Tom Brady’s TB12 Nutrition Manual must be a sight to behold.
At least we’re guessing it’s a sight to behold, since every copy of the $200 book sold out more or less immediately. Bound in laser-engraved wood and printed on fancy heavyweight paper, the “limited-edition living document” is a collection of 89 “seasonally-inspired” recipes based on Brady’s “nutritional philosophy,” with removable bindings to add additional recipes in the future.
Brady follows a notoriously strict diet. His in-house chef, Allen Campbell, revealed in a January interview with Boston.com that Brady avoids the kinds of foods that a lot of physique-minded people already avoid: dairy, coffee, white sugar, and white flour. No surprise there, since white flour and processed sugar are definitely worse for you than the alternatives.
But Brady also skips tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, and pretty much all fruit, except for the occasional banana. Campbell also says he only uses coconut oil for cooking—olive oil is only used cold, and only raw—and eschews iodized salt in favor of Himalayan rock salt.
Setting aside the manual’s obvious sentimental value for zealous Pats fans, we wanted to know one thing: Does Brady’s “philosophy”—aside from the obvious stuff like skipping sugar and flour—make any sense from a nutritional standpoint?
So we asked Dr. Zhaoping Li, M.D., Ph.D., the director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition and a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, to help us figure out what makes scientific sense to skip—and what you’re perfectly fine eating.
No Iodized Salt?
Ruling: Disagree. Campbell says he “only uses Himalayan pink salt,” and that he “never” uses iodized salt.
Here’s the thing, though: For all intents and purposes, salt is salt, or NaCl, in chemistry-speak. Furthermore, Li says there’s no evidence that you should avoid iodized salt, even if you you’re not at risk of an iodine deficiency. Salt manufacturers iodize salt because iodine is important for a healthy thyroid; without it, people (generally those in developing nations) face diseases like goiter and neurocognitive impairments.
Ruling: Disagree. Campbell says Brady “doesn’t doesn’t eat nightshades”—namely potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and chili peppers—because they’re “not anti-inflammatory.” “I’m very cautious about tomatoes,” Campbell says, noting that although they “trickle in” about once a month, “they cause inflammation.”
Li’s verdict? They’re not really that bad.
It’s true that tomatoes and potatoes do contain minute amounts of an alkaloid called solanine, which isn’t good for you, but the average-sized guy would need to eat roughly 24 pounds of potatoes to notice. Furthermore, tomatoes and potatoes are rich in Vitamin C. Tomatoes are also rich in Vitamin E, beta-carotene, potassium, and the antioxidant lycopene, which has been found to actually reduce inflammation and even prevent strokes.
Ruling: Disagree, within reason. Campbell says he avoids fungus of all kinds, particularly mushrooms. But assuming they’re safe to eat—nothing psychedelic or poisonous—mushrooms are fine for you, and are “good sources of Vitamin D as well,” Li says.
There are at least 20 species of edible mushrooms, many of which also pack potassium, copper, selenium, and 20% of your necessary B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, and biotin.
No Olive Oil for Cooking?
Ruling: A good idea. Campbell says he only uses olive oil for cold dishes, uses coconut oil for cooking, and skips other oils like canola altogether because “they turn into trans fats.”
Li generally agrees. She recommends olive oil in cold dishes, but says it’s okay to cook with coconut, grapeseed, or canola oils.
Still, the research on olive oil is mixed. Some studies have found that frying vegetables in extra-virgin olive oil can help increase the amount of some cancer-fighting dietary phenols. It’s also excellent for you when served cold.
One rule to follow: Avoid soybean oil, which causes 25% more weight gain, larger fat deposits, and fattier livers than coconut oil.
No Coffee or Caffeine?
Ruling: Consume within reason. Plenty of people skip coffee or caffeinated drinks altogether, either for dietary reasons or religious ones. Some people get too jittery or get headaches from caffeine, for example. But while caffeine can be dangerous in high quantities, it shouldn’t affect you too much if you drink up responsibly.
“Black coffee (up to 3 cups) can be beneficial,” Li says. “The sugar, creamer, milk, etc., may bring unnecessary calories.” Coffee has been found to have a number of healthy benefits, including a lower risk of early death, preventing erectile dysfunction, and a boost to workout performance and fat loss.
Ruling: Consume within reason. Assuming you’re not lactose intolerant or allergic to milk products, dairy “should not be over consumed,” Li says. “Even non-fat milk has about 12g of sugar.” Some people find that dairy leaves them feeling bloated.
That said, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt have several advantages: Protein-rich milk is an effective muscle-builders, while yogurt is a good way to boost energy and help your body’s gut bacteria.
Not sold? Try these 10 dairy-free ways to get more calcium.
Ruling: Healthy, but watch the sugar. “It is true that most fruits have high sugar,” Li says. But that’s not to say you should avoid them altogether, especially since they have beneficial nutrients and fiber. Try to avoid fruits with excess sugar, but take advantage of their added nutrient value, from berries (which can help your body burn more fat) to apples (which reduce your risk of Type-2 diabetes) and these eight straight-up power fruits for better health.