A Thumbs Up Book Review
The No-Grain Diet
By Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dutton, 2003
Review by Sally Fallon
A qualified Thumbs Up for this sensible and practical weight loss book. “Grains” for the purposes of Dr. Mercola’s No-Grain Diet include breads, pastas, pastries, potatoes, rice–all the carbohydrate-rich white stuff. Mercola presents an Atkins-style diet with welcome emphasis on food quality, stressing butter, cream, eggs and meat from pasture-fed animals. Cod liver oil is an important part of his protocol as is unrefined salt. Mercola wisely warns against use of the microwave oven as well as modern soy foods and artificial sweeteners.
The No-Grain Diet provides many ingenious no-grain recipes to ease the pains of carbohydrate withdrawal–“roll-ups” made with lettuce and a variety of fillings, pancakes, pastry crust and muffins made with ground nuts, zucchini “lasagna,” mashed cauliflower (instead of potatoes), smoothies made with coconut milk and desserts sweetened with stevia powder.
Mercola is careful to explain that quality high-carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and potatoes are not necessarily bad for everyone. However, individuals who need to lose weight should avoid them completely at first, and then consume them very sparingly in what he calls the Sustain Phase (which is lifelong). The three-phase diet plan begins with a three-day Start-Up Phase in which grains are completely eliminated, followed by a Stabilize Phase in which exercise, supplements (including supplements to reduce cravings) and positive life-style changes are added.
Mercola recognizes that permanent weight loss can only occur when the patient undergoes some permanent emotional and life-style changes, in addition to new eating habits. A most helpful and fascinating chapter presents a psychological acupressure technique called EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique. The technique involves a systematic stimulation or tapping of acupressure points in the head along with positive healing statements such as “Even though I want to eat a dozen doughnuts, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
This may sound like hocus pocus but Mercola points out that cravings for sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods often stem from a desire for love and attention. The following example should give pause to parents who use sweets to make their children behave: “At an EFT demonstration before four hundred clinical nutritionists, Jennifer, a physician, had a very strong craving for Rice Krispie treats offered in the exhibit area. After one round of tapping [the acupressure points in the head], her eyes filled with tears and she began to weep. Jennifer recalled that, when she was a small child and reached out to her mother, her mother instead used to give her M&M treats to get her out of her hair.
“Jennifer’s craving for the treats was only the superficial problem. The real issue was her craving for the love and attention that her mother could not provide, offering instead the inferior candy substitute. After she tapped on ‘even though I craved my mom’s attention,’ Jennifer’s cravings for sweets disappeared, never to return.”
We take issue with just a few of Dr. Mercola’s suggestions. One concerns the consumption of raw eggs. We agree that it is fine to consume plenty of raw egg yolks, a custom found in many traditional diets, but consumption of raw egg whites on a regular basis can lead to digestive problems. The problem is not, as Dr. Mercola states, that raw egg whites can cause biotin deficiency, but that raw egg whites contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with protein digestion. Whole eggs should be cooked–and it is fine to cook them any way you like them, even scrambled. Beating or whipping eggs does not damage the proteins or cause the cholesterol to oxidize, as Mercola has suggested.
Other complaints: inclusion of tofu and protein powders in the menu plan; use of raw nuts (nuts need to be soaked in salt water and then dehydrated to neutralize enzyme inhibitors, especially if they are consumed in large amounts); the assertion that grains like amaranth, teff and quinoa are healthier than wheat (all grains contain antinutrients and need to be processed properly–Peruvians consider quinoa toxic unless it has been properly soaked before cooking); and the absence of any warning against MSG in tamari (used in several sauce recipes) that has been produced by modern processing methods.
If the reader interested in weight loss will keep these caveats in mind, he or she will find much helpful advice in The No-Grain Diet.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2003.