A new year brings a new diet and the first out of the blocks this year is the Sirt Food Diet, which focuses on a group of high-performance everyday foods including wine, chocolate and coffee, says Sharon Ni Chonchuir
A NEW year has dawned and the annual onslaught of diet advice has begun. Which diet will grab our attention this year? Will it be paleo, vegan or pegan? Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, authors of The Sirt Food Diet, think they have the answer. Their diet focuses on sirt foods, a group of everyday foods that include common healthy suggestions such as kale, walnuts and celery.
However, there are more surprising inclusions too, such as coffee (ideally black), chocolate (as long as it’s at least 85% cocoa) and red wine (especially pinot noir).
When eaten in large quantities, Goggins and Matten believe these foods promote health and wellbeing while also bringing about weight loss.
Essentially, their argument is that by eating a lot of these foods (which means you won’t go hungry on this diet); their impact on your body mimics that of calorie restriction.
Yes, you read that correctly. You can eat as much as you like on this diet. You can even have the occasional glass of wine or bar of chocolate and your diet will have the same effect on your body as fasting.
Matten explains the theory: “When energy is in short supply, as we see in calorie restriction, there is an increase in stress on our cells. This is sensed by proteins called sirtuins, which get switched on and then ramp up metabolism, increase the efficiency of our muscles, turn on fat burning, reduce inflammation and repair cell damage. Sirt foods have the power to speak to sirtuins too, turning them on and triggering the same health benefits.”
The theory may sound complicated but Goggins and Matten are well qualified to translate it into an easy-to-follow diet plan. Matten has a master’s degree in nutritional medicine and Goggins is a pharmacist and nutritionist.
Together, they have 25 years of experience in treating clients at top medical, health, and fitness centres in England and Ireland.
They have always recommended plant-based diets but sirt foods are a new addition. “It makes sense to include them in our diets. When we started looking into sirt foods, we saw that the healthiest cultures in the world were eating as much as 10 times the amount of these foods as we do,” says Goggins.
Goggins and Matten decided to carry out a trial of their own. They asked members of the KX Health Club in Chelsea, London, to follow a diet high in sirt foods.
These people followed what is now phase one of the Sirt Food Diet, a week-long phase that combines sirt foods with calorie restriction. For the first three days, calorie intake is reduced to 1,000 calories, which amounts to three sirt food-rich green juices and one meal high in sirt foods. Calorie intake is increased to 1,500 over the next four days, equivalent to two juices and two meals.
Of the 39 that took part in the trial, two were obese, 15 were overweight and 22 had a healthy body weight. What they achieved surprised everyone. They lost an average of seven pounds in seven days, as well as increasing their muscle mass, wellbeing, and energy.
“On a standard diet, you typically expect to lose two pounds, two ounces a week,” says Matten. “You’d also lose muscle along with fat. But not with this diet. Our participants showed that not only do sirt foods activate fat burning but they also promote muscle growth, maintenance and repair.”
This wasn’t the only surprise. Unlike conventional diets, none of the participants reported feeling hungry. “In fact, some struggled to eat all of the food that was provided for them and they were all brimming with energy throughout the seven days,” says Goggins.
Following on from this success, the authors developed phase two of the diet, a 14-day maintenance period where participants eat three sirt food-rich meals and a green juice every day. The aim at this point is to give people the information and support they need to make eating a sirt food-rich diet part of their lifestyle.
“Once the three weeks are up, most people feel so well and are so happy with the results that they don’t want to go back to their old ways,” says Matten. “This diet isn’t restrictive. It’s about including more foods, not excluding them. It makes people feel good. Why wouldn’t they want to continue?”
Word soon spread about the success of this diet and clients approached Goggins and Matten wanting to find out more. Athletes were especially interested in the diet as a way of maintaining muscle and improving performance.
To date, Goggins and Matten have helped America’s Cup sailor Ben Ainslie, rugby player James Haskell, and boxers David Haye and Anthony Ogogo as well as TV personalities and former models Jodie Kidd and Lorraine Pascale to adopt a sirtfood diet.
“It’s simple when you think about it,” says Aidan. “Plants have a sophisticated stress response, producing polyphenols that allow them to adapt to their environment and survive. When we consume these plants, we also consume their polyphenols. Certain plants have developed to produce noteworthy amounts of these polyphenols. These plants are sirt foods and they are at the heart of our diet.”
Ruth Reidy, a dietician at the Nutrition4u Clinic in Little Island, Midleton, and Mitchelstown in Cork, has mixed feelings about this diet. “When you look at the list of sirt foods, they are in keeping with a healthy Mediterranean-type diet,” she says. “So certainly there are benefits to including these foods as part of an overall healthy eating plan.”
However, she cautions anyone who thinks the diet might be a 21-day wonder. “I’m not sure any diet can claim permanent weight loss after three weeks,” she says. “Essentially, a healthy lifestyle is what’s important for long-term good health and weight reduction.”
Goggins and Matten agree with her. They believe that in order for people to reap the full benefits of their diet, they need to incorporate sirt foods into their diet in the long term, not just for three weeks. This is what they urge in their book.
“We have more than 30 recipes in the book that are based on dishes that families are already eating,” says Matten. “These are dishes that will leave you feeling naturally full and satisfied. Our recipes add sirt foods to dishes such as chicken curry, chilli con carne, and pizza so that they retain their great taste while offering heaps more goodness.”
While Reidy finds no fault in the Sirt Food Diet, she would prefer if people adopted a different approach to what they eat. “As diets go, the Sirt Food Diet is not harmful to health,” she says. “Some sirt foods are commonly regarded as healthy and can be included as part of a healthy diet. But no one needs to eat vast quantities of sirt foods or buy special cook books. Ensure you make balanced and varied food choices.
“Drink enough fluids, especially water and milk. Get plenty of sleep and make sure you stay active. That’s what’s vital for healthful living.”
As practicing nutritionists, Goggins and Matten would agree with a lot of what Ruth has to say but having followed the diet for themselves, they heartily endorse sirt foods.
Matten feeds his seven- and three-year old children a sirt food-rich diet. “It’s changed the way we eat,” he says. “We have more colourful and vibrant meals and we enjoy food more as a family. They love the recipes too, particularly the sirt food bites, which have walnuts, dark chocolate, dates, and cocoa in them. They’re always asking for more of those.”
Goggins has noticed a big difference since adopting the diet. “I moved to London a few months ago and didn’t have a juicer for a while,” he says.
“I felt very lethargic without my green juice in the mornings. And even though I was never overweight, I’ve lost fat from my body. I’m sleeping much better at night too. With this diet, you realise what feeling good really is.”
The Sirt Food Diet by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, €12.99
The Sirt Food Diet is a diet of inclusion, rather than exclusion. Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten urge you to add the following top 20 sirt foods to your diet and to do so in quantity in order to get the maximum results:
1. Bird’s-eye chillies
3. Celery: the greener the better. Don’t forget that the most nutrition is to be found in the heart and leaves
4. Cocoa: bear in mind that a chocolate bar needs to consist of at least 85% cocoa solids in order to qualify as a sirt food 5. Coffee: this book presents research showing that coffee drinkers run a lower risk of diabetes, certain cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases
6. Extra virgin olive oil
7. Green tea: matcha green tea is especially recommended
8. Kale: you now have yet another reason to eat this superfood
10. Medjool dates: dates have been linked to a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease when eaten in moderation
12. Chicory: red is better than yellow
13. Onions: red is better than white
14. Red wine: red wine has long been believed to be a key reason for the long lives and slim figures associated with the traditional French way of life. Pinot noir contains more sirtuin-activators than other grape varieties.
18. Turmeric: it needs to be used in conjunction with black pepper and some sort of fat in order to be effective
The Sirtfood Diet recommends getting the maximum bang for your nutritional buck by packing lots of sirt foods into your morning juice.
It also recommends not eating or consuming juice after 7pm. Food consumed early in the day is more likely to be used for energy. Food consumed later is more likely to be stored as fat.
Eat according to your appetite. Don’t force yourself to finish your meals.
Drink water, black coffee and green tea and treat yourself to a glass of red wine with a meal two or three days a week.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved