We know what you’re thinking: “Oh great, just what the world needs…another diet plan.” A quick search of the diet section in your local bookstore will have your head spinning. And a search on the internet? You’ll be there looking for weeks. But usually when a diet begins to pick up steam with a slew of followers and devotees that the average Joe or Jane wanting to pursue a healthier lifestyle will sit up and take notice.
One of the latest such diets to inspire a following is The Thrive Diet, and its promises of reduced stress, weight loss, increased health, and mental clarity have even dedicated dieting carnivores curious as to the effectiveness of this vegan-based plan. But is a healthier life and less stress really as simple as just a few tweaks to your diet? Let’s take a look…
What is it?
The actual website for the diet, Thriveforward.com, does not freely offer much info on neither the diet nor the creator, Brendan Brazier…unless you sign up. We did, however, find more information elsewhere on the web.
According to Livestrong.com:
The Thrive Diet is the brainchild of Brendan Brazier, whose qualifications include being a professional Iron Man triathlete. The diet is based on eating vegan and raw foods as much as possible. Brazier’s goal with the diet is to make healthy eating a way of life that will also allow individuals to improve their athletic performance and achieve mental clarity.
How does it work?
The diet as stated in the book is designed to last 12 weeks, with the idea that the vegan, plant-based plan will develop into a life-long way of eating and living. While on the Thrive Diet, you are able to eat as much as you want of the approved foods, since all the foods are nutrient-dense. You will also be able to eat several smaller meals through the day, since Brazier maintains that it will cut down your appetite and regulate blood sugar.
The main thrust of the diet though deals with stress. According to Health.com:
Limit stress so you burn more fat. The diet is based on nutrient-dense “one-step energy” foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, and beans, which are broken down easily, limiting stress on the body so you store less fat. You’ll also eliminate other stressors like inadequate sleep, food allergies, pH imbalance, and overstimulation.
Don’t eliminate specific foods at first, just add fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other nutrient-dense choices. You’ll eventually enter a recalibration period where you eliminate caffeine, sugar, processed foods, meat, and grains, and limit starchy veggies. There’s no need to calorie count, but follow the 12-week meal plan and time meals and snacks so you never get too full or hungry.
What does it promise?
Of course, as with all diets, weight loss is promised by following the Thrive Diet. According to the book, you should also expect to see increased energy, improved health, loss of body fat, and maintenance/development of lean muscle. One of the other promises and focuses of the Thrive Diet involves limiting bodily stress, which, the book claims, will also lead to loss of fat.
What can you eat?
Leafy greens are the key to the Thrive Diet. Foods such as asparagus, green beans, peas, zucchini, carrots, and celery, as well as legumes such as beans, lentils, sea vegetables, sweet potatoes, hemp, seeds, nuts, and quinoa are also heavily favored.
According to Health.com:
Each day you’ll eat a big green salad, whole-food smoothie, and a raw energy bar, which you’ll need to make in advance, as all processed foods are off-limits. Your other meals and snacks should contain ample protein, high quality fats, and fiber. Brazier includes lists of staple foods to help you stock your pantry, which include common foods like chickpeas and green beans and more obscure choices like hemp and seaweed… [also] food should be raw or cooked at low temperatures.
What can’t you eat?
The Thrive Diet is extremely limiting in some areas, but this is touted as one of the reasons why it works.
According to Livestrong.com:
You can’t eat any kind of meat, seafood or eggs on the Thrive Diet. Other animal foods, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream, are also off-limits. Caffeine isn’t allowed either, so you’ll need to skip sodas and caffeinated tea and coffee. You can’t eat refined carbohydrates either, so you’ll need to pass on white bread, white pasta, baked goods, crackers and other carb-heavy snacks. Exercise is also a major part of the diet, and proper pre- and post-exercise nutrition helps aid recovery and improve performance.
While there were no reviews visible on the ThriveForward.com website, we did find many experience-based reviews of the book online. Overall, the reviews were positive. Those people who gave the diet high marks seem to be those who already had some experience with vegetarian/vegan eating. Positive reviews cited that they loved the fact that this was a whole foods plant-based diet for athletes, they felt they were getting the fuel their body needed to excel in sport and life. Others identified with the vegan/vegetarian/environmentalism views Brazier expressed in the book.
We even managed to find a few reviews from non-vegan, non-vegetarians who, while still intending to eat meat/fish/poultry, think that eating less of it, and incorporating more of Brazier’s plan, has made them feel healthier mentally and physically.
There were also a fair few negative reviews we found. Of those, many said the diet was simply impractical to how they lived, too difficult to stick to, as well as too expensive to maintain. A few said that they couldn’t stick to the plan because it caused severe problems with ulcer and acid reflux disease (due to the fact that raw foods are harder to digest). Overall though, most of the negative reviews seemed based in the fact that Brendan Brazier is not a clinical nutritionist or scientist, and that many of the theories he puts forward in the book are not only unsupported but untrue. Also, many felt the book and diet were mainly aimed at people who were already healthy and athletic.
What do we like about the diet? Well, we like the idea that eating better can lead to feeling better (which is generally the point behind any diet). We also like the fact that Brazier includes many recipes in the book as well as on the website (that was one section that did not require you to sign up in order to view it). The Thriveforward.com website also promises that, once a member, you will be able to:
- Learn from experts on how to eat, train and cook to promote optimal health
- Explore video lessons relevant to you—be it energy, sleep, body composition, strength and endurance training, easy ways to prepare plant-based meals at home, or even how to eat more sustainably
- Dive into recipes, meal plans and a wealth of supplemental materials
All of which sounds very helpful, especially when considering some of those trying the diet are complete novices when it comes to the whole vegan/whole foods lifestyle.
However, we found more than a few red flags when researching the Thrive Diet. Brendan Brazier may be a former athlete, but he has not received any nutritional training, nor is he a nutritionist. He has, admittedly, created a diet that “works for him.” And as far as the scientific reports Brazier cites and refers to, despite years of back-and-forth between accredited scientists and nutritionists, there is no conclusive proof that eating a vegan/raw diet is healthier or more effective than any other meat/fish/poultry inclusive diet.
Other red flags involved the fact that the ingredients can be tricky to find, not readily available in most homes, and can also be more expensive.
But, by far, the biggest issue we have with the Thrive Diet is the simple fact that diets containing severe food restrictions rarely work for the long-term. Also, there is some doubt as to whether this diet is balanced enough to foster long-term health. Sure, you can introduce supplements, but there is significant risk when you eliminate entire food groups (ones that did not pose a risk when consumed in appropriate moderation) from your diet.
Basically, while the Thrive Diet may appeal to someone who is already familiar with and enjoys a vegan lifestyle, this plan is not for the larger dieting, health and wellbeing, audience.
Our rating: 2 (out of 5)