Wish that you could lose weight while still indulging in red wine, chocolate and other favorites? You’re not alone, which is why a new diet claiming that this is possible, called the Sirtfood Diet, is gaining a big following.
Grammy-winning singer Adele recently caught the public’s attention after losing more than 40 pounds and attributing her success to the Sirtfood Diet — which consists of eating foods like leafy greens, berries, coffee, tea, spices and some nuts.
Although there isn’t much solid evidence demonstrating exactly how and if this particular diet works, according to the creators of the diet, foods that act as “sirtuin activators” may help to protect cells, promote healthy aging and aid in weight loss.
What Are Sirtuins?
Sirtuins are a group of proteins found mostly in certain plant foods, such as green veggies, herbs, spices, cocoa beans and soy/tofu. Some studies have found that these proteins are associated with healthy aging. Sirtuins are also known to be involved in regulating cellular processes and maintaining homeostasis in many organisms.
While more formal studies are warranted on this topic, especially because the role of sirtuins remains controversial among experts, some believe that eating foods that function as “sirtuin activators” can help to turn on sirtuin genes (including SIRT-1) that play a role in metabolic pathways.
According to the one medical dictionary, “Sirtuins influence aging, transcription, apoptosis, stress resistance, and affect energy efficiency and alertness during hypoglycemia” (low blood sugar).
What Is the Sirtfood Diet?
The Sirtfood diet involves eating lots of foods that are high in sirtuins. The diet was created by London-based authors Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, who are considered “celebrity nutritionists,” but are not doctors or dieticians.
How does the Sirtfood diet work? The company behind the Sirtfood diet claims that “sirtfoods” can help to activate expression of genes that help to control one’s body weight. By eating sirtfoods, fat loss may become easier due to mechanisms such as:
- Reduced hunger/cravings
- Decreased fat storage
- Reduced inflammation and oxidative stress
- Help building muscle
- Regulation of mitochondrial activity and general metabolic support
- Support for healthy insulin levels
- Protection against a decline in vascular endothelial function, metabolic syndrome and high cholesterol levels
Other ways in which the diet might promote weight loss and other health improvements is via calorie restriction (which has been associated with longevity in some studies) and by increasing intake of antioxidants including polyphenols, such as the type called resveratrol that’s found in berries, grapes, and wine.
Vs. Keto Diet
Rather than focusing on eating foods that are high in sirtuins, the keto (ketogenic) diet is all about filling up on healthy fats while drastically cutting carbohydrate intake. In other words, keto is a very high-fat, very-low carb diet.
The purpose of the keto diet is to put someone in the metabolic state of nutritional ketosis, in which the body uses fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates. This usually leads to quick weight loss and can have other unique benefits, too, since being in ketosis and producing ketones has anti-inflammatory effects, decreases hunger, and can even help promote cognitive health and stable blood sugar levels.
Because the Sirtfood diet emphasizes a mostly plant-based diet, one that includes foods like berries, whole grains and vegetables, it’s higher in carbs and natural sugars than the keto diet. It won’t cause someone to enter ketosis, although it can still lead to weight loss due to calorie restriction.
Is the Sirtfood diet healthy? While the diet has its criticisms and may not necessarily be the best choice overall, it still offers some benefits.
Putting aside whether or not sirtuins lead to weight loss and promote longevity, here are some of the ways the diet may help improve your overall eating habits:
1. Emphasizes Fruits and Veggies
While hardly unique to the Sirtfood diet, eating a lot of fresh produce is a great way to support weight loss. Fruits and veggies provide essential vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidants and fiber, while keeping the calorie toll of your meals low.
One of the most promising things about the diet is that it includes lots of plant foods high in antioxidants such as resveratrol, quercetin and catechins. A large body of research shows that these can help to protect cells that keep your eyes, skin, heart, liver and brain healthy.
2. Includes Healthy Fats
The diet recommends adding healthy fats like walnuts and olive oil to meals in order to make them more satisfying, while also promoting heart health, cognitive health and more.
3. Includes Antioxidant-Rich Beverages
Green tea, high-quality coffee and red wine (in moderation) are anti-inflammatory drinks consumed by some of the healthiest, longest-living people on earth. These drinks provide antioxidants and other protective compounds such as EGCG and theobromine that have been linked with cardiovascular, metabolic and mental health.
4. Might Lead to Eating Less Meat
Following the sirtfood diet can be a good way to kickstart a reduction in meat consumption and place a higher emphasis on plant-based proteins, which has payoffs when it comes to lowering your carbon footprint and boosting your fiber intake.
According to the sirtfood diet website, below are foods and beverages that function as the best sirtuin activators:
- Leafy green vegetables like kale and arugula
- Teas including green tea
- All types of berries
- Fruits including apples, grapes and citrus fruits
- Olive oil
- Red wine
- Dark chocolate/cocoa nibs
- Herbs/spices like turmeric, ginger and parsley
- Red onion
- Medjool dates
- Red chili
The creators of the sirtfood diet emphasize that an important aspect of the diet is drinking “Sirtfood Juice” daily. Here are the ingredients found in Sirtfood Juice (this recipe is made in a juicer and makes enough for several servings), which is consumed once or more daily throughout the diet, and then long-term:
- Couple large of handfuls of kale
- Handful of arugula/rocket
- Small handful of flat-leaf parsley
- 2–3 large stalks of green celery (leaves can also be added)
- ½ medium green apple
- juice of ½ lemon
- ½ level teaspoon of matcha green tea powder (added to the juice once it’s prepared)
Can you eat meat on the Sirtfood diet?
Yes, although it’s eaten in moderation for the most part. It’s possible to follow the diet whether you include meat/fish/dairy in your diet, or if you’re a vegetarian/vegan.
However, overall the diet slants toward being plant-based, with most protein coming from whole grains, nuts, soy and some yogurt. If you are going to include meat in your meals, try to purchase quality pastured-raised or grass-fed meats, and enjoy them in small amounts.
Is spinach a Sirtfood, and can you use it instead of kale and arugula?
Green vegetables, especially leafy greens that are chock full of antioxidants, are encouraged on just about every diet. While kale seems to be king on the Sirtfood diet, spinach, chard, collards and other greens can also be eaten.
What foods should you avoid?
Like with most other diets, you’ll want to cut out empty calories from unhealthy foods made with refined flours, added sugars, lots of preservatives and other processed ingredients.
How to Follow
The Sirtfood diet is meant to last for three weeks, although the principles of the diet can be applied long-term to help with maintenance. How do you start the Sirtfood diet? The official book on the sirtfood diet lays out the following plan:
First Phase (Days 1–3):
- Limit calorie intake to 1,000 calories a day during the first three days of the diet
- Drink three glasses of sirtfood green juice each day
- Eat one sirtfood rich meal per day
First Phase (Days 4–7):
- Limit calorie intake to 1,500 calories a day (500 more calories than during the first three days) on days 4–7
- Drink two sirtfood green juices per day
- Eat two sirtfood-rich meals per day
Second Phase (Lasts Two Weeks):
- There isn’t a strict long-term plan once you finish the first week. You’re encouraged to eat three balanced meals and to continue drinking sirtfood juice.
- To maintain your results, it’s recommended that you still include lots of sirtfoods in your diet, while sticking to mostly balanced, plant-based meals. This plan can actually be continued indefinitely, as long as you eat enough calories to support your needs.
What are some examples of balanced meals that include sirtfood-rich foods?
- Cooked buckwheat muesli with berries and walnuts
- Stir-fry made with whole grains, veggies, turmeric and tofu
- Kale salad made with chicken and veggies like tomatoes and onions, dressed with olive oil and herbs
- Sirtfood snacks can include a bit of dark chocolate, dried fruits or berries, “energy bites,” greek yogurt, or raw veggies dipped in hummus
Risks and Side Effects
While the Sirtfood diet does include plenty of nutrient-dense foods — such as leafy greens, spices, green tea and berries — it’s also restrictive (with between just 1,000 and 1,500 calories per day) and cuts out some important sources of nutrients, including many protein-rich foods. This can potentially lead to side effects such as increased hunger, slowed metabolic rate (temporarily at least), fatigue, lightheadedness and irritability.
There isn’t a whole lot of research demonstrating that the diet is unique, effective and safe for most people. In fact, it’s still up for debate the role that sirtuins may play in overall weight management and metabolic function. Until more research is available, aiming for a varied diet that includes lots of different whole foods seems to be most logical.
Since the Sirtfood diet is somewhat high in carbohydrates, it may not be the best option for anyone struggling to maintain normal blood sugar levels, including diabetics. And if you’re an athlete, someone looking to put on muscle, or just very active, the diet may provide barely enough protein to meet your needs.
- In May, 2020, the singer Adele grabbed headlines when photos appeared of her weighing about 40 to 50 pounds less than she previously did. How did Adele lose weight? She followed the Sirtfood diet, which includes lots of foods that are high in proteins called sirtuins.
- Does the Sirtfood diet work? It’s still debatable, but foods that function as “sirtuin activators” may turn off genes that help control your weight and support your metabolism.
- A list of foods that are high sirtuin activators include: coffee, tea, berries, leafy greens, walnuts, spices and herbs.
- Sirtfood diet vs. keto diet, which is better? Only the very-low-carb keto diet will put you into ketosis, which can result in fast weight loss and other benefits. However, on both diets it’s possible to fill up on antioxidant-rich foods, which is a healthy choice in general for protecting cells and supporting healthy aging.