The Sirtfood Diet by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten
Sirtfoods are particularly rich in special nutrients that, when we consume them, are able to activate the same skinny genes in our bodies that calorie restriction does. These genes are known as sirtuins.
Incredibly, resveratrol had the same effect on longevity as calorie restriction, but this was achieved without reducing energy intake.
It all boiled down to whether the foods were rich in certain types of natural plant chemicals known as polyphenols.
The conclusion was profound: not all plant foods (including fruits and vegetables) are equal when it comes to controlling our weight. Instead, we need to start investigating plant foods for their polyphenol content, and then in turn investigate the ability of those polyphenols to switch on our “skinny” sirtuin genes.
such as chocolate, coffee, and tea, are in fact so rich in sirtuin-activating polyphenols that they trump most fruits and vegetables out there.
In total we have identified twenty foods rich in polyphenols that have been shown to activate our sirtuin genes, and together these form the basis of the Sirtfood Diet.
extra virgin olive oil, red onions, garlic, parsley, chilies, kale, strawberries, walnuts, capers, tofu, green tea, and even coffee.
Extra virgin olive oil, wild leafy greens, nuts, berries, red wine, dates, and herbs are all potent Sirtfoods, and all feature prominently in the native Mediterranean diet.
Then the eureka moment struck. Both extra virgin olive oil and walnuts stand out for their exceptional content of sirtuin-activating polyphenols. Essentially, by adding these in significant amounts to a normal Mediterranean diet, what the researchers had unwittingly created was a superrich Sirtfood diet, and they found that it delivered breathtaking results.
The name for this family of genes is sirtuin. Sirtuins are special because they orchestrate processes deep within our cells that influence such important things as our ability to burn fat, our susceptibility—or not—to disease, and ultimately even our life span. So profound is the effect of sirtuins that they are now referred to as “master metabolic regulators.”1 In essence, exactly what anyone wanting to shed some pounds and live a long and healthy life would want to be in charge of.
Our breakthrough came when we discovered that the profound benefits from caloric restriction and fasting were mediated through activation of our ancient sirtuin genes.5 To better understand this, it might be helpful to think about sirtuins as the guardians at the crossroads between
In humans, there are seven different sirtuins (SIRT1 to SIRT7). Of these, SIRT1 and SIRT3 are the two most important sirtuins involved in energy balance. While SIRT1 is found throughout the body, SIRT3 is predominantly found in our mitochondria—the energy powerhouses of our cells. Together their activation gives us the many benefits we are looking to achieve.
It’s not just caloric restriction and fasting that activate sirtuins; exercise does too.6 Just like in fasting, sirtuins orchestrate the profound benefits of exercise.
Research shows that the human body has evolved ways to naturally adjust and reduce the amount of energy we expend when we exercise,7 meaning that in order for exercise to be an effective weight-loss intervention, we need to commit substantial time and strenuous effort.
SUMMARY • Each of us possesses an ancient family of genes called sirtuins. • Sirtuins are master metabolic regulators that control our ability to burn fat and stay healthy. • Sirtuins act as energy sensors within our cells, and get activated when a shortage of energy is detected. • Fasting and exercise both activate our sirtuin genes, but can be hard to stick to and even have drawbacks. • There is a new groundbreaking way to activate our sirtuin genes: Sirtfoods. • By eating a diet rich in Sirtfoods, you can mimic the effects of fasting and exercise, and achieve the body you want.
Mice that have been genetically engineered to have high levels of SIRT1, the sirtuin gene that drives fat loss, are leaner and more metabolically active,1 whereas mice lacking SIRT1 are fatter and have more metabolic disease.2 When we look at humans, levels of SIRT1 have been found to be markedly lower in the body fat of obese people than their healthy-weight counterparts.3,4 In contrast, people with increased SIRT1 gene activity are leaner and more resistant to weight gain.5
Behind it all is the true villain masterminding the whole operation, directing every deal the peddlers make. In our film, this villain is called PPAR-γ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ). PPAR-γ orchestrates the fat-gain process by switching on the genes that are needed to start synthesizing and storing fat.6 To stop the proliferation of fat, you must cut the supply. Stop PPAR-γ, and you effectively stop fat gain.
With the activity of PPAR-γ halted, SIRT1 moves its attentions to “cleaning the streets.” Not only is this done by shutting down the production and storage of fat, as we’ve seen, but it actually changes our metabolism so we start ridding the body of excess fat.7 Just like every good crime-fighting hero, SIRT1 has a sidekick, a key regulator in our cells known as PGC-1α. This powerfully stimulates the creation of what are known as mitochondria.
But not only does PGC-1α promote more mitochondria, it also encourages them to burn fat as the fuel of choice to make the energy.
amazing. It switches on genes in our white adipose tissue so that it morphs and takes on the properties of brown adipose tissue in what is called a “browning effect.”8 That means our fat stores start to behave in an altogether different way—instead of storing energy, they start to mobilize it for disposal.
Sirtuin activation improves insulin activity.9 This helps to reduce insulin resistance—the inability of our cells to respond properly to insulin—which is heavily implicated in weight gain. SIRT1 also enhances the release and activity of our thyroid hormones,10 which share many overlapping roles in boosting our metabolism and ultimately the rate at which we burn fat.
New evidence shows that the nutrients found in Sirtfoods have unique benefits for reversing leptin resistance.11,12 This is through both increasing the transport of leptin to the brain and increasing the sensitivity of the hypothalamus to leptin’s actions.
SUMMARY • Fat melts away on the Sirtfood Diet. This is because sirtuins have the power to determine whether we stay lean or get fat. • Activating SIRT1 inhibits PPAR-γ, blocking the production and storage of fat. • Activating SIRT1 also turns on PGC-1α, which makes more energy factories in our cells and increases fat burning. • Activating SIRT1 even gets our fat cells that specialize in energy storage to behave differently and start disposing of energy. • You are unlikely to feel hungry on the Sirtfood Diet because it helps to regulate appetite in the brain.
muscle mass and function is a predictor of well-being and healthy aging, and maintaining muscle prevents the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as keeping us mobile into older age. Importantly, it also appears to keep us happier, with scientists suggesting that the way sirtuins maintain muscle even has benefits for stress-related disorders, including reducing depression.
SIRT1 is a potent inhibitor of muscle breakdown. As long as SIRT1 is activated, even when we are fasting, muscle breakdown is prevented and we continue to burn fat for fuel.
Sirtuins actually work to increase our skeletal muscle mass.
Our muscle contains a special type of stem cell, called a satellite cell, which controls its growth and regeneration. Satellite cells just sit there quietly most of the time, but they are activated when muscle gets damaged or stressed. This is how our muscles get bigger through activities like weight training. SIRT1 is essential for activating satellite cells, and without its activity muscles are significantly smaller because they no longer have the capacity to develop or regenerate properly.6 However, by increasing SIRT1 activity, we give a boost to our satellite cells, which encourages muscle growth and recovery.
Type-1 muscle is used for longer-duration activities, whereas type-2 muscle is used for short bursts of more intense activity. And here’s where it gets intriguing: fasting increases SIRT1 activity only in type-1 muscle fibers, not in type-2.7 So type-1 muscle fiber size is maintained and even noticeably increases when we fast.8 Sadly, in complete contrast to what happens in type-1 fibers during fasting, SIRT1 rapidly declines in type-2 fibers. This means fat burning slows down, and instead muscle starts to break down to provide fuel.
So fasting is a double-edged sword for muscles, with our type-2 fibers taking a hit. Type-2 fibers are what comprise the bulk of our muscle definition. So even though our type-1 fiber mass increases, we still see an overall significant loss of muscle with fasting. If we could stop the breakdown, it would not only make us look good aesthetically but also help promote further fat loss. And the way to do this is to combat the drop in SIRT1 in type-2 muscle fiber brought about by fasting.
But if we can increase activation of SIRT1, we can stop the age-related decline.11
by activating SIRT1 to stop the loss of muscle mass and function we normally see with aging, we see multiple related health benefits, including the halting of bone loss and prevention of increased chronic systemic inflammation (known as inflammaging), as well as improvements in mobility and overall quality of life. Unsurprisingly, then, the latest research shows that the higher the polyphenol content (and thus sirtuin-activating nutrients) in the diets of older people, the greater the protection they experience against physical performance decline with age.14
SUMMARY • Despite losing weight, we found, people following the Sirtfood Diet either maintained or even gained muscle. This is because sirtuins are master regulators of muscle. • By activating sirtuins, it is possible both to prevent muscle breakdown and to promote muscle regeneration. • Activating SIRT1 can also help to prevent the gradual loss of muscle that we see with aging. • Not only will activating your sirtuin genes make you look leaner, it will help you stay healthier and function better as you age.
Despite all the amazing advances in modern medicine, society is getting fatter and sicker—70 percent of all deaths are due to chronic disease,
sirtuin activation is great for heart health, protecting the muscle cells in the heart and generally helping the heart muscle function better.1 It also improves how our arteries work, helps us handle cholesterol more efficiently, and protects against the clogging up of our arteries known as atherosclerosis.2
diabetes? Sirtuin activation increases the amount of insulin that can be secreted and helps it work more effectively in the body.3 As it happens, one of the most popular antidiabetic drugs, metformin, relies on SIRT1 for its beneficial effect.
sirtuin activity found to be lower in Alzheimer’s patients. In contrast, sirtuin activation improves communication signals in the brain, enhances cognitive function, and reduces brain inflammation. This stops the buildup of amyloid-β production and tau protein aggregation, two of the main damaging things we see occurring in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.5,6
The more osteoblasts we have, the stronger our bones. Sirtuin activation not only promotes the production of osteoblast cells, but also increases their survival.7 This makes sirtuin activation essential for lifelong bone health.
SUMMARY • Despite all the advances in modern medicine, as a society we’re getting fatter and sicker. • Seventy percent of all deaths are due to chronic disease, with low sirtuin activity implicated in the vast majority. • By activating sirtuins, you can prevent or forestall the major chronic diseases of the Western world. • By packing your diet full of Sirtfoods, you too can enjoy the same level of well-being as the healthiest and longest-living populations on the planet.
reason Sirtfoods are good for you is not because they nourish the body with essential nutrients, or provide antioxidants to mop up the damaging effects of free radicals, but quite the opposite: because they are full of weak toxins?
The answer is: stress. Both fasting and exercise cause a mild stress on the body that encourages it to adapt by becoming fitter, more efficient, and more resilient. It’s the body’s response to these mildly stressful stimuli—its adaptation—that makes us fitter, healthier, and leaner in the long run.
hormesis. It’s the idea that you get a beneficial effect from being exposed to a low dose of a substance or stress that is otherwise toxic or lethal if given at higher doses.
In consequence, over the last billion years they have developed a highly sophisticated stress-response system that humbles anything we can boast. The way they do this is by producing a vast collection of natural plant chemicals—called polyphenols—that allow them to successfully adapt to their environment and survive. When we consume these plants, we also consume these polyphenol nutrients. Their effect is profound: they activate our own innate stress-response pathways. We’re talking here about exactly the same pathways that fasting and exercise switch on: the sirtuins.
Due to a greater need to adapt to survive in their environment, foods grown in the wild, or even organically, are better for us than intensively farmed produce since they produce higher levels of polyphenols.
SIRTFOOD MAJOR SIRTUIN-ACTIVATING NUTRIENTS 1 arugula quercetin, kaempferol 2 buckwheat rutin 3 capers kaempferol, quercetin 4 celery, including its leaves apigenin, luteolin 5 chilies luteolin, myricetin 6 cocoa epicatechin 7 coffee caffeic acid 8 extra virgin olive oil oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol 9 garlic ajoene, myricetin 10 green tea (especially matcha) epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) 11 kale kaempferol, quercetin 12 Medjool dates gallic acid, caffeic acid 13 parsley apigenin, myricetin 14 red endive luteolin 15 red onion quercetin 16 red wine resveratrol, piceatannol 17 soy daidzein, formononetin 18 strawberries fisetin 19 turmeric curcumin 20 walnuts gallic acid
SUMMARY • We need to radically rethink the idea that fruits, vegetables, and plant foods are good for us simply because they contain vitamins and antioxidants. • They are good for us because they contain natural chemicals that place a mild stress on our cells, just as fasting and exercise do. • Plants, because they are stationary, have developed a highly sophisticated stress-response system and produce polyphenols to help them adapt to the challenges of their environment. • When we eat these plants, their polyphenols activate our stress-response pathways—our sirtuin genes—mimicking the effects of caloric restriction and exercise. • The foods with the most powerful sirtuin-activating effects are called Sirtfoods.
In fact, it now appears that written records of such benefits of Sirtfoods go way back to being the subject of the very first clinical trial ever recorded. Documented more than 2,200 years ago, we find it in the Book of Daniel in the Bible.
Blue Zones, where the intake of Sirtfoods is much, much higher than the amount we consume in a typical Western diet.
But how could we know that the robust health of the Kuna was attributable to their high intake of cocoa flavanols? The researchers found that when the Kuna Indians migrated to Panama City and switched to consuming intensively processed commercial cocoa (which is stripped of its flavanols and thus no longer a Sirtfood), the health benefits vanished.
Researchers also did something very interesting in a substudy of PREDIMED. They examined the genetic profile for PPAR-γ—which, if you remember, is the obesity villain we came across earlier. While some of us are quite resistant to its actions, others are not so fortunate, and can really get clobbered by it. This means you might eat the same as someone else but be much more susceptible to weight gain. However, it doesn’t need to be that way with Sirtfoods. In those who followed the Sirtfood-rich Mediterranean diet, the negative effects of this gene were reversed.14 Incredibly, despite no drop in calories, the diet richer in Sirtfoods was linked to a 40 percent drop in the risk of obesity, especially weight stored around the tummy.15 Forget low fat and forget obsessing over calories: those who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet will always be slimmer than the general population.
SUMMARY • While obesity and chronic disease are rampant in the Western world, there are Blue Zones that are virtually immune to these problems. • One thing that people living in Blue Zones have in common is a diet very rich in Sirtfoods. • Classic examples include the Kuna American Indians with their penchant for cocoa, the turmeric-infused diet of India, the Japanese predilection for green tea, and the extra virgin olive oil at the heart of the traditional Mediterranean diet. • The Sirtfood Diet brings together all these great foods—and more—into a world-beating diet for health and weight loss.
When researchers looked at consumption of five key sirtuin-activating nutrients (quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, luteolin, and apigenin) in the US diet, they found individual daily intakes to be a miserly 13 milligrams per day.1 In contrast, the average Japanese intake was five times higher.2
Resveratrol is very effective at helping to destroy existing fat cells, whereas quercetin excels in preventing new fat cell formation.
Here, we are talking about juices specifically made using a juicer—blenders and smoothie makers (such as the NutriBullet) won’t work. For many, this will seem counterintuitive, on the basis that when something is juiced the fiber is removed. But for leafy greens this is exactly what we want. The fiber from food contains what are called non-extractable polyphenols (or NEPPs). These are polyphenols, including sirtuin activators, that are attached to the fibrous part of the food and are only released when broken down by our friendly gut bacteria. By removing the fiber, we don’t get the NEPPs and lose out on their goodness.
But for leafy vegetables, the active ingredients in the Sirtfood juice, they are far lower despite a large bulk of fiber.
So when it comes to leafy greens, we get maximum bang for our buck by juicing them and removing the low-nutrient fiber, meaning we can use much greater volumes and achieve a superconcentrated hit of sirtuin-activating polyphenols.
Sirtfood meals should always be rich in protein. A building block of dietary protein called leucine has been shown to have additional benefits in stimulating SIRT1 to increase fat burning and improve blood sugar control.
Leucine potently stimulates anabolism (building things) in our cells, particularly in muscle, which demands a lot of energy and means our energy factories (called mitochondria) have to work overtime. This creates a need in our cells for the activity of Sirtfoods.
benefits of omega-3 fats may come through enhancing how our sirtuin genes work.
without Sirtfoods to counterbalance the protein, we can begin to understand why. Leucine can be a double-edged sword. As we’ve seen, we need Sirtfoods to help our cells meet the metabolic demand that leucine places on them. But without them, our mitochondria can become dysfunctional, and instead of improving health, high leucine levels can actually promote obesity and insulin resistance. Sirtfoods help to keep the effects of leucine not just in check but powerfully working in our favor.
When it comes to eating, our philosophy is the earlier the better, ideally finishing eating for the day by 7 p.m. This is for two reasons. First, to reap the natural satiating effect of Sirtfoods.
second compelling reason, which is to keep eating habits in tune with your internal body clock.
when possible, ideally by 7 p.m. But what if this is just not feasible? The good news is that sirtuins play a key role in body clock synchronization. In fact, research has found that the polyphenols in Sirtfoods are capable of modulating our body clocks and positively adjusting circadian rhythm.16 That means if you simply cannot avoid eating later, the inclusion of Sirtfoods with your meal will minimize the detrimental effects.
To summarize these tastes and the foods you’ll be eating on the diet that satisfy them: the seven major taste sensations are sweet (strawberries, dates); salty (celery, fish); sour (strawberries); bitter (cocoa, kale, endive, extra virgin olive oil, green tea); pungent (chilies, garlic, extra virgin olive oil); astringent (green tea, red wine); and umami (soy, fish, meat).
The same principle applies to olive oil. Consumed in its minimally processed form—extra virgin—it has a powerful and distinct flavor, with an invigorating kick that can be felt at the back of the throat. Yet refined and processed olive oil loses all character, is mild and bland, and carries no such kick.
SUMMARY • The Sirtfood Diet takes the most potent Sirtfoods on the planet and brings them together in a simple and practical way of eating. • To achieve optimal results for weight loss and health, it is necessary to eat Sirtfoods in the right quantity, combination, and forms to reap the synergistic benefits of their sirtuin-activating compounds. • We further enhance this by including other healthy ingredients, such as leucine-rich protein foods and oily fish, to make the effects of the Sirtfood Diet even more powerful. • When we eat is also important, and eating earlier in the day helps to keep us in tune with our built-in body clock. • Unlike our modern diets, Sirtfoods satisfy all our taste receptors, which means we get more gratification from our food and feel content more quickly. • The Sirtfood Diet is a diet of inclusion—not exclusion, making it the only type of diet that can deliver long-term weight-loss success.
But long before it was a salad leaf wielded in a class war, arugula was revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans for its medicinal properties. Commonly used as a diuretic and digestive aid, it gained its true fame from its reputation for having potent aphrodisiac properties, so much so that growth of arugula was banned in monasteries in the Middle Ages, and the famous Roman poet Virgil wrote that “the rocket excites the sexual desire of drowsy people.” What definitely excites us about arugula, though, is its bumper levels of the sirtuin-activating nutrients kaempferol and quercetin.
combination of kaempferol and quercetin is being investigated as a cosmetic ingredient because together they moisturize and enhance collagen synthesis in the skin.
needed, and it nourished them for weeks. We are big buckwheat fans too. Firstly, because it is one of the best-known sources of a sirtuin activator called rutin.
One reason that buckwheat is head and shoulders above other more common grains is probably that it is not a grain at all—it’s actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb.
Studies now reveal that capers have important antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antiviral properties, and they have a rich history of being used as a medicine in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
When it comes to celery, it is important to note that there are two types: blanched/yellow and Pascal/green. Blanching is a technique that was developed to reduce celery’s characteristic bitter taste, which was perceived to be too strong. This involves shading the celery from sunlight prior to harvesting, resulting in a paler color and milder flavor. What a travesty that is, for as well as dumbing down the flavor, blanching dumbs down celery’s sirtuin-activating properties. Luckily the tide is changing and people are demanding real and distinct flavor and are turning back to the more vivid green variety. Green celery is the type we recommend that you use in both the green juices and meals, with the most nutritious parts being the hearts and the leaves.
we hope we can entice you to consider adding chilies in small amounts, especially in light of recent research showing that those who eat spicy foods three or more times a week have a 14 percent lower death rate compared to those who eat them less than once a week.2 As a general rule, the hotter the chili, the better its Sirtfood credentials, but be sensible and stick with what is suited to your own tastes. Serrano peppers are a great start—while packing heat, they are tolerable for most people; and for more experienced heat-seekers, we recommend seeking out Thai chilies for maximum sirtuin-activating benefits.
Chocolate is often treated with an alkalizing agent (known as Dutch process) to reduce its acidity and give it a darker color. Sadly, this process massively diminishes its sirtuin-activating flavanols, thus seriously compromising its health-promoting qualities. Fortunately, and unlike in many other countries, food labeling regulations in the United States require that alkalized cocoa must be declared as such and labeled “processed with alkali.” We recommend avoiding these products, even if they boast a higher cocoa percentage, and instead opting for those that have not undergone Dutch processing to reap the true benefits of cocoa.
Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic and antifungal often used to help treat stomach ulcers. It can stimulate the lymphatic system to “detox” by expediting the removal of waste products from the body. And as well as being investigated for fat loss, it also packs a potent heart health punch, lowering cholesterol by about 10 percent and blood pressure by 5 to 7 percent, as well as reducing the stickiness of the blood and blood sugar levels.7 And if you are worried about that off-putting garlic odor, take note. When women were asked to assess a selection of men’s body odors, those men who consumed four or more cloves of garlic a day were judged to have a much more attractive and pleasant smell.8 Researchers believe it is because it is perceived as signaling better health. And, of course, there are always mints for fresher breath!
Sirtfood nutrients in garlic are complemented by another key nutrient in it called allicin, which gives off garlic’s characteristic aroma. But allicin only forms in garlic after physical “injury” to the bulb. And its formation is stopped when exposed to heat (cooking) or low pH (stomach acid). So when preparing garlic, chop, mince, or crush, and then allow it to sit for around ten minutes to allow the allicin to form before cooking or eating it.
rich content of a group of powerful plant compounds called catechins, the star of the show being a particular type of sirtuin-activating catechin known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
matcha as normal green tea on steroids. It is a special powdered green tea that is prepared by dissolving it directly in water, in contrast to common green tea, which is prepared as an infusion. The upshot of consuming matcha is that it contains dramatically greater levels of the sirtuin-activating compound EGCG compared with other types of green tea.
The reason we are pro-kale is that it boasts bumper amounts of the sirtuin-activating nutrients quercetin and kaempferol, making it a must-include in the Sirtfood Diet and the base of our Sirtfood green juice.
But processed and refined sugar is very different from sugar carried in a vehicle provided by nature that is balanced with sirtuin-activating polyphenols: the Medjool date. In complete contrast to normal sugar, Medjool dates, eaten in moderation, actually have no real noticeable blood-sugar-raising effects.
Taste aside, what makes parsley really special is that it is an excellent source of the sirtuin-activating nutrient apigenin, a real boon given that it is rarely found in significant quantities in other foods. Fascinatingly, apigenin binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in our brains, helping us to relax and aiding sleep. Stack it all up, and it’s time we appreciated parsley not as a ubiquitous food confetti but as a food in its own right in order to reap the wonderful health benefits it can bring.
Now endive is grown all over the world, including the United States, and earns its Sirtfood badge thanks to its impressive content of the sirtuin activator luteolin. And in addition to the established sirtuin-activating benefits, luteolin consumption has become a promising therapy approach for improving sociability in autistic children. For those new to endive, it has a crisp texture and a sweet flavor accompanied by a mild and pleasant bitterness. If you’re ever stuck on how to increase endive in your diet, you can’t lose by adding its leaves to a salad, where its welcome, tart flavor adds the perfect bite to a zesty extra virgin olive oil–based dressing. Just like onion, red is best, but the yellow variety can also be considered a Sirtfood. So while the red variety can sometimes be harder to find, you can rest assured that yellow is a perfectly suitable alternative.
onions earn their top twenty Sirtfood status because they are chock-full of the sirtuin-activating compound quercetin—the very compound that the world of sports science has recently begun actively researching and marketing for improving sports performance. And why red? Simply because they have the highest quercetin content, although the standard yellow ones don’t lag too far behind, and are a good inclusion too.
Red wine appears to be able to ward off the common cold, with moderate wine drinkers having a greater than 40 percent reduction in its incidence.12 Studies now also show benefits for oral health and in prevention of cavities.13 With moderate consumption also shown to increase social bonding and out-of-the-box thinking, that after-work drink among colleagues to discuss work projects appears to have a founding in strong science.
To ensure maximum sirtuin-activating bang for your buck, wines from the New York region (especially pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot) have the highest polyphenol content of the most widely available wines.
high soy–consuming countries had markedly lower rates of certain cancers, especially of the breast and prostate. This is thought to be due to a special group of polyphenols contained within soybeans known as isoflavones, which can favorably change how estrogens work in the body, and include the sirtuin-activators daidzein and formononetin.
Highly processed, nutrient-stripped forms of soybean are now a ubiquitous ingredient added to many processed food products. The benefits are only reaped through natural soy products such as tofu, an excellent vegan protein source, or in a fermented form such as tempeh, natto, or our favorite, miso, a traditional Japanese paste fermented with a naturally occurring fungus that results in an intense umami flavor.
strawberries earn their top twenty Sirtfood status due to their abundance of the sirtuin activator fisetin. And studies now endorse eating strawberries regularly to promote healthy aging, staving off Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. As for their sugar content, it’s very low, a mere teaspoon of sugar per 31/2 ounces.
What researchers have found is that adding strawberries to carbohydrates has the effect of reducing insulin demand, in essence turning the food into a sustained energy releaser.
One of the things that limits the effectiveness of turmeric is that its key sirtuin-activating nutrient, curcumin, is poorly absorbed by the body when we eat it. However, research shows that we can overcome this by cooking it in liquid, adding fat, and adding black pepper, all of which dramatically increase its absorption. This fits perfectly with traditional Indian cooking, where it is typically combined with ghee and black pepper in curries and other hot dishes, and proof again that science is only just catching up with the age-old wisdom of traditional ways of eating.
walnuts stand out for us is how they fly in the face of conventional thinking: they are high in fat and calories, yet well established for reducing weight and slashing the risk of metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. That’s the power of sirtuin activation. Less well known, but equally intriguing, is the emerging research showing walnuts to be a powerful anti-aging food. As well as preventing the decline in physical function with age, research also points to their benefits as a brain food with the potential to slow down brain aging and reduce the risk of degenerative brain disorders.
SIRTFOOD GREEN JUICE (SERVES 1) 2 large handfuls (about 21/2 ounces or 75g) kale a large handful (1 ounce or 30g) arugula a very small handful (about 1/4 ounce or 5g) flat-leaf parsley 2 to 3 large celery stalks (51/2 ounces or 150g), including leaves 1/2 medium green apple 1/2- to 1-inch (1 to 2.5 cm) piece of fresh ginger juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 level teaspoon matcha powder*
For those who want to remain gluten-free, quinoa is a good Sirtfood option. And for a great whole-grain Sirtfood snack loved by all, look no further than popcorn.
To maintain and continue your weight loss and well-being, we actively encourage you to include these foods as you really expand the repertoire of your diet. Vegetables • artichokes • asparagus • bok choy/pak choi • broccoli • frisée • green beans • shallots • watercress • white onions • yellow endive Fruits • apples • blackberries • black currants • black plums • cranberries • goji berries • kumquats • raspberries • red grapes Nuts and seeds • chestnuts • chia seeds • peanuts • pecan nuts • pistachio nuts • sunflower seeds Grains and pseudo-grains • popcorn • quinoa • whole-wheat flour Beans • fava beans • white beans (e.g., cannellini or navy) Herbs and spices • chives • cinnamon • dill (fresh and dried) • dried oregano • dried sage • ginger • peppermint (fresh and dried) • thyme (fresh and dried) Beverages • black tea • white tea
The second major nutrient group that powerfully complements Sirtfoods is the omega-3 long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA. For years omega-3s have been the cherished favorite of the nutritional health world.
The best omega-3 fish sources are herring, sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel, in that order.
SUMMARY • While the top twenty Sirtfoods should remain in the center of the plate, there are many other plants with sirtuin-activating properties that should be included in our diets to make them varied and diverse. • A diet rich in Sirtfoods complemented by the inclusion of animal products and fish provides all the benefits of sirtuin activation, as well as meeting the need for other essential nutrients. • While vegans and vegetarians can get all the benefits from a Sirtfood-based diet, careful attention should be given to those nutrients that may be lacking and appropriate food choices or supplementation made. • Followers of the Sirtfood Diet are encouraged to engage in moderate activity for thirty minutes five times a week to reap the many benefits of exercise for well-being and stimulate maximum sirtuin activation.
SUMMARY • Sirtfoods are not only compatible with all other dietary approaches but powerfully enhance their benefits. • Sirtfoods are the archetypal paleo foods, containing the sirtuin-activating polyphenols that humans have evolved eating, and reaping the benefits from, over countless millennia. • Low-carb diets that lack plant-based foods can be dramatically enhanced by the inclusion of Sirtfoods. • Eating a diet rich in Sirtfoods means that the calorie restriction of intermittent fasting can be less severe, yet the benefits will be the same if not greater. • The top twenty Sirtfoods are naturally gluten-free, making them a boon for anyone following a gluten-free diet.
ASIAN SHRIMP STIR-FRY WITH BUCKWHEAT NOODLES SERVES 1 1/3 pound (150g) shelled raw jumbo shrimp, deveined 2 teaspoons tamari (or soy sauce, if you are not avoiding gluten) 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 3 ounces (75g) soba (buckwheat noodles) 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 Thai chili, finely chopped 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger 1/8 cup (20g) red onions, sliced 1/2 cup (45g) celery including leaves, trimmed and sliced, with leaves set aside 1/2 cup (75g) green beans, chopped 3/4 cup (50g) kale, roughly chopped 1/2 cup (100ml) chicken stock Heat a frying pan over high heat, then cook the shrimp in 1 teaspoon of the tamari and 1 teaspoon of the oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. Wipe the pan out with a paper towel, as you’re going to use it again. Cook the noodles in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes or as directed on the package. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, chili, ginger, red onion, celery (but not the leaves), green beans, and kale in the remaining tamari and oil over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for a minute or two, until the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy. Add the shrimp, noodles, and celery leaves to the pan, bring back to a boil, then remove from the heat and serve.
FOR THE SALSA 1 medium tomato (130g) 1 Thai chili, finely chopped 1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped 2 tablespoons (5g) parsley, finely chopped juice of 1/4 lemon To make the salsa, remove the eye from the tomato and chop it very finely, taking care to keep as much of the liquid as possible. Mix with the chili, capers, parsley, and lemon juice. You could put everything in a blender, but the end result is a little different.
BAKED CHICKEN BREAST WITH WALNUT AND PARSLEY PESTO AND RED ONION SALAD SERVES 1 3/8 cup (15g) parsley 1/8 cup (15g) walnuts 4 teaspoons (15g) Parmesan cheese, grated 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil juice of 1/2 lemon 3 tablespoons (50ml) water 51/2 ounces (150g) skinless chicken breast 1/8 cup (20g) red onions, finely sliced 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 11/4 ounces (35g) arugula 2/3 cup (100g) cherry tomatoes, halved 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar To make the pesto, place the parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, olive oil, half the lemon juice, and a little of the water in a food processor or blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Add more water gradually until you have your preferred consistency. Marinate the chicken breast in 1 tablespoon of the pesto and the remaining lemon juice in the fridge for 30 minutes, longer if possible. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Heat an ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken in its marinade for 1 minute on either side, then transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 8 minutes, or until cooked through. Marinate the onions in the red wine vinegar for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the liquid. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven, spoon another tablespoon of pesto over it, and let the heat from the chicken melt the pesto. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Combine the arugula, tomatoes, and onion and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Serve with the chicken, spooning over the remaining pesto.
WALDORF SALAD SERVES 1 1 cup (100g) celery including leaves, roughly chopped 1/2 cup (50g) apple, roughly chopped 3/8 cup (50g) walnuts, roughly chopped 1 tablespoon (10g) red onion, roughly chopped 2 tablespoons (5g) parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon capers 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar juice of 1/4 lemon 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard about 2 ounces (50g) arugula about 11/2 ounces (35g) endive leaves Mix the celery and its leaves, apple, walnuts, and onion with the parsley and capers. In a bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard to make the dressing. Serve the celery mixture on top of the arugula and endive and drizzle with the dressing.
SIRTFOOD SMOOTHIE SERVES 1 3/8 cup (100g) plain Greek yogurt (or vegan alternative, such as soy or coconut yogurt) 6 walnut halves 8 to 10 medium strawberries, hulled handful of kale, stalks removed 3/4 ounce (20g) dark chocolate (85 percent cocoa solids) 1 Medjool date, pitted 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric thin sliver (1 to 2mm) of Thai chili 7/8 cup (200ml) unsweetened almond milk Blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
SPICED SCRAMBLED EGGS SERVES 1 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil 1/8 cup (20g) red onion, finely chopped 1/2 Thai chili, finely chopped 3 medium eggs 1/4 cup (50ml) milk 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 2 tablespoons (5g) parsley, finely chopped Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the red onion and chili until soft but not browned. Whisk together the eggs, milk, turmeric, and parsley. Add to the hot pan and continue cooking over low to medium heat, constantly moving the egg mixture around the pan to scramble it and stop it from sticking/burning. When you have achieved your desired consistency, serve.
SIRT CHILI CON CARNE SERVES 4 1 red onion, finely chopped 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 Thai chilies, finely chopped 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon ground turmeric 1 pound (450g) lean ground beef (5 percent fat) 5/8 cup (150ml) red wine 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeds removed and cut into bite-size pieces 2 x 14-ounce (400g) cans chopped tomatoes 1 tablespoon tomato purée 1 tablespoon cocoa powder 7/8 cup (150g) canned kidney beans 11/4 cups (300ml) beef stock 2 tablespoons (5g) fresh coriander, chopped 2 tablespoons (5g) fresh parsley, chopped 1 cup (160g) buckwheat In a large saucepan, fry the onion, garlic, and chili in the oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the spices and cook for another minute or two. Add the ground beef and cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium-high heat until the meat is nicely browned all over. Add the red wine and allow it to bubble to reduce it by half. Add the red pepper, tomatoes, tomato purée, cocoa, kidney beans, and stock and leave to simmer for 1 hour. You may have to add a little water from time to time to achieve a thick, sticky consistency. Just before serving, stir in the chopped herbs. Meanwhile, cook the buckwheat according to the package instructions and serve alongside the chili.