Any diet that tells women to eat chocolate and chase it with wine certainly has our attention—and makes us pretty skeptical (cue thinking face emoji). That pretty much explains why the “sirtfood diet” is blowing up right now.
The eating plan revolves around upping your intake of foods that are supposedly high in compounds called sirtuin activators, and promises to hack your body’s chemistry and help you lose weight. How exactly? Sirtuins are proteins that protect your body’s cells from dying or becoming inflamed and, according to proponents, when activated by these sirtfoods, they also increase your metabolism to help you shed pounds.
What’s on the Menu?
The sirtfoods that make up the diet sound pretty yummy, not to mention healthy. Apples, citrus fruits, parsley, capers, blueberries, green tea, soy, strawberries, tumeric, olive oil, red onion, arugula, kale, red wine, dark chocolate, and coffee are all fair game.
Think this diet sounds crazy? Check out some of the nuttiest weight-loss strategies people have been trying throughout history.
Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t involve eating as much of those nutrient-packed foods 'til you're stuffed. The diet breaks down into an aggressive two-phase approach. The initial phase lasts for one week and requires eating no more than 1,000 calories for three days, and then no more than 1,500 calories for the rest of the week. Meals include sirtfood green juices and one to two sirtfood-rich meals per day. The second phase lasts for 14 days to ease you into the long-term plan, which is to eat three sirtfood-rich meals and one sirtfood green juice per day.
Does It Work?
Increasing your intake of foods like apples and kale is definitely a healthy way to lose weight, but the beginning phases of the sirtfood diet also make this a crash diet, and that’s something we are never going to get behind. And while you might shed some weight, it's not likely that you'll keep it off for long. You might even gain more back. When you restrict calories below 1,200 per day, you throw your body into starvation mode, slow your metabolism, and drop water weight and maybe even some muscle. Trying to live on liquids and one meal a day, even if it's just for three days, isn’t healthy.
So why does the diet have such tough restrictions? Studies noting the weight-loss benefits of sirtfoods suggest that calorie restriction is what causes sirtfoods to activate sirtuin, those healthy proteins, explains Laura Cipullo, R.D., author of The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet. But if you dig into the research, the study authors say that it's not the proteins that lead to weight loss, it’s resveratrol, a type of polyphenol antioxidant contained in foods like chocolate and red wine. Previous studies have found that the reveratrol may boost your health and help you reach a healthy weight. For example, a 2015 International Journal of Obesity study found that resveratrol actually helps turn calorie-storing white fat into calorie-burning brown fat.
Sign up for Women's Health's new newsletter, So This Happened, to get the day’s trending stories and health studies.
Your Best Move
You can totally eat more "sirtfoods" as you work towards your weight-loss goals, but don’t bother trying to follow the diet. Eating more of these plant-based, antioxidant-packed foods is going to help fight inflammation and help you lose weight while decreasing your risk of chronic disease and upping your lifespan, says Cipullo. But if you are trying to lose weight, don’t think that OD'ing on resveratrol-rich olive oil, wine, and chocolate will help you reach your goals (though that would be delicious).