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Book Review: Warren-Amen-Hyman “The Daniel Plan”

Member Forum >> Food and Diet >> Book Review: Warren-Amen-Hyman “The Daniel Plan”

Bob Niland

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Posted: 2/5/2018 10:16:57 AM

The Daniel Plan
40 Days to a Healthier Life

Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman
(Published: 2013-12-03)
346 pages in hardcover

Edition: 2018-02-05

A family member was interested in this book, so I decided to give it a read and opine on how The Daniel Plan (TDP) and the Undoctored programs might inform each other. Keep in mind that TDP is now just over 4 years old, and thus pre-dates both Wheat Belly Total Health (2014) and the Cureality program (2014), not to mention Undoctored (2017).

For someone coming from TDP to Undoctored or Wheat Belly, and wanting to know if TDP can be accommodated, here’s what you need to adjust:

How to Make TDP
How to Make Undoctored
  • Eliminate all grains.
  • Adhere to per-day and per-interval net carb targets
  • Ensure that of the daily 30-50 gram fiber target, 20 grams is mixed and varied prebiotic fiber. Watch for signs of pre-existing dysbiosis, esp. SIBO.
  • Skip the advice for lean meat.
  • Make sure salt/sodium intake is adequate.
  • In addition to stevia, allow the natural non-nutritive sweeteners monk fruit, inulin, erythritol and limited xylitol.
  • Bring iodine intake up to target, and get thyroid checked as needed (and it often is needed: check fT3, fT4, rT3, TSH, TGab, TPOab).
  • Ditch the calcium supplements.
  • Make sure magnesium, and Omega 3 DHA+EPA intake hit program targets.
  • Make sure 25OH Vitamin D3 titer is in program range.
  • Review the TDP multi-vitamin, as it may be unnecessary, and may contain adverse elements.
  • Add intermittent fasting and intermittent ketosis to your optional tool box.
  • Check status and progress by assessing any of these markers you can.
  • Spiritual or social support as needed.
  • Extra benefits of the spiritual or meditative aspects per your view of such matters.
(Which is to say that the Undoctored {and post-2014 Wheat Belly} programs are inherently compliant with TDP, other than the TDP recommendation that women supplement calcium)

Program Principles

Undoctored Core Elements TDP Essential Components
  1. Grain-free, very low net carb, high specific fat
  2. Restoration of thyroid status
  3. Optimal Omega 3 DHA&EPA intake
  4. Optimal magnesium intake
  5. Optimal Vitamin D status
  6. Bowel flora remediation and support
  • Food
  • Fitness
  • Focus
  • Faith
  • Friends
Comparative Macronutrients
Undoctored TDP
  • Carbs: 50g net/day
    (non-starchy ad lib
    prebiotic fiber 20g/day)
  • Fats: ad lib
    (no TF, and Omega 6 LA very limited)
  • Protein: ad lib
    (within BG goals)
The Daniel Plan Perfect Plate
50% non-starchy veggies
25% healthy animal or vegetable proteins
25% healthy starch or whole grains
side of low glycemic fruit
water or herbal tea

General Remarks

legend: book quotes, some emphasis, and my comments.

The Daniel of the book title is the biblical Daniel, and not co-author Dr. Daniel Amen. The book bears endorsements by, among others,
Oz (as Mehmet),
Agatston (TDP is not the South Beach Diet, and may not change your Agatston score) and
Ornish (TDP is not vegan or vegetarian, in case that name raised an eyebrow).
The book has end notes, but annoyingly, no Index.

The book is supported by a website, which offers several additional products, including a food journal, something that Dr. Davis offered at one time, but never promoted, and evidently found unnecessary. An exhaustive browse of the TDP web site may find some amendments and revisions to book themes, but I didn’t see any on the few pages I visited.

Within the context of the overall program, the book is pretty comprehensive, with pantry make over, eating-out tips, how to read labels, etc.

“Wow! Everybody’s FAT!”
Are the first words of the book, wherein pastor Rick Warren goes on to relate his story, which implicitly reveals that this is a modern problem, of (we might say) biblical proportions, that appears to have exploded in the mid-1970s.

“As a pastor I have met many people who were praying for God to heal illnesses and sicknesses that could easily be reversed if they simply made healthier choices.”
I don’t disagree.

“We spend almost $3 trillion a year in our health care system, and almost 80 percent of that is for chronic lifestyle preventable and reversible disease.”
And again I concur. As regards what to do about it, the book is a massive improvement over the USDA MyPlateOfMetabolicSyndrome diet, but in my view still not fully optimized.

“The Daniel Plan is a high-carb diet. In fact, carbs are the single most important food you can eat for long-term weight loss and health.”
No exact target is provided for daily net carb intake, nor do the recipes in the book provide macro data. The ingredient foods allowed could easily result in a daily carb intake well over 100 grams, which might suffice to keep the diet full-time glycemic. This is likely to make the diet needlessly harder to follow, thus the emphasis on support and focus, and “emergency food pack”.

They consider “low GI” to be 55 or less. Undoctored targets zero, and cautions on things at and above 7.

The TDP program doesn’t count calories, which is nice to see.

The TDP program recommends sea veggies, but doesn’t address the issue of iodine, or thyroid at all. Excess sea veggies (e.g. kelp) would be a problem for people with unresolved auto-immune thyroid.

“The Daniel Plan introduces you to a whole new world of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, chicken, fish, lean or naturally raised animal products, and spices.”

“If you want french fries, then make them yourself from whole potatoes and unrefined, unprocessed oil.”

On grains, the main concern seems to be the glycemic impact (which is true enough), but avoiding the gluten-bearing grains appears to be restricted to celiacs and those who react strongly.

The grains discussion says modern wheat “contains gluten”, thus implying that biblical grain (emmer) did not. Heirloom emmer actually has more gluten. Whether or not it’s a less adverse form of gluten is not explored in the book.

“The ideal serving size for grains is 1/2 cup for men and 1/3 cup for women.”
A half cup of quinoa would be 17 grams net carb, which exceeds our whole-meal limit.

“Limit high-sugar fruits.”,
but there are no quantifiable guidelines for that (or any other carbs) in terms of net carbs or blood sugar targets.

“Eggs do not raise your cholesterol; they do just the opposite.”
(thus implying that TC matters)

“Eat red meat no more than once or twice a week… Pork is the least healthy meat.”

Advice on soy is muddled. The recommended soy products are fermented, and the counsel is to avoid “processed” soy.

“Bulk up on beans or legumes.”
with, again, no caution on carbs or lectins, for that matter.

On fats: the book includes grape seed oil on the OK list, which I consider too high in Omega 6 linoleic acid. The book does discuss the hazards of LA, but lacks any guidelines for cut-off concentration in an oil (I use 15%).

“What is a food emergency? When your blood sugar starts to drop, you are hard-wired to eat anything (and everything) in sight.”
and then advocates having safe foods along with you. This would be an expected consequence of a diet that remains full-time glycemic and may allow net carbs to get too high at any given meal. Hypoglycemia follows hyper. In the Undoctored program the need for an “emergency food pack” might only arise were one compelled to attend a two-week USDA retreat.

“Cut out sugar and white flour. Go cold turkey.”
If grains (even whole) stay in, that unpleasant cold turkey experience will be long, possibly indefinite.

A later chapter has pretty good coverage of sugars, but still allows added sugar in as “occasional treats”, and only in “raw” forms. Mistake. In Undoctored, we avoid all added sugars, except the trace amount in high %cacao dark chocolate, and sugars entirely converted in fermented foods.

“Cut out all artificial sweeteners.”
Not really defined, and the only non-nutritive natural sweetener discussed is stevia.

“Stop night-time eating and bingeing.”
No details given.

“Wait 20 minutes before eating a second portion. Put your fork down between bites.”
Ummm, sorry. If you need to do this, there’s a problem with the menu.

“Is Wheat Dangerous?”
and then doesn’t really answer it.

There is more emphasis on exercise than may be necessary, including for weight management. Undoctored endorses exercise for a variety of benefits, but weight loss is not one of them.

A significant fraction of the book is devoted to how faith and a support community can empower the program. This may be critical for some people, but it may make this program look harder than it needs to be. If it requires willpower (or won’t-power), the diet is likely not optimal to begin with.

There is a distinct lack of intake targets and markers for minding progress. The companion web site has a tracker feature, but without registering, I can’t say what it might track. The only two markers I noticed in the book were:
TG of 150 mg/dL considered “normal” (we target 60 or less), and
30 to 50 grams of fiber per day (presumably non-net, but not clarified as to prebiotic vs. roughage) and the top bullet item in Boost Your Fiber is “Whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice” with no mention of carbs in both, or the WGA and arsenic issues in rice.

Bob Niland [disclosures] [topics]