While eating gluten free can leave you gaining unexpected pounds, diets that fit in with gluten free eating are few. The Sirtfood Diet is an option worth considering… But does it work? I share my thoughts having tried it. And offer my take on one of my favourite recipes from the journey… Buckwheat Pasta with Asian Spiced Prawns (Gluten free. Dairy free)
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Disclaimer: I chose to test the Sirtfood Diet in an attempt to improve my own health and well-being while also being on a gluten free diet. This post shares my own personal experiences of this process and is NOT an endorsement of the diet.
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Dieting and me… Why I tried the Sirtfood Diet
I tried the Sirtfood diet… But I feel it’s important to state at the outset… I’m NOT by nature a ‘dieter’! Yes… I carry a few pounds that I wish weren’t there. But diets are not something that sit easily with me… Not purely for weight loss anyway. Indeed, the diets I have tried in the past have usually been about something more than losing weight… And they have usually been based on a ‘promise’ of better vitality, energy levels, emotional balance, sleep, organ health and general well-being.
Top of my list for diets I have ‘stuck to’ and gained some degree of benefit from are Carol Vorderman’s Detox for Life (great for gluten free)… The original Dr Michael Mosely 5:2 Fast Diet (which I lived by for 18 months before ‘falling off the wagon’ and struggling to get back on)… And now the Sirtfood Diet. I hasten to add that these three have been tried during a period of about 25 years… And have been triggered by sluggishness and a general need to reset my metabolism rather than a specific desire to lose weight. Having said that, the triple whammy of Coeliac, middle age and menopause have definitely created a weight challenge!
Weight gain and the gluten free diet…
Switching to a gluten free diet can bring unexpected weight gain. This may be because (for Coeliacs) the body is suddenly able to receive the nutrients that have been missing… But also, many of the gluten free ‘replacements’ available in shops contain extra sugar and fats in an attempt to extend their shelf life and make them ‘edible’. And that can result in the numbers on the scale creeping up.
As a counter to this, I do what I can in the context of family life to home-bake and make healthier carb choices (sides of nutritious Buckwheat Pasta, Buckwheat or Quinoa in place of endless potato, rice and corn)… And I ensure we eat healthier homemade gluten free bread too. My Gluten Free Brown Bread (Wholemeal) and Wholemeal Gluten Free Bread Maker Recipe have been game-changers.
But there are still times when I need a ‘reset’… And this is where I decided to try the Sirtfood Diet.
What is the Sirtfood Diet?
The Sirtfood Diet was first published in 2016 (created by nutritionists Aiden Goggins and Glen Matten). It is based on the idea (as promoted by the diet creators) that a diet rich in foods known as ‘Sirtfoods’ will activate specific proteins in the body (called ‘sirtuins’) to protect cells, boost the metabolism and reduce inflammation. And that in doing so, ‘sirtuins’ enhance the body’s ability to burn fat without destroying muscle. The term ‘Sirtfood’ is used to denote foods that apparently contain the required natural qualities (high in polyphenols) with the potential to activate these all-important ‘sirtuins’.
Alongside metabolic improvements, the diet claims to offer better memory function, more restful sleep, control of blood sugar, increased energy levels and a general improvement in overall health and disease risk.
Whatever the accuracy of the alleged science (the jury’s out), the Sirtfood Diet has attracted a host of celebrity followers including Adele, Lorraine Pascale, Pippa Middleton and Sir Ben Ainslie.
Weight Loss Claims…
But of course… the key headline grabber for the Sirtfood Diet is the claim that it offers an average weight loss of 7 pounds in the first 7 days. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing… And it’s NOT something that was uppermost in my mind when I decided to try the diet. In fact… I determinedly put any expectation of huge weight loss to the back of my mind!
Nonetheless, the claim has been made…. The first three days (specifically) of the diet are particularly restrictive (for some, maybe too much so). And yes… It’s enough to drop the pounds… But whether the weight stays off is no doubt dependent on many other personal factors. And since I didn’t do the diet for weight loss (and I’m not a nutritionist), it’s not something I am choosing to promote. There are plenty of health-based views (both positive and negative) on the internet for you to explore.
What you can eat on the Sirtfood Diet?
The Sirtfood Diet follows a pretty strict eating plan and one which (whatever the reason for doing it) is important to abide by… at least for the first 2 to 3 weeks. The key list of 20 Sirtfoods (some of which are incorporated at every meal) include: buckwheat, birds eye chillies, celery, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, matcha, kale, rocket, Medjool dates, walnuts, turmeric, red wine, capers, parsley, red onion, soy, strawberries, cocoa, coffee and red chicory. All pretty healthy stuff. These are then combined with healthy proteins (meat, oily fish, tofu etc) and some standard ingredients that you would usually include in your meals.
A full meal plan with recipes (and alternatives) is included in the Sirtfood Diet book… This was a godsend to ensuring compliance (even if not all meals were to my taste).
Phases of the Sirtfood Diet
Phase 1 (week 1) of the diet starts with three days restricted to 1000 calories (three ‘Sirtfood Green Juices’ and 1 Sirtfood-rich meal). I’m not gonna lie… The juice is gross, but I told myself it was doing me good and I got used to it. These first three days (designed to kick-start the metabolic switch) did require some willpower… But after that, although the calorie intake remained low (for that week 1,500 calories), the two Sirtfood-rich meals (and continued juices) were actually pretty sustaining. Plus… there was a treat at the end of the day to eat 2 squares of very dark (85%) chocolate. Water, tea and coffee remain unlimited.
Phase 2 (14 further diet days) is the Maintenance Phase… It’s designed to continue to promote controlled weight loss and (more importantly) a healthier body response. The calorie count increases significantly with three meals, but the diet remains focussed on a high consumption of health-promoting Sirtfoods and a continued daily green juice. You also have the option to include some healthy Sirt snacks to fill those hungry moments, in the form of a few walnuts, dates, a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate or super-delicious Sirtfood Bites (energy balls using Sirtfoods). Excitingly, red wine can be drunk in moderation (2 to 3 glasses a week)!
The meals, which include Sirt Super-Salad, Aromatic Chicken Breast with Kale and Red Onions and Asian Shrimp Stir-Fry are actually pretty tasty and sustaining. And once you’re in the ‘Sirt groove’, it’s easy to amend and adapt meals to taste without compromising the principles of the diet.
Beyond the initial Sirtfood Diet
Of course, like any reasonable diet plan, the ‘diet’ doesn’t stop after three weeks… It’s promoted as a lifestyle choice. The Sirtfood ethos is designed as something to be incorporated into regular eating, with the key Sirtfoods and Sirt meals becoming a regular part of your diet (whatever else you may be eating). And there is (of course) an encouragement to continue drinking the Sirt Green Juice as part of a healthier regime.
Nonetheless, the first two phases of the diet can be returned to as often as you feel the need… Whether for weight loss or general health. And yes… There’s another book (The Sirtfood Diet Recipe Book) that offers plenty of recipe ideas. Actually… There’s a burgeoning wealth of books by various authors on the subject (should you actually need them).
I also created my own adaptations on Sirt Bites… Sirtfood-based Espresso and Strawberry Bliss Balls as a variation on the theme.
Why the Sirtfood Diet is an option for a gluten free life
As a Coeliac (Celiac), finding a sustainable diet that fits the need to be gluten free can be limiting. And it’s one of the main reasons the Sirtfood Diet appealed to me… The majority of recipes (and all the key Sirtfoods) are naturally gluten free. And the fact that buckwheat is one of those key Sirtfoods was a pull… Not least because it is Coeliac safe and can be eaten as buckwheat groats (in place of rice, etc… See my post on How to Cook Buckwheat, if it’s new to you), as buckwheat pasta (easily sourced in many supermarkets), noodles and even as flakes for Gluten Free Porridge.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, the recipes offered are inclusive with an alternative veggie option for each meal. And… equally, most recipes are safe for a dairy free diet as well.
What you’ll need to ‘do’ the Sirtfood diet
The list of requirements for following the Sirtfood Diet is small(ish) but specific. And can be split into two categories – Sirt ingredients and equipment…
While most key Sirtfoods and ingredients are standard and available in supermarkets or grocers, there are a few that are harder to source. A couple I decided to sideline and others I subbed or sourced elsewhere as follows…
- Easy supermarket staples – Celery; garlic; kale; rocket (arugula); parsley; red onion, strawberries; avocado; tomatoes; capers; chillies; cocoa; coffee; walnuts; fresh ginger; green beans; fish, meat; tofu; turmeric; red wine; lemons; Medjool dates; extra virgin olive oil and buckwheat groats.
- Buckwheat noodles – were harder to source. I subbed with pure buckwheat pasta penne (which I found in Tesco and Sainsbury in the standard pasta aisle) or bought noodles from our local wholefood store (in the Asian section).
- Lovage – Suggested for the green juice and some other meals. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. My advice is don’t bother unless you already know where to find it. There’s plenty more green stuff on the list!
- Matcha powder – Also suggested for the green juice, but really hard to find. I eventually found some in a local health food store but it was expensive and honestly just made the juice taste more vile. Save your money and drink some Matcha Green Tea in between meals instead!
- Coconut Flakes – These can be found in wholefood shops. Or just use desiccated coconut as an alternative.
- Red chicory – Again I drew a blank, as it was very seasonal. I subbed with plain, yellow-coloured chicory (also known as endive).
- Miso – This seemed to be the main source of soy (other than tofu) in the diet. I found some in a health food store, but then quickly realised I’m not a huge miso fan. So didn’t bother using it after that!
- Buckwheat puffs and flakes – I gave up looking for buckwheat puffs. Buckwheat flakes were found in my local wholefood store, although can also be sourced online and in Holland and Barrett.
My thoughts are – If you can’t find something, live without it unless you enjoy the diet so much, you’re going to change your life and eat it every day!
The Sirtfood Diet largely requires basic cooking equipment that’s available in most kitchens. However, you WILL need a juicer for the green juice. If you don’t already have one, I suggest doing some research on the options available to you as juicers vary massively in how they function (how they extract juice) and how much they cost. Consider how much you might continue to use it on an on-going basis (regardless of ‘diet’) as well as budget.
As I had been looking for a good juicer for a while, I was happy to spend more for what I wanted. My key criteria were the ability to extract as much juice as possible, remove as much pulp as possible and a machine that was easy to clean after use. In the end, I opted for a ‘Masticating Juicer’, on the basis that from what I read, the juice produced was more complete and nutritious. This is the Omega model I bought. I’ve been very happy with it!
There are, however, much cheaper juicers on the market… Centrifugal juicers are without doubt speedier, although there is a general view that the quality of the juice is not as good. To be honest… For the purposes of the Sirtfood Green Juice, I’m not sure it actually matters that much. So for a cheaper option, the Philips Compact Juicer comes with good reviews.
You’ll also need some kitchen scales as there is a significant amount of weighing involved to ensure accurate portion sizes and ratios.
Can I make the Sirtfood Green Juice without a juicer?
To be honest… No! I tried. Using a bog-standard blender resulted in disgusting sludge that would have been better suited as a drink for Shrek. I even tried filtering it through a fine-meshed sieve several times to make it bearable. It was only partially successful and it took upwards of an hour and a lot of mess.
My review of ‘doing’ the diet… The good, the bad and the ugly
So what did I think of the Sirtfood Diet? I think my views are mixed in terms of its manageability…
- Easy to follow – The Sirtfood Diet is without question, the easiest-to-follow diet that I have ever explored. Why? Because it has a complete plan of meals, with recipes and absolute clarity about what you can or can’t eat for the duration of the first three weeks.
- Gluten free – Even better… The recipes are almost entirely gluten free, which meant I rarely had to think about substituting ingredients and could follow the rules like everyone else!
- Alternatives, dairy free and vegan options – The meal plans offered alternatives for each meal (generally one vegan and one meat/fish option). This makes it more inclusive and also gave another choice if I didn’t fancy one of the meals.
- Didn’t feel hungry – For the most part (particularly after the first three days) I never felt ‘hungry’. The meals (even when calorie restrictive) felt filling and sustaining. Actually… there were times when the portion sizes felt too large!
- Treats – Unlike many ‘diets’ the addition of Sirtfoods such as 85% dark chocolate, strawberries, red wine and coffee make it feel like you get some treats along the way. And actually, I was quite happy snacking on walnuts and dates too.
- The cost – There were days when I referred to the Sirtfood Diet as a bit ‘bourgeois’. The need to source some quite ‘trendy’ ingredients and the cost of these took the plan beyond the reach of many people who are eating on a budget. There is a decided absence of cheap basics such as potatoes, pasta and rice.
- Juicer required – The need for a juicer (for those who don’t already have one) is an added expense that is difficult to avoid. Sadly, there is nothing that comes close to the juice available to buy in the shops.
- Time-consuming – The Sirtfood Diet takes time… Many of the meals require a lot of prep, making it hard to follow if you’re getting in from work late, tired and hungry. It’s not that the recipes are hard to prepare, but they do contain a number of ingredients and elements that require chopping and making up separately.
- Kale… Lots of it! – Although of course, this is only a problem if you aren’t a fan of kale. Fortunately, I am. I considered putting ‘Kale’ under ‘The Good…’, but I decided you’d all think I was bonkers. Generally, though, there are a few foods that you eat a LOT of… So be prepared for some degree of ‘same old’.
- The Sirtfood Green Juice – There’s no denying that while it may be necessary to the diet, the Green Juice is (frankly) pretty gross! You do get used to it, but I can’t say it was ever enjoyable.
Does the Sirtfood Diet Work?
While there seems to be little point in embarking on a ‘diet’ if it doesn’t work, the answer to this question will be very much dependent on what you hope to gain from it.
There is no doubt that there are many people out there (celebrities and otherwise) who are confirmed Sirtfood dieters. But did I personally see any tangible results?
Physical and emotional health
As I stated at the outset, my trying the Sirtfood Diet was primarily about improving my physical and emotional health. And yes. I definitely felt better for having done it. My energy levels were much improved and I slept more consistently and soundly. This in turn improved my concentration, alertness and motivation.
I felt more ‘in control’. I suspect this was more down to the very structured meal planning that gave my day a different order and disallowed ‘grazing’, rather than any resolution of emotional conflict! Although having said that, for the duration of the diet, my mood did feel more level and positive.
For me, while it may have been the hardest part of the diet (the days with the fewest calories and greatest restrictions), week one gave me the biggest benefit. It felt like a self-enforced detox filled with nutritious, health-giving ingredients that could best support my body in physical and emotional recovery. And it was the detox that I perhaps needed the most!
There is no doubt that at the end of week one, I felt less ‘bulky’ and less bloated, and that my gut felt physically and psychologically ‘cleaner’. There were fewer stomach ‘niggles’ and I felt more in tune (physically) with my body. I experienced fewer headaches and less reflux.
And yes… all of that = Sirtfood Diet success!
Although not a primary goal, I can report that I did indeed lose the full 7 pounds in the first Sirtfood week and a further 3 during the second phase. While I maintained that loss for about three months, it did subsequently start creeping back after returning to my usual eating patterns (despite naturally eating many ‘Sirtfoods’ as part of my standard diet).
I don’t see this as a failure, primarily because I didn’t see weight loss as my main goal. Although naturally, there was some slight disappointment. I guess really, the Sirtfood Diet should be more of a lifestyle choice for anyone hoping to maintain the gains on a consistent basis.
Would I do the Sirtfood Diet again?
Absolutely yes. I’ve repeated week one twice since my original foray into the diet a couple of years back. I use it as a detox and body reset when I’m feeling sluggish, demotivated, unduly bloated or just plain ‘flat’. It always works to make me feel better. And as the recipes are largely gluten free, it takes a lot of the planning pain out of it.
So for me, it’s a win!
Favourite Sirtfood meals and a recipe adapted…
Either way, there are a few recipes that I have now incorporated into my general meal planning, as I loved them. Favourites (all recipes included in the first Sirtfood Diet book) include:
- Asian King Prawn Stir-Fry with Buckwheat Noodles (I’ve shared my amended Buckwheat Pasta with Asian Spiced Prawns below as it’s now a regular Coeliac meal here)
- Kale & Red Onion Dahl with Buckwheat
- Chargrilled Beef with a Red Wine Jus, Onion Rings, Garlic Kale and Herb Roasted Potatoes (The garlic kale is incredible!)
- Pan-Fried Salmon Fillet with Caramelised Chicory, Rocket and Celery Leaf Salad
- Roasted Aubergine Wedges with Walnut & Parsley Pesto and Tomato Salad
- Tuscan Bean Stew
- Baked Chicken Breast with Walnut & Parsley Pesto and Red Onion Salad
- Sirt Muesli
- Buckwheat Pancakes with Strawberries, Dark Chocolate and Crushed Walnuts
- Sirtfood Bites
And here’s my Buckwheat Pasta with Asian Spiced Prawns…
Buckwheat Pasta with Asian Spiced Prawns
- chopping board
- sharp vegetable knife
- large frying pan
- 150 g raw king prawns if frozen, defrost in a bowl of cold water
- 2 tsp tamari soy sauce (gluten free)
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 75 g 100% buckwheat pasta penne/fusilli + 1 tsp olive oil and dash of salt
- ½ red onion (sliced)
- 1 stick celery (trimmed and finely sliced)
- 1 large clove garlic
- ½ red birds eye chilli
- 1 tsp fresh ginger finely grated/finely chopped
- 75 g green French beans (chopped)
- 50 g kale (rough-chopped)
- 100 ml chicken stock made using about ⅓ GF stock cube
- Parsley leaves and chopped chilli to garnish.
- Stir-fry the prawns in a frying pan with 1 tsp oil and the tamari soy sauce for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly pink.
- Transfer the prawns to a plate and set them aside.
Pasta (cook pasta while preparing ‘Kale and other ingredients’ below)
- Boil some water in a saucepan with 1 tsp olive oil and a dash of salt.
- Cook the pasta in the boiling water as per packet instructions (usually 9 to 10 minutes), stirring intermittently to prevent the pasta sticking to itself.
- While the pasta is cooking, boil a kettle of water.
- When the pasta is cooked drain immediately using a colander and rinse through with boiling water.
- Either set aside until ready to use, or (if the rest of the ingredients are cooked) add to the pan as instructed below. Note: The longer the pasta sits aside, the more likely it will be to stick together. So it's better to time the cooking ready to use straight away.
Kale and other ingredients
- Use the remaining oil to fry the onion, celery, garlic, chilli, ginger, beans and kale over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, turning intermittently.
- Add the stock to the pan, bring to a simmer and continue to cook the vegetables for a couple of minutes, stirring through. The veg should be cooked, but still a little crunchy.
- Add and stir through the prawns and pasta, bringing back to a simmer
- Remove from the heat and serve with a garnish of parsley leaves and a little extra chopped chilli (optional).
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist