Sunday 23 October 2016

Eat, drink & weigh less

There's a new diet in town and it has everyone talking

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten are behind the Sirtfood Diet published by Yellow Kite.
Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten are behind the Sirtfood Diet published by Yellow Kite.
Dark chocolate
Weighing scales
Sirtfood green juice
Sirtfood bites
Sirtfood tabbouleh recipe

Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten never thought they'd write a diet book. Then again, neither did they think they would stumble upon the radical fat-burning properties of a certain group of super foods.

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"Glen and I are actually two of the most anti-diet people you could ever meet, and the least likely to write a diet book," laughs Aidan when we chat ahead of the book's launch.

"We slated diets in our first book because they have a 99pc failure rate, which is actually insane. Our focus has always been disease prevention and well-being."

Aidan and Glen met when they were studying for a master's degree in nutritional medicine at the University of Surrey. "We didn't chat until the last module on the last day," recalls Aidan.

It's lucky that they did: the pair went on to write The Health Delusion, an award-winning book that cuts through the hype and misinformation of the health industry.

The book touched on the potential of sirtuin activators, a group of plant foods that are linked to longevity. A groundbreaking study in 2003 found that a substance known as resveratrol, found in red wine, activated sirtuin.

In later years, it was discovered that the inhabitants of so-called Blue Zones - geographic hotspots where people lead longer and happier lives - ate more sirtuin-activating foods.

As pharmaceutical companies began investing hundreds of millions into sirtuin research for age-related disease, Aidan and Glen began to carry out their own grassroots studies.

Fascinated by the potential of sirtuin-activators, they always wondered what would happen if they took the most potent sirtuin-activating foods and combined them into an eating plan.

They soon found out when they trialled their sirtfood diet on 40 members at an exclusive health club in Kensington in London (Aidan officially moved to the British capital a year ago).

The focus was on stimulating rejuvenation and cellular repair and the list of sirtfoods included the usual suspects like kale, turmeric and walnuts, as well as some lesser-expected inclusions like red wine, coffee and chocolate (as long as it's 85pc cocoa content).

A green juice containing kale, rocket, flat-leaf parsley, lovage, green celery, green apple, lemon and matcha was the anchor of the eating plan, while a typical meal was turkey escalope with sage, capers, parsley and spiced cauliflower couscous.

Turkey? That's not on the list of Sirtfoods. "We know that protein actually enhances the action of sirtfoods," explains Aidan. "And Omega 3 fatty acids too…" It's also important to note that combining sirtfoods increases their potency.

The results of the trial soon came back. Participants reported enhanced energy and well-being, improved skin and appearance and, unexpectedly, significant weight loss - an average of seven pounds in seven days.

"It was quite serendipitous," says Aidan. "We didn't know that sirtfoods really trigger fat-burning."

They also began to get reports that participants were unable to finish their food. "What we discovered is that these foods have natural appetite-regulating effects."

Aidan partly attributes this to sirtfoods' "profound ability to stimulate our taste receptors". Indeed, all sirtfoods have a very certain bite or flavour. "If you eat something refined and bland, you sometimes don't even realise you're eating it until you look at the pack and it's gone," he explains. "There is no stimulation of the taste receptors, hence there is no signal sent to the brain to tell it that you are full."

They also noted that, unlike other weight-loss diets, muscle function and mass increased rather than decreased.

It transpires that this group of foods switches on the so-called 'skinny gene' pathways in the body - the same pathways more commonly activated by fasting and exercises.

Aidan and Glen used the results of the trial to formulate a two-stage sirtfood diet. Stage one is an intensive seven-day programme designed to kickstart weight loss. Stage two is a follow-on eating plan designed to sustain it.

The diet has since been championed by athletes such as David Haye, Sir Ben Ainslie and Anthony Ogogo. Champion heavyweight boxer David Haye followed the diet in preparation for his return to the ring and was able to "attain a body composition and well-being [which was] previously unimaginable".

Model and TV personality Jodie Kidd attributes the sirtfood diet with boosting her energy levels. "People keep asking me my secret to looking great," she says. "The answer is Aidan and Glen's sirtfood diet. Since following it, I feel unstoppable".

This isn't just a diet for those that want to lose weight. It's also for those that want to optimise the health benefits of their meals or even counterbalance the effects of unhealthy foods.

The Kildare-born nutritional expert cites recent research which found that combining strawberries with a sugary drink greatly slows down the absorption of the sugar (for example no sharp sugar crash).

Aidan, who previously worked as a pharmacist, knows what he's talking about. "The one thing I took from pharmacy is that there is this massive power in plants. In fact, a number of breakthrough drugs that treat chronic diseases have come from plants.

"Aspirin comes from the willow tree. The heart disease drug Digoxin comes from digitalis, which you can actually find up the Wicklow mountains."

There's always a new diet plan in January, but this one feels different. It's not dictatorial, nor is it about denial or deprivation. On the contrary, it's dynamic, adaptable and, to use Glen's words, "inclusive rather than exclusive".

Now, where exactly does one buy lovage?...

What are Sirtfoods

• Sirtfoods are a group of everyday plant foods, known as sirtuin activators, which switch on the "skinny gene" pathways in the body and trigger  fat-burning.

• Sirtfoods are not as effective when taken in isolation. They must be combined to increase their potency.

• Protein and Omega 3 fatty acids (found in beef, salmon, sardines and flaxseed) enhance the action of Sirtfoods.

Examples include:

• Apples

• Blackcurrants

• Blueberries

• Buckwheat

• Capers

• Celery

• Chilli

• Chocolate (at least 85pc cocoa content)

• Citrus Fruits

• Coffee

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• Green Tea (ideally matcha)

• Kale

• Lovage (herb in parsley family)

• Medjool dates

• Olives

• Parsley

• Red Chicory

• Red Onion

• Red Wine

• Rocket

• Soy

• Strawberries

• Turmeric

• Walnuts

Sirtfood green juices


Serves 1


2 large handfuls (75g) kale

a large handful (30g) rocket

a very small handful (5g) flat-leaf parsley

a very small handful (5g) lovage leaves (optional)

2-3 large stalks (150g) green celery, including its leaves

½ medium green apple

juice of ½ lemon

½ level tsp matcha green tea


1. Mix the greens (kale, rocket, parsley and lovage, if using) together, then juice them. We find juicers can really differ in their efficiency at juicing leafy vegetables and you may need to re-juice the remnants before moving on to the other ingredients. The goal is to end up with about 50ml of juice from the greens.

2.Now juice the celery and apple. You can peel the lemon and put it through the juicer as well, but we find it much easier to simply squeeze the lemon by hand into the juice. By this stage, you should have around 250ml of juice in total, perhaps slightly more.

3. It is only when the juice is made and ready to serve that you add the matcha green tea. Pour a small amount of the juice into a glass, then add the matcha and stir vigorously with a fork or teaspoon. We only use matcha in the first two drinks of the day as it contains moderate amounts of caffeine (the same content as a normal cup of tea). For people not used to it, it may keep them awake if drunk late.

4.Once the matcha is dissolved add the remainder of the juice. Give it a final stir, then your juice is ready to drink. Feel free to top up with plain water, according to taste.

Sirtfood bites


Makes 15-20 bites


120g walnuts

30g dark chocolate (85pc cocoa solids), broken into pieces; or cacao nibs

250g Medjool dates, pitted

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

the scraped seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tbsp water


1. Place the walnuts and chocolate in a food processor and process until you have a fine powder.

2. Add all the other ingredients except the water and blend until the mixture forms a ball. You may or may not have to add the water depending on the consistency of the mixture - you don't want it to be too sticky.

3. Using your hands, form the mixture into bite-sized balls and refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 1 hour before eating them. You could roll some of the balls in some more cocoa or desiccated coconut to achieve a different finish if you like.

They will keep for up to 1 week in your fridge.

Strawberry buckwheat tabouleh


Serves 1


50g buckwheat

1 tbsp ground turmeric

80g avocado

65g tomato

20g red onion

25g Medjool dates, pitted

1 tbsp capers

30g parsley

100g strawberries, hulled

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juce of ½ lemon

30g rocket


1. Cook the buckwheat with the turmeric according to the packet instructions. Drain and keep to one side to cool.

2. Finely chop the avocado, tomato, red onion, dates, capers and parsley and mix with the cool buckwheat.

3. Slice the strawberries and gently mix into the salad with the oil and lemon juice. Serve on a bed of rocket.

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