3 Reasons to Swipe Left on the Sirtfood Diet

Here at the International Food Information Council Foundation, we talk a lot about fad diets. Usually, we’re debunking them and promoting a balanced eating plan with room for indulgences and celebrations. Sometimes the diets we talk about are based on some solid nutrition guidelines, and others we can’t believe really exist. This next diet we’re going to talk about falls into the latter category. The latest on the diet scene is the sirtfood diet, and we’re here to tell you why you don’t need that kind of restriction in your life: It’s not science-based or sustainable.

What is the sirtfood diet?

The sirtfood diet is based on the idea that certain foods activate sirtuins in your body, which are specific proteins hypothesized to reap various benefits, from protecting cells in your body from inflammation to reversing aging. Foods allowed on the diet include green tea, dark chocolate, apples, citrus fruits, parsley, turmeric, kale, blueberries, capers and red wine.

On the official sirtfood diet website, proponents explain that the diet has two “easy” phases. Phase one is seven days with each day consisting of three sirtfood green juices and one meal filled with sirtfoods — a total of 1,000 calories. But don’t be discouraged: You might be slightly less starving on days four through seven when you’re allowed to increase your intake to 1,500 calories with two green juices and two meals. Phew!

Phase two is not much more promising. This phase lasts for two weeks, in which you are permitted to have three “balanced” sirtfood-rich meals each day in addition to your one special green juice. The goal during this time is to promote further weight loss. While the benefits of sirtuins seem promising, the sirtfood diet is marketed as yet another way to “lose seven pounds in seven days!” And you know by now that extreme diets just don’t work like that.

Here are three reasons to take a pass on the sirtfood diet:

1. The sirtfood diet measures success only in terms of weight loss.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Weight is a determinant of health, but it’s not the only one. To measure someone’s health success on whether they lose X pounds in X amount of time ignores all the other benefits of food. Food is full of energy, which allows you to do things like showering, exercising and breathing. It also has nutrients that can promote several bodily functions and is often a joyful experience rooted in tradition. For overall health, there’s so much more to focus on than simply appearance, and measuring success only in terms of weight loss is incomprehensive.

2. It’s restrictive, which can damage your relationship with food.

This diet emphasizes an intake of 1,000 to 1,500 calories per day, which is much lower than most people need. When we severely limit our food intake, our instinctive reaction is to overeat. Your body is smart and it considers this lack of sustenance as an attack. Therefore, we tend to overcompensate, which is why we all can relate to being “hangry” and consequently overindulging when we're finally given a chance to eat. Practicing mindful and intuitive eating is a more sustainable route than restricting food.

3. The sirtfood diet is not science-based.

While there is some controversial research about the benefits of sirtuins, there’s little to no research about the specific sirtfood diet. Besides, we already have some guidelines in place that have been thoroughly researched and tested for decades. If you’re lost on what “healthy food” is, this is a better place to start.

It’s totally fine if you want to incorporate a few sirtfoods into an eating plan. After all, foods like green tea, fruit, dark chocolate, and kale all have a place within a healthy eating pattern! But adhering to a program with such strict pass-or-fail requirements is unrealistic and could be harmful to your relationship with food. By incorporating an eating plan that’s full of variety and eating mindfully, you’ll be able to establish a long-term, sustainable relationship with food. Cheers to that!

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