Two weeks ago, I talked about Dr. Esselstyn’s diet for preventing and reversing heart disease.
But it turns out that this diet, a modified plant-based diet that avoids all oils, as well as nuts, seeds or avocados, can also be useful for a number of other conditions, not just heart disease.
Occasionally, I go a few weeks or month without eating any fatty foods, what we could call an “All-Carb Diet”— a concept that will shock and confuse proponents of high-fat and high-protein diets, such as the Keto Diet.
So far this year, I haven’t eaten any high-fat foods, like oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconuts, etc.
Of course, it’s not really “all-carb,” because the nutritional breakdown is about:
It’s the so-called “80-10-10” breakdown that Nathan Pritikin first talked about (not to be confused with the “80-10-10” raw food diet of Dr. Doug Graham).
Contrary to common belief, no diet can be “fat-free,” unless you ate 100% refined sugar. Fruits, vegetables, grains and beans contain 3-7% fatty acids.
Let me share a few benefits that I notice, eating this way, that are not talked about as often as the prevention and reversal of heart disease.
1) Dandruff is gone
Strangely, on this very low-fat diet, I don’t get dandruff, and without changing any of my shampooing routine. The change is almost immediate, after just two days of not eating fatty foods.
2) Ultra-clear skin
For people prone to adult acne, like myself, the change on this diet is almost magical. Skin clears nicely and you rarely get even the small pimples that are considered normal to get once in a while.
3) Body odor reduced
This is another interesting change, but eliminating fatty foods eliminates most of my body odor. This is a very pleasant change, and believe it or not, it’s not necessary under most circumstances to use deodorant.
4) Gum health improved
I’ve noticed on the low-fat diet that my gum health, and breath in general, is optimal.
The All-Carb Diet Explained
As mentioned previously, the All-Carb Diet is a plant-based diet composed of whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans) without any high-fat foods, such as oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
I’m using the term “All-Carb Diet” as a provocation, but most people call it a low-fat plant-based diet. However, since the concept of “low-fat is flexible” it’s better to be clear that to qualify as truly low-fat, the diet must not exceed 10% of total calories from fat.
So in practice, that means no coconut oil, no olive oil, no avocado, no almonds, no macadamia nuts, and nothing that contains a drop of oil.
A diet without overt fats will still contain around 4-7% essential fatty acids, which are found naturally in all fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. This level of fat is very low, indeed, but for many people, the benefits will outweigh any potential “fatty acid deficiencies” that one might fear.
For any doubters, here is the amount of fat found in certain items, without any added oil.
Spinach, 100 grams, 0,4 grams of fat, Omega 3: 138 mg. Omega 6: 26 mg.
Oats, 100 grams, 6.5 grams of fat, Omega 3: 100 mg. Omega 6: 2200 mg.
Banana, 100 grams, 0.3 grams of fat, 27 mg. Omega 3. Omega 6: 46 mg.
Black beans, 1 cup boiled, 0.9 grams of fat, Omega 3: 181 mg. Omega 6: 217 mg.
A hypothetical diet of 2000 calories, composed of:
300 grams of spinach (69 calories), 2 cups of brown rice (432 calories), 1 cup of black beans (227 calories), 2 large baked potatoes (556 calories) and about 800 grams of banana (715 calories) would yield:
8.24 grams of fat
Omega 3: 920 mg.
Omega 6: 2088mg.
There are no set minimum requirements for Omega 3 fats, but suggestions are a minimum intake of between 200 and 500 mg. per day.
While the hypothetical diet I designed contains only 3.7% of fat by total calories, most people would likely get a total of closer to 4-5% if they incorporate a variety of plant foods from different sources.
On this diet, you get benefits that are often difficult to get on a program that most people would consider very healthy. But it seems that holding on to a few high-fat foods in the diet makes your health “average” and does not lead to outstanding results.
This diet is used in the reversal of heart disease, as in the works of Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Esselstyn. In practice, my cholesterol level on a plant-based diet, but while eating fatty foods, is around 185-205 mg/DL. This is considered normal but not optimal. Worse yet, my LDL can approach 120-130 mg/dl on what most people consider to be the healthiest diet.
By eliminating all high-fat foods from the diet, my cholesterol drops rapidly to around 150 mg/DL, which is considered the level at which it’s impossible to develop heart disease.
Completely avoiding overt fats can dramatically improve some cases of acne.
Nina and Randa Nelson are the daughters of Jeff Nelson, owner and founder of Veg Source. They also happen to be two vegan “teen celebrities” on YouTube, who have followed a vegan diet from birth. Terrible acne led them to experiment with a No-Overt Fat Diet, following the advice of Dr. McDougall. The results were astounding.
There is research to point to the idea that saturated fats increase inflammation in the body. The same goes for Omega 6 fats. But most fatty foods rich in Omega 3, the so-called “healthy fats,” also contain a fair amount of Omega 6 and 3. This may be a reason why this diet works so well for lowering symptoms of inflammation in the body.
Type 2 Diabetes
Following the release of the movie “What the Health,” on Netflix, many misinformed vegan doubters have criticized the film and misunderstood the part about the relationship between type 2 Diabetes and fat.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall the part where Dr. Neal Barnard claims that “fat is the cause of type 2 diabetes, not sugar.”
This part needs explanation.
Dr. Barnard states that “Diabetes is not caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet, and it’s not caused by eating sugar. The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat in the blood. I’m talking about a typical meat-based, animal-based diet. You can look into the muscle cells of the human body, and you find that they’re building tiny particles of fat that are causing insulin resistance. What that means is that the sugar that is naturally from the foods that you’re eating can’t get into the cells where it belongs. It builds up in the blood, and that’s diabetes.”
What he’s referring to is:
– The fact that high-fat diets lower insulin sensitivity and that low-fat diets do the opposite.
– The fact that intracellular fat is the real cause of insulin resistance (being overweight as the most visible manifestation), not a high-sugar diet.
All of this is well documented in his book.
It naturally follows that a No-Overt Fat Diet can improve or even reverse Type-2 diabetes.
Populations Who Live Close to This Ideal
The Okinawans have topped the list of certified longevity records, such as the informal survey reported in the book The Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner, who worked for National Geographic. It’s interesting to note that their diet was composed of mostly sweet potatoes (the blue-flesh kind), and contained less than 6% fat, which makes it essentially a No-Overt Fat Diet.
As an added bit of evidence that low-fat diet can be perfectly healthy, here are some more traditional cultures who have lived on something close to a No-Overt Fat Diet.
– The diet of the Bantus in Africa was reported to contain only 10% fat. Their incidence of heart disease was close to zero.
– Many natives of New Guinea, also without coronary heart disease and hypertension, ate traditional food with no more than 10% fat.
– The Hawaiian diet, before explorer James Cook brought these islands in contact with the rest of the world in 1776, was composed of under 15% fat A study recently put a group of obese Hawaiians back on their traditional diets, and participants saw notable health benefits.
– An Amazonian population in Bolivia, with the “healthiest arteries” ever found, ate a diet composed of 14% fat.
One therapeutic example of a diet as low in fat as one can imagine is the Rice Diet, designed by German refugee Walter Kempner in the 1940’s, as a radical treatment for malignant hypertension, before the advent of drugs.
Not only did the Rice Diet cure most cases of severe hypertension, but it also worked to relieve headaches, fatigue, and heart disease. It also cured several cases of Type 2 diabetes.
The typical composition of the rice diet contained 565 grams of carbohydrates, from fruit, white rice, and white sugar. It contained only 25 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. So the Rice Diet contained less than 2% of calories from fat!
The presence of sugar can baffle modern dieters, but it was added to increase the calories without adding any vegetables or other foods which might contain sodium.
On average, patients consumed 400 calories a day from white sugar. They added a few vitamin supplements. The sodium content was only 150 mg/day.
As a therapy, not a diet choice, this diet was incredibly successful! Given its success, this documented part of medical history shows that our obsession on nutritional deficiencies (protein, sodium, calcium, and fat) must be misguided.
Most people can benefit from eating some nuts, seeds, and avocado in their diet. But it’s worth mentioning that the “No-Overt Fat” diet can be particularly useful in many cases where nothing else has helped or disappointed in its results.
One word of warning though: I heard from several experts that it takes around 90 days to “neuro adapt” to a low-fat diet. That means that during those transition months, you might not feel as satisfied as usual after a meal and may crave fat or feel that “something is missing.” Those feelings will disappear over time.
Some experts have warned against the possibility of an omega 3 deficiency. It’s worth reiterating that eating whole foods will provide around 5% of fatty acids, and that green vegetables are particularly rich, by calories, in omega 3’s. If one follows a No-Overt Fat diet for more than three months, it might be wise to do a blood test at the end to see how your profile looks, and supplement accordingly. You can then decide to add ground flax, walnuts or vegan omega 3 supplements, in this order of testing.