The TB12 Diet: One Size Does Not Fit All
Tom Brady has defied the odds of aging and is still playing professional football at age 40. The recent release of his book, How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance is a New York Times #1 bestseller. And while most of the book’s discussion is a commonsensical approach to physical and mental well-being, some of its dietary restrictions made us raise our eyebrows. Why is TB12 eliminating whole food groups from his diet?
Some of us at D2D are part of the New England ‘Patriot Nation.’ So, when the GOAT (Greatest-of-All-Time) released his manual outlining how to achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance, it was quickly pre-ordered. I mean, who doesn’t want to achieve greatness like Tom Brady? He was the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, but has since made some of the greatest comebacks in football history and has earned 5 Super Bowl rings. He is still playing at age 40—and he argues playing better than he was at 30. Regardless of your opinion of the Patriots, you have to respect the fact that Tom Brady has far exceeded the average tenure in the NFL and shows no signs of slowing down.
What is his roadmap to this incredible success on the field?
The principals of the TB12 Method support established knowledge that long term health (and proper weight management) at any age is directly linked to eliminating or reducing bodily stressors like toxic congestion, inflammation, and imbalances. And while you eliminate these triggers, you ADD in good stuff, — like nutrient-dense foods, exercise, stress reduction activities, and clean air and water.
The TB12 Diet isn’t for Everyone
While his method to maintaining overall health seems like a balanced approach, we did a couple of double takes over Brady’s shunning of conventionally grown and genetically modified food. (Need a refresher on GMOs?) We still believe that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is important, whether you shop at your local grocery store or the local farm stand. And you can recall from our article on Conventional vs. Organic produce that conventional farming regulations ensure the safety of such foods.
Brady’s very regimented diet is one that is designed specifically for his lifestyle and enables him to perform at the top of his game every day. He maintains that throwing the ball is easier than eating, so he tackles the quality, quantity, and timing of his meals with the same precision and focus as his passes to Gronk.
“If Brady wants to know the facts about today’s agriculture, he should come visit my farm and learn the facts.”
A Maryland farmer who grows corn, soybeans, canning tomatoes, grapes, and fresh-market green beans writes to Tom Brady to discuss his misinformed ‘issues’ with conventional farming.
On the list of what he doesn’t eat are the usual suspects: sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. But he takes it a step further by adding nightshade vegetables to the list.
What are Nightshades?
Nightshade vegetables are members of a large group of flowering plants in the Solanaceae family, many of which are not edible. Included in this large family are a few of the world’s most cultivated crops: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
Potatoes, lettuce, onions and tomatoes top the list as the nation’s most popularly consumed fresh market vegetables.
Tom’s chefs are likely not including these in recipes because 1.) he just doesn’t like them, or 2.) there are some observational studies that claim patients who eliminate nightshade vegetables from their diets experience a feeling of improvement from varying forms of arthritis, allergies or autoimmune deficiencies. Healthy people on the other hand, should have no problem digesting nightshade vegetables. To date, there is no verified science behind these anecdotal observations, and the benefits of these nutrient packed group of vegetables far outweighs any risk.
Despite the ominous name, ‘nightshade’ might have been coined from the fact that some of the plants in this family grow at night, and some prefer shade. Commonly, they all produce an alkaloid (solanine or tomatine) – which is poisonous to… insects… not humans. Blaming them for inflammation is overkill – except for those people who are allergic or sensitive to solanine. Their antioxidants actually can reduce
The Inflammation Conspiracy
The inflammation theories point to the alkaloid compounds in the leaves, roots, and stems of nightshade plants. Alkaloids are natural toxins produced by the plants as a defense against animals, insects, and fungi that might feast on them. Alkaloids actually have medicinal properties, but to the taste are bitter, which makes the plant less palatable to insect predators.
The alkaloids found in nightshades are quite low and not a health concern. Furthermore, millions of these vegetables are eaten every day around the world without incident. We wouldn’t recommend that you start munching on the leaves, stems and roots of these plants, but the ripened fruit is safe, healthy, and completely digestible. In fact, as fruits and vegetable mature and ripen, the concentration of beneficial antioxidants actually increases!
To put this in perspective, “A large potato weighs about 300g (10.6 ounces) and has a solanine (a type of alkaloid) content of less than 0.2mg/gm That works out to around 0.03mg per kilogram for an adult, a hundredth of the toxic dose; A murderous wife would have to feed something like 67 large potatoes to her husband in a single meal to poison him. Unless he’s a phenomenally big eater, arsenic would be a better bet.”
(Source: Science Based Medicine.org)
A medium sized potato has more potassium (an electrolyte) than a banana, and is a very good source of vitamin C, B6 and niacin. Potatoes are also a good source of dietary fiber.
Every body is a unique body
Given that every body is unique, there is no one solution to address inflammation. Existing food intolerances, autoimmune deficiencies, and allergies will affect inflammation but what affects you may not affect others. As we know, chronic inflammation may be the root of many diseases and maladies. In Are You Inflamed? we discussed how a healthy digestive system will keep your gut on track and will help you stay healthy. This means eating nutrient dense foods like dark leafy greens, legumes, bright colored fruits and vegetables, and even a baked potato (as you will discover below)! This also means skipping the white bread, overly-processed “junk” food, and sugar. Healthy fatty acids will also help your body fight inflammation.
D2D argues that most of us can excuse the specific elimination of nightshades as we are not professional athletes or getting slammed by 250 pound linebackers in our daily lives! Overall, eliminating whole food groups from your diet isn’t necessary unless you suffer from specific food intolerances or allergens.
Nightshades are Nutrient Dense
Whether chopped, cooked or processed, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers are nutrient-dense foods that can combat inflammation, decrease cancer and heart-disease risk, support good digestion, and can aid in bone, eye and brain health.
Bell peppers are low in calories and high in vitamin C, (one cup provides 157% of RDA of vitamin C) and supply good amounts of the B vitamins (B2, B3, folate, and pantothenic acid), vitamin E, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin K, manganese, and magnesium. Bell peppers are also rich in phytonutrients.
EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!
Nightshade vegetables should be part of a healthy diet
Alpha and beta carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene are carotenoids responsible for the pigmented orange, yellow red color in fruits and vegetables. These have long been known as powerful antioxidants.
“At the end of the day, despite the vicious rumors, nightshades are brimming over with nutrients and vitamins, which are excellent for your health and for most people, should be welcomed warmly into their plant-based lifestyle.”
The Bottom Line:
Tom Brady’s book aligns itself with reliable scientific evidence that shows a diet of whole plant-based foods in combination with lean proteins, healthy fats, and a lifestyle (which includes proper hydration and exercise) will maintain and restore health. However, he missed the pass on his statements on nightshade vegetables, organic vs. conventionally grown foods, and GMOs. None of these statements are based on credible scientific research. So he isn’t perfect after all!
National Potato Council :: Potato Facts, www.nationalpotatocouncil.org/potato-facts/.
“4 Myths About Nightshade Vegetables.” Best Health Magazine Canada, 19 Oct. 2016, www.besthealthmag.ca/best-eats/nutrition/4-myths-about-nightshade-vegetables/.
Brown, C R. “Antioxidants in Potato .” USDA/ARS, 2005. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/37761/PDF
“Carotenoids.” Linus Pauling Institute, 13 Feb. 2017, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/carotenoids#food-sources.
Friedlander, Blaine. “Cornell Chronicle.” Italian chefs knew it all along: Cooking plump red tomatoes boosts disease-Fighting, nutritional power, Cornell researchers say, Apr. 2002, news.cornell.edu/stories/2002/04/cooking-tomatoes-boosts-disease-fighting-power.
“Killer Tomatoes and Poisonous Potatoes?” Science-Based Medicine, 14 Feb. 2012, sciencebasedmedicine.org/killer-tomatoes-and-poisonous-potatoes/.
Klunklin, Warinporn, and Geoffrey Savage. “Effect on Quality Characteristics of Tomatoes Grown Under Well-Watered and Drought Stress Conditions.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 25 July 2017, www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/6/8/56.
LD, Megan Ware RDN. “Potatoes: Health benefits, nutrients, recipe tips, and risks.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 13 Oct. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280579.php?sr.
LD, Megan Ware RDN. “Tomatoes: Health benefits, facts, and research.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 25 Sept. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273031.php.
LD, Megan Ware RDN. “Eggplant: Health benefits and nutritional information.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 20 Oct. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279359.php.
Publishing, Harvard Health. “Foods that fight inflammation.” Harvard Health, 2014, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation. updated August 2017
“What Are Phytonutrients?” Fruits & Veggies More Matters, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-are-phytochemicals.