lipase, breaks down fats, while the enzyme lactase, acts to break down milk sugar, or lactose, into glucose.
Phospholipids are found in the fat portion of milk. They provide fatty acids and help maintain the strength, flexibility, and integrity of cells.
Dairy and breast cancer…what the current research says:
According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, 2020, “Consuming as little as 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dairy milk per day is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer of 30%”, however, he recommends we view this result with caution.
His hypothesis is related to the sex hormone content of milk as the cows are lactating and frequently pregnant. He found substituting soy milk resulted in a reduced breast cancer risk.
While soy has also had the reputation of increasing breast cancer risk, research has reversed this thinking and points to observational evidence that suggests soy may actually reduce the risk of breast cancer.
In another study published in Current Developments in Nutrition, March 2017, different types of dairy foods are examined, in relationship to cancer risk. “Higher intakes of yogurt were associated with reduced risk of breast cancer” while “intakes of American, cheddar, and cream cheeses were associated with a marginally significant increased risk“.
Leading to the conclusion that risk depends on the type of dairy product and that yogurt may actually be protective. Further studies are needed and all results should be reviewed with caution.
A study by Jiajie Zang, et al. published in the Journal of Breast Cancer, in 2015, suggests the risk of breast cancer may be “affected both positively and negatively by milk and dairy products”.
One theory is that milk possesses Calcium and Vitamin D which have anticarcinogenic properties. Consequently, suggesting milk and dairy products reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Alternatively, the theory that milk possesses factors promoting breast cancer cell growth, estrogen, and may contain contaminants such as pesticides, suggests it poses an increased risk.
The debate continues
Since the debate continues, and there is no clear scientific evidence that milk and dairy increase the incidence of breast cancer, your best practice regarding these foods should be:
- Choose lower-fat dairy varieties
- Opt for skim or 1% milk, reduced-fat cheese, and low or zero fat yogurt
- Consider trying nut milk, such as almond or cashew, or soy milk.
However, keep in mind the need to meet your calcium and vitamin D needs, and choose fortified milk and dairy.
While we wait for more research, here’s what we can do now…
Further research is needed regarding milk, dairy, and the relationship to breast cancer. But, there are other things we can do to lower our risk.
Reduce the intake of high-fat foods and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show weight gain in adulthood, particularly after menopause, is related to increased risk of breast cancer. The study reports women with a weight gain of 10 kg or 22 lbs following menopause are at an increased risk of breast cancer.
Limit and/or avoid alcohol consumption. Studies show the risk of breast cancer is increased with increased alcohol intake. A study published in the British Journal of Cancer, reports about 4% of breast cancers are attributed to alcohol consumption. And for women who drink alcohol on a daily basis, the risk of breast cancer is increased by 7.1%.
Increase the intake of fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of breast cancer. This may be due to the fiber content or the subsequently decreased intake of other high-fat foods. Also, fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. These are linked to reduced incidence of cancers.
Specific fruits and vegetables that are rich in carotenoids may play an even greater role in lowering cancer risk. Orange and red fruits and vegetables, such as melons, carrots, peppers, and sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids.
There is an obvious need for more studies and research on the link between milk and dairy consumption and the risk of breast cancer.
In the meantime, follow a diet and lifestyle including eating lower-fat foods, limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and remaining active.
Additionally, regular screenings, self-exams, and mammograms remain important best practices.
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