If you want to change your diet, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. From the FODMAP approach to Paleo to Keto, each one requires a drastic adjustment to your intake. And you’re likely to see results with these diets. However, most of the resources you’ll find are heavy on instruction and light on explanation. In contrast, Deep Nutrition is a thorough, scientifically-backed exploration of the foods we eat and how they affect our bodies. It’s a lifestyle examination—not a crash diet.
The book was written by Catherine Shanahan, M.D., the nutritionist for the Lakers. She successfully convinced Kobe Bryant to drink his daily dose of bone broth. And on a larger scale, she’s proven that fat-adapted athletes perform at significantly higher levels.
Deep Nutrition will force you to rethink everything you know about nutrition. The premise of the book is that we should eat The Human Diet, a Paleo-esque approach to eating that champions a return to the original foods our ancestors ate. The reason? Those foods provide nutrition that our bodies need and aren’t getting from most of today’s boneless, skinless, low-fat, artificially flavored, and genetically modified options. The book also argues that bad nutrition affects everything from the types of disease we develop to what we pass on to our kids. The foods we eat essentially rewrite our genetic code—a study known as epigenetics.
The Real Enemies: Vegetable Oil and Sugar
Saturated fat has become our greatest dietary enemy over the last 30 years. In the medical field, the consensus is that foods high in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol increase our risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and other complications. Thus, we now have grocery shelves full of low-fat or fat-free alternatives. Even the American Heart Association recommends we all reduce our saturated fat intake in favor of poly- and monounsaturated fats. But what if all these guidelines are wrong? Shanahan dares not only to ask the question but prove that we’ve all been led astray by the dietary powers that be.
There are two overarching themes throughout the book—avoid vegetable oils at all costs and significantly cut back intake of sugar. These two foods are our greatest enemies. Not saturated fat. Why?
Vegetable oils, like canola oil, soy oil, and sunflower oil, are full of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). But wait a minute. I thought PUFAs were healthy? Well, not quite. These oils are extracted from seeds that are only healthy in their natural forms, because they’re also full of antioxidants. But once they’re refined, the healthy PUFAs and antioxidants are wiped out, leaving only unhealthy, distorted PUFAs behind. PUFAs interact with free radicals and turn your body into a breeding ground for inflammation, cancer, and brain disorders.
All these vegetable oils are practically omnipresent. The bag of nuts you receive during a flight, almost every granola bar, cereal, the pan seared chicken at your favorite restaurant. Vegetable oils are in almost everything we eat.
Good fats, like coconut oil, olive oil, and unrefined palm oil, are safe alternatives but used far less when we dine out or buy processed foods. In the book and on her website, Shanahan provides a full breakdown of good and bad fats.
When it comes to sugar, it’s not just about avoiding candy bars and cookies. We’ve been trained to believe that avoiding extra sugar is the best way to reduce our intake. And instead, we should feed our sweet tooth with more fruit. But, even when we deny ourselves sweet treats, we’re still getting plenty of sugar from carbs.
Sugar “clogs nutrient channels, weakening bone and muscle and slowing neural communication, which can impair mood and memory and lead to dementia”. Scary! When we ingest sugar, it goes through a process called glycation, in which the sugar sticks to our cells and tissue. Glycation hardens them and causes major issues with our insulin sensitivity and circulation. And this process happens when we have an excess of refined carbs. From hamburger buns to multiple servings of fruit to white bread, our bodies convert these foods into glucose. Our bodies then react to them as if they were pure sugar.
So, you can cut out sugar and vegetable oils, and everything’s done, right? Not so fast.
The Four Pillars of The Human Diet
To help you adjust to eating The Human Diet, Shanahan outlines four pillars. Some of the pillars will make your taste buds water while others will make you feel like a contestant on Fear Factor. It’s essentially a high-fat, high-protein, low-carb diet, which requires a little imagination and adjustment on your part. The fat calories fill in for the lack of carbs. In turn, you stay satiated (full) longer, snack less, and have more energy.
Eat meat on the bone. There are essential nutrients in the ligaments, marrow, skin, and tissue of the meat that seeps into the muscle (the part you eat). When you go boneless and skinless, you miss out on the greatest benefits of eating meat. Bone-in, skin on. It goes against everything we’ve been taught our entire lives but it’s the healthiest way to eat meat. This section also details the benefits of bone broth—for those who aren’t keen on swapping out boneless, skinless chicken breast for thighs.
Eat organ meat. This pillar might make you cringe. After all, the thought of eating chicken liver seems scary. However, offal meats contain a much higher concentration of nutrients than fruits, vegetables, and over-the-counter multivitamins. You can ease into the world of organ meats with pâté.
Eat fermented and sprouted foods. Kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and Greek yogurt all contain living bacteria that work to restore the good bacteria in your gut. A healthy gut provides a major boost to your immune system.
Eat raw veggies. Or at least, don’t overcook them. Raw veggies and nuts are at their most potent in their natural forms. The more they’re cooked, the more nutrition they lose.
A Typical Day on The Human Diet
So, you’ve accepted most of these principles. How do you apply it? The last portion of the book provides several meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, complete with measurements and calorie calculations. A typical day might look like the following:
Breakfast: Two sunny side up eggs cooked in butter, with a slice of goat brie, mushrooms, and a piece of sprouted toast.
Lunch: Tuna over a bed of avocado and spinach, with a homemade dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Dinner: Stir-fry chicken with veggies and cashews cooked in peanut oil and seasoned with soy sauce.
The food is savory and filled with flavor. Not to mention, it helps you melt off fat and keep your body in great working order.
As someone who’s taken nutrition courses and tried many of the most popular diets, The Human Diet is the real deal. Shanahan presents her case in a compelling fashion, complete with case studies and real-life applications. And, after trying it myself for the last 3 weeks, I’ve reaped the benefits.
Last year, I had several months of physical therapy for hip bursitis, a nasty side effect of sitting in front of a computer 8 hours a day. Even after PT, the tightness continued. Since I’ve started The Human Diet, I’ve felt no discomfort or tightness—at all. I’ve lost weight with just two workouts a week. I snack less, and my food tastes better. Plus, I have more energy, I’m happier, and I feel an overall improvement in my quality of life.
I can attest—Deep Nutrition is the real deal.