I read a lot of stuff regarding nutrition. It has been an active hobby of mine since 2008. Although it was the Paleo Diet that rekindled my interest in nutrition, today I consider myself more in the Weston A. Price camp. I explained why in the post The Endgame for Paleo is WAPF. I’ve been successful on both diets. Earlier this year I started reading about the dietary views of Dr. Ray Peat and his followers. Unlike Paleo or WAPF, which are easy to understand on the surface, the Peat-atarian articles are quite intense. They aren’t user-friendly.
What makes the Peat Diet unique is that it approaches nutrition from a hormonal perspective. It is all about reducing chronic stress. To me, the Peat Diet appears to be a modern fix to the WAPF Diet. Traditional diets worked great for traditional cultures. But we now live in a world with chronic stress and dietary toxins. Simply following a traditional diet or going caveman may not be enough or may not work as quickly as a diet designed specifically to address the hormonal stress of modern times.
If like me, you have an average IQ and you start to dive into understanding all the hormonal relationships, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. The purpose of this post is to just hit the important differences, why they exist, and who might benefit the most from experimenting with this diet.
Paleo vs Primal vs WAPF vs Peat
On the surface, it may appear that The Peat Diet is a radical departure from Paleo, but it isn’t. It has more in common with Paleo and WAPF than it does with USDA recommendations.
|Grains||NO||NO||YES (treated only)||NO|
|Soy||NO||NO||YES (fermented only)||NO|
|"Salt is Good"||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|"Sugar is Good"||NO||NO||NO||YES|
|Offal + Bone Broth||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Nuts||YES||YES||YES (treated only)||NO|
|Avoid PUFA (Omega 6)||YES||YES||YES||YES|
|Avoid PUFA (Omega 3)||NO||NO||NO||YES|
|"Saturated Fat is Good"||YES||YES||YES||YES|
I’ve bolded the two main differences.
#1 Sugar – Every diet under the sun seems to loathe sugar. Not Ray Peat. At a hormonal level sugar can be used to reduce stress and boost metabolism. This protocol seems to be effective with people who have stalled in their fat loss while following a strict low carbohydrate diet. Give your body some sugar, reduce internal stress, boost metabolism and resume fat loss. Using sugar to improve your health seems like a bizarre idea at first, but a few years ago we used to think saturated fats were evil and now we love them.
My own N=1 experiment this year was consuming ice cream daily. Although I haven’t become fully convinced sugar is good. I’m no longer convinced it is bad. My health is as good in 2012 as it was in 2011 when I avoided sugar. So given equal outcomes, I’m going to eat ice cream. 🙂
#2 Avoid Omega 3 – This is a big idea to wrap your head around. PUFAs aren’t just evil, they are super evil and that includes Omega 3 fats. It took me a while to grasp this concept and the motivation behind this recommendation. The typical person today will have high levels of inflammatory fat as a result of excessive PUFA. Depending upon whom you read, it can take 4 or more years to get rid of it. The way to get rid of it quickest is to eliminate all forms of PUFA.
This recommendation leads to the mathematical conclusion that a Peat Diet will be higher in carbs and lower in fat. I saw one chart that estimated a Peat Diet was 50% carbs, 25% fat, and 25% protein. When you reduce your intake of bad fats (PUFA), you’ll also be reducing all fats. When fats go down, carbs must go up. Although I suppose one could eat fistfuls of coconut oil to boost the fat level, it isn’t necessary since the carbs are boosting metabolism.
What I Like
Besides their love of ice cream, one of the things I really like about the Peat diet is how it places importance on bone broth and offal. This is the best idea in the WAPF camp. Use the entire animal and not just the muscle meat. Ray Peat’s writings explain a hormonal reason why that is important. From his article Gelatin, stress, longevity:
When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.
I love this. Traditional cultures unknowingly knew how to properly use the entire animal to the benefit of their thyroid.
3 jars of beef bone stock
What I Dislike
The Peat Diet is against fermented foods. The reason is that the body apparently considers lactic acid stressful to process. Ray also doesn’t like negative weight lifting movements, as they produce a lot of lactic acid. I may have an average IQ, but I think the Peat-atarians are wrong on this point. First of all, anyone that has ever started a weight lifting program using negative lifts knows the body adapts quickly. The extreme soreness you experience on workout one gets less and less with subsequent workouts. This tells me that the body learns to deal with the stress rather quickly. Also, you need far fewer workouts so rest time between workouts is increased, which reduces stress.
As for fermented foods, I’m going to side with traditional cultures on this one. Having access to fresh vegetables year-round is such a recent phenomenon. Fermentation is how we preserved veggies and dairy. The nutritional value and safety of foods increase when they are fermented. Even if there was a slight stress response, there are so many benefits from fermentation.
Another thing I dislike about the Peat Diet and their obsession with eliminating stress is that there doesn’t seem to be any discussion of hormetic stress. Should stress always be avoided? Or should we introduce episodic stressors and teach our bodies how to adapt in a positive manner? As someone who believes strongly in the benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Cold Weather Training, you know where I stand.
Should You Try This Diet?
There is a lot to this diet that I didn’t cover. As a person with an average IQ that is not a PubMed Warrior, it appears to me that the person most likely to benefit from this diet will be someone who has had a long history with dieting, specifically low-carb dieting. Weight loss has stalled. Most likely the person is female and possibly with a low thyroid. Ideally, the person would be able to handle dairy. That is not to say others wouldn’t benefit, but that seems like the person who would get the most results.
The problem with this diet is the message is hard to understand. Hopefully, this post clarified some of the differences. In a future post, I will list some quick-start ideas on how to transition from Paleo/WAPF to a Peat diet. Note that I am not endorsing this diet, but I do believe it has merit and can benefit some people. I’ll eat the ice cream, but I’m not giving up my kimchi. 🙂
Nov 25, 2012 — 11:07 am
“If like me, you have an average IQ and you start to dive into understanding all the hormonal relationships, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. ” One website that may interest you is dannyroddy.com. He breaks down the complexities of Peat in an understandable way for those of us who don’t have high IQs. Also ray peat fans facebook group has a lot of posts that help break down the hard stuff.
Nov 25, 2012 — 6:42 pm
MAS, similar ideas have occurred to me as I (lightly) skimmed over Peat’s and Roddy’s blogs. A sizeable group of people seem to be following a similar trajectory: vegan –> paleo/primal –> Peatarian.
Looking forward to more posts on this subject.
Nov 26, 2012 — 9:04 am
Yeah there are a few problems in the Paleo community:
1- over emphasis on muscle meats
2- way too much exercise
3- fear of carbs (I was once guilty of this. To be clear, I’m not anti-low-carb now, I favor a cyclical approach.)
Peat addresses all 3 nicely.
Nov 26, 2012 — 9:10 am
@Karen – I just joined the RP Facebook Group. Thanks!
Nov 27, 2012 — 3:30 am
I am reading Ray Peat now that you have introduced him, he writings are complex as it appears he treats food in terms of chemical reaction on a cellular level and energy production. I seem to be able to get the gist of it without understanding the complexities, hormones have always fascinated me as they have such major influences on our body, states of mind, etc. I would be very interested to read anything you have learnt so far, as your summary and chart set it out so clearly I had to do some research. I found one interview on youtube. His take on too much serotonin and its inhibiting factors on other hormones like dopamine is also interesting. He also seems to feel we need to be cautious in consuming starches (my body doesn’t tolerate starch too well so this is of interest to me). If you have read the book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-IBS-Low-Starch-Diet-ebook/dp/B005M2A5CO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354015723&sr=8-2), the author has interesting records of starch produces inflammatory responses throughout the body. I would like to order his books but his site is not user friendly and invites you to post a cheque/postal order? The same books are outrageously expensive on amazon.
Nov 27, 2012 — 3:35 am
He also has a lot to say on thyroid hormone and supplementation, which I have done throughout the last year and the last few month using adrenal support too as this helps the body convert the T4 to the active T3 (thyroid T3). He also mentions progesterone supplementation for both men and women but he recommends this is done sporadically and not too consistently as well as Vitamin E (but also not to be used too consistently). Would love to be able to read all his has written in one place.
Nov 27, 2012 — 7:03 am
@Pauline – I found this link yesterday:
Nov 27, 2012 — 7:50 am
Wow fantastic. Going to do some reading straight away. Thank you.
Nov 29, 2012 — 4:05 pm
I think the best diet is the easiest diet to follow. The first step I believe is eating much much less than most of us do. Only in the US do you see land-whales walking around and others finding that completely acceptable. Everyone should strive to be underweight by 10lbs? or so, because just a small decrease in weight gives your body so much more efficiency.
I would love to find some kind of healthy dog food diet and eat just that. Other than gourmet meals, food and eating gives me very little pleasure.
What do you think of the Perricone Prescription Diet which is supposed to inflammatory?
Nov 29, 2012 — 4:48 pm
@Thomas – I had not heard of the Perricone Diet. But judging from this explanation, it isn’t for me.
Wish I Were Riding
May 3, 2013 — 1:34 pm
Coming back to this article from your most recent post. So taking Fish Oil is definitely NOT recommended then?
May 3, 2013 — 6:58 pm
@Wish – That is correct. They even go as far as saying to avoid fish rich in omega 3s, such as salmon. I stopped taking fish oil about 2 years ago. Even if the Omega 3s are good, many believe they are rancid in supplemental fish oil form.
May 9, 2013 — 9:00 am
I have tried to find what Peat stands for in a simple way. I have found nothing, it’s just all bs put in fancy words. I have checked the Paleo/LCHF/GI community and they all stand for an easy approach and it is easy to comprehend what and how you should eat.
So where is this approach with PEAT? I can’t find any mealplans nor nothing. The only thing I found was some article to drink milk, eat 20 bananas and ice- cream (WTF)! This must be a joke or something, I mean if I start popping more than 3 fruits a day my bellyfat gets bigger. Do you know how the body metabolises fructose and excess sugar!
Either someone directs me to source where I can get some basic understanding without reading 30 articles of “talk” or I file it under bullshit!
May 9, 2013 — 9:53 am
@Greatgiantsteppah – The purpose of this post wasn’t so much to drill into the differences or to defend the Peat diet. Like you I found understanding the Peat approach to be quite difficult to comprehend at first. This post was more about the common elements it shared with other diets.
The fact that some people succeed on Paleo or WAPF or Peat – I think speaks more to the element they have in common – rather than the points where they disagree. So removing grains, soy and industrial seed oils are likely to be the 3 most beneficial steps towards good health.
May 9, 2013 — 11:09 pm
Here is a basic guideline for a diet that is based on the observations and opinions of Ray Peat:
Peat has a lot of articles on the various conclusions he’s come to that led someone to put together this diet. There are various reasons why certain foods are included and excluded. His approach isn’t really amenable to a simple explanation of why these foods are included and excluded, except that he is primarily concerned with a healthy metabolism fueled by optimizing hormonal regulation.
Some general points:
PUFA’s are the devil (omega-3 included). Omega-3 being bad is a big departure from conventional wisdom. The argument I heard (not from him) is that PUFA’s are intended to slow metabolism, and bears eat salmon more in the fall in preparation for hibernation, and some studies apparently show that bears who were prevented from eating salmon did not go into hibernation.
Sugar relieves stress and we exclude it from our diets at our own peril.
Salt also relieves stress. We shouldn’t be cutting back on salt.
Carbon Dioxide also relieves stress.
Fructose is the best form of sugar. Fruits are great, but fruit juice is better because too much fruit fiber can be a gut irritant with unhealthy consequences down the road. Sugar is a problem when associated with PUFAs, I believe.
Not nuts and seeds (and avocados) – all high in PUFAs. I think beans are the same to a lesser extent. He’s been quoted as saying a little hummus once in awhile is okay. Fruits that essentially force you to eat the seeds (like blueberries) are disfavored for this reason. Not worth taking in the PUFAs, I believe.
He’s pretty down on green leafy vegetables, as they contain PUFAs, the fiber isn’t good, and they contain anti-nutrients that disrupt absorption of the minerals and vitamins they do have. Better to eat meat from animals that have eaten those vegetables. On that note . . . .
Saturated fat is good. He loves coconut oil for its metabolism stimulating effects. He also likes organ meat, e.g., liver. Not a big fan of muscle meat. Some is good, but not as necessary when not growing or building muscle. Considers mild and cheese to be fairly complete foods from a macronutrient perspective. Loves milk, preferably raw and unpasteurized if you can get it. Low-fat milk is good if trying to lose weight. Butter is also good.
He tries to minimize PUFAs in meat too. One example is that he cooks his bacon and then recooks it in coconut oil to get rid of as much of the PUFA bacon fat and then replace it with the more saturated fat of the coconut oil.
Generally thinks the entire animal should be eaten, so big on gelatinous bone broth and gelating/collagen in general. Big on organ meats. Too much reliance on muscle meats is disruptive to our hormones. A lot of peat follower like making jello/gummy bears with fruit juice and gelatin, combining two of the stalwarts of the diet into a tasty treat.
Back to vegetables – prefers those that grow underground. Loves carrots.
Not a big fan of starch, except he does like white potatoes. I’ve never seen much on sweet potatoes. Generally, starch is inferior to fructose for metabolic purposes.
Gluten/wheat is bad. Also rice is bad, but not as much, I think.
Fermented vegetables are bad because the body has a hard time dealing with lactic acid, as well as the vegetable fiber.
Corn is okay and he is a fan of corn tortillas fried in coconut oil.
Basically, the diet is fruit, dairy, saturated fat, a variety of protein. It’s kind of confusing, but in his defense, he’s not out there trying to come up with a system for everybody to follow. He’s an intellectual/scientist studying hormones and metabolism, and people have taken his teachings on a wide range of issues in his field and are trying to come up with a diet based on it. The primary marker for health using his ideas is a healthy metabolism reflected in a high body temperature, high heart rate, and high libido. It’s supposedly good for preventing hair loss as well (see Danny Roddy’s articles, which are really good at covering various Peat issues). And pro-thyroid. It’s definitely supposed to be pro-thyroid. It’s aaaaal about the thyroid.
Note that I don’t do this diet, but I’m fascinated by it, and Peat’s theories on a lot of physiology in general. I hope this run-down helped, but I’m pretty sure it just raises more questions than answers.
May 10, 2013 — 8:09 am
@DT – Thanks for the informative comment!
May 11, 2013 — 2:10 pm
I hope that I didn’t sound rude, I am just tired of every guru and also the food advice that’s out there. They all have lead me nowhere, if not constantly constipated, fat, bloated, hungry, dizzy, unfocused, neurotic or with IBS. But I have read a little bit on what you are saying about experimenting. I agree, there is no such thing as one single diet, we are different in that sense. We all need to see for ourselves what works and what doesn’t!
Thank you for your guidelines, now things are making a little more sense. I am prepared to try it for a few weeks. What I still don’t understand is: am I supposed to stop all grains and change my diet into eating more fruits and dairyproducts? This for breakfast and perhaps even fruits with rice and meat for dinner? Also oxtail seems hard to get, but looking at the diet: I can’t eat pork, beef, chicken so what animal is left? I am not so much for seafood. I don’t like lamb either! Also getting all that protein seems almost impossible. I mean usually 100grams of lean meat contains 25g of protein. That’s too much meat for anyone if we are trying to get to 1 or 2grams of protein per kg/person.
May 13, 2013 — 7:31 am
@Greatgiantsteppah – Dairy seems like your best bet for protein.
Jun 30, 2013 — 9:47 pm
So, cruciferous veggies are widely touted as full of fiber and anti-carcinogenic , but Ray Peat is against consuming them. Can someone enlighten me as to why? Also not clear on his favoring dairy. I thought dairy clogs up the body with mucus. Please advise….
Jul 1, 2013 — 7:37 am
@Sifter – Plants have both nutrients and antinutrients for their defense.
He prefers: “Generally, fruits, roots, and tubers provide a high concentration of nutrients along with low concentrations of toxic antimetabolic substances.”
As for dairy, the mucus build-up is mostly a myth.
The reason for dairy is the fat is saturated. Consuming saturated fats will displace PUFA, which are bad for metabolism. So by replacing chicken and pork with milk, a person can lower their PUFA intake and over time increase their metabolic rate.
Jul 11, 2013 — 7:08 pm
Have you seen any mention of egg consumption in either articles by Ray Peat or in articles by those who follow a diet based on his approach? I haven’t seen anything as yet, granted I just stumbled on this approach today! But I have spent almost the entire day reading his articles. I currently eat a primal diet and consume a lot of eggs. So I’m wondering about that.
Jul 11, 2013 — 8:58 pm
I just answered my own question. Further digging revealed that he does advocate eating eggs, though not in the quantity that I typically do.
Jul 12, 2013 — 5:17 am
@Brenda A – Thanks for the research. I was thinking eggs were fine, but wasn’t positive and was away from my computer most of yesterday.
Jul 25, 2013 — 7:39 am
Good article i agree with your views in fermented foods and exercise. Ray Peat also puts alot of emphasis on carbon dioxide, the best way to increase co2 in your body is to do buteyko style breathing. Anyone who is interested in improving their health should try it
Jul 25, 2013 — 9:59 am
@Joel – Do you have a favorite link that explains buteyko style breathing? Everything I pulled up didn’t make sense or seemed to contradict itself.
Jul 26, 2013 — 12:48 pm
This is a nice article Michael, good to see some people being open minded in this community for a change. People always have an issue with Peat because it’s not a diet per se; He’s not selling a Primal lifestyle or any other gimmick based on evolutionary speculations. Ray Peat doesn’t really fit a category, and that is VERY difficult for certain people to accept. There’s not much for them to latch onto, or to say,’OK! So I have to eat this, this and this, but not that, that or that. Easy’. This is no fault of Peat’s, however. He is actually not interested in protocols, but rather principles in my understanding. Greatgiantsteppah seems a bit gung-ho! Not a bad thing, but it’s also easy to adopt a ‘Peat Diet’ without any notion of context and flop, and then discard his work. It’s ALL about context. Your context is different to mine. The great thing about Peat is that his work FORCES you to think for yourself, sooner or later. Many of his advocates have to go through what seems like a maze of research in order to gain any sort of understanding, and that in turn coerces them into thinking about their health from particular, specific angles pertaining to their own individual context. Ya get it? He talks about all sorts of stuff. If you want to know what he wants – then it’s the disestablishment of modern medicine. Quite extreme, but perhaps necessary given the state of our ‘health’ industry.
Jul 26, 2013 — 4:27 pm
@Rolan – A MAZE is the perfect analogy.
Aug 10, 2013 — 8:21 am
I have tried this diet for a couple of months now and have gained a lot of weight (mostly Subcutaneous fat) around the stomach and my abs are a goner. My diet has consisted mostly of fruit, carrots and milk and then some beef.
Aug 10, 2013 — 8:56 am
@Greatgiantsteppah – That seems to be common. From what I’ve read, it has to do with the increase in liquid calories. More OJ + More milk = more calories. The advice I’ve read is to actually consume lower fat dairy, which strikes me as odd, since I thought the benefit of dairy was the saturated fat. Perhaps the real answer is to scrap or gradually scale in the liquid calories.
Sep 7, 2013 — 1:54 pm
I don’t think I’ve seen you go into detail about this in your posts about Peat, but I have difficulty understanding why much of his philosophy seems to be centered around increasing one’s metabolic rate.
The caloric restriction camp believes that a lower metabolic rate is associated with increased longevity (I’m not a Fuhrman fan, but see e.g. this page and its references), and mainstream science books that I’ve read suggest that across species, metabolic rate is very strongly inversely correlated with longevity (see Part 7 of Nick Lane’s Power, Sex, Suicide.
Can you describe Peat’s reasoning here? The most I can find are just brief mentions like this forum post.
Sep 7, 2013 — 3:44 pm
@Dan – Great question. I didn’t know the answer, so I did some research and found this article on his site.
And in this article.
I don’t know if Ray is right or not, but he seems to be OK with calorie restriction, as long as PUFA is kept to a minimum and protein intake from muscle meat should be balanced with gelatin (bone broths). IOW, use the entire animal like traditional cultures did.
Sep 25, 2013 — 10:16 pm
I think this is a great article! I’ve also alternated between the various schools of thought, but have maintained as my primary foundation the tenets of WAPF now since 2008.
I think not unlike the body adapting to working out and stress responses, that alternating between different types of diets, but maintaining the basic necessities, (broth, organ meats, fermented foods and nutrient dense food stuffs) is what keeps everything in check. Really we are quite versatile creatures, made to subsist on any source of fuel, and I would even consider insects to be a part of my diet if I didn’t have such a culturally induced aversion to them!
The more varied you can be, (and I’m not talking industrialized foods here) the better!
I like how simple and straightforward your post is, good job.
I share your sentiment on fermentation which is why I’m reading this, thought I needed to do more research because I enjoy fermenting food too much, I was secretly hoping to find info that substantiates that 😉
Sep 26, 2013 — 11:08 am
@Monica – Thanks. I did a follow-up post on this. See #3 in this post.
Apr 23, 2014 — 10:16 am
Yep! you hit the button…I’m female, menopause done~check…WAPF…check~stuck in chubb!…can’t get rid of it! I had cut out sugar several years ago due to “candida” and I blossomed! I have just begun to read Mr. Peat and your insight has given me lots of “food” for thot…I have enjoyed many of Peat’s articles..and tho technical, if I slowly read and re-read lots sticks and makes lots of sense even to this 54 yo. stay at home mom!
I drink coffee & before age 35 when I never had one cup of the stuff I lived on sweet tea! All 5 of my children are tall & skinny! I am not tall at 5’3″ however~the sugar was the boost? Still learning…love my ice cream too. Could never go back to box cereal tho…Matt Stone…even tho I was an energetic, very slim child & young mom till menopause!
Nov 11, 2014 — 12:57 pm
My understanding of the original Johanna Ludwig diet, the combination of polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from flaxseed with sulfhydryl-containing proteins (e.g., cottage cheese) provides you with the benefit of the high energy fatty acids in flax seeds.
I never found that Peat diet really understood the process of using Flax and how carefully you must prepare this oil for human consumption. Have you come across anything in Peat’s writing that addresses the original Budwig diet?
Nov 11, 2014 — 1:14 pm
@Mason – I haven’t looked into flax or Johanna Ludwig. My view on what Peat and his followers are saying first is that PUFA intake is both excessive and it can take a long time to reduce those levels to “optimal”. By long time, I mean up to 4 years, although I’ve seen recent stuff that suggests it could be less time.
So step 1 would be to drastically lower PUFA, which I am guessing would extend to flax. Once levels in the body were fine, my guess is the body would be fine with healthy sources of PUFA provided they aren’t taken in excess. Again, all this is speculation. It is a middle ground approach.
I did almost a full year with very low PUFA levels. I stopped eating nuts completely. Used high temp saturated fat for cooking. Increased carbs. After that time, my body temperature was up a full degree. So I added almonds back for the occasional snack. More speculation here, but I think the year of being strict got me to a higher metabolism faster than had I continued eating almonds all along. I could be wrong, but if I am, I think I erred on the correct sequence.
Jun 2, 2015 — 11:26 am
what is your take on omega 3? The benefits of fish, are explained through a peat lense as being from high levels of calcium, as far as I understand it. Of course a lot of the anecdotes read like diet pill marketing copy. What is your omega 3 advice?
Jun 2, 2015 — 11:57 am
@Jeff – Probably fine in real food, but I don’t supplement with it.
Aug 9, 2015 — 7:23 pm
I have cut sugar out entirely – going to the extreme of limiting carrots. I did this because I was dealing with multiple infections including Lyme disease. Adding sugar (fructose, sucrose, glucose, milk but usually goat milk products) has been of great benefit to my progress. It helped my thyroid function better and as a result, my metabolism is working better. Metabolism is so key to fighting an infection that it outweighs the downside of “feeding the bugs.” Feeding the bugs feeds me, too.
Aug 10, 2015 — 4:43 pm
peat reccomends coffee/chocolate.
technically they are nuts, but not viewed as such