Grain Brain: What A No-Carb Diet Looks Like

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Every time you tuck into a bowl of cereal or plate of pasta, you’re killing your brain. That’s the dramatic diagnosis of a U.S. neurologist whose recently published New York Times best seller has captured media headlines for calling wheat, carbohydrates and sugar “the brain’s silent killer."

According to Dr. David Perlmutter's book Grain Brain, all carbs — even the ones that are touted as healthy like whole grains — can cause everything from dementia, ADHD and anxiety to chronic headaches and depression.

In fact, the Florida-based neurologist goes so far as to claim that the human requirement for dietary carbs is “none — none whatsoever.”

It’s a theory that goes beyond simply advocating a low-carb diet for weight loss, or a gluten-free diet for those who suffer from celiac disease or gastrointestinal discomfort. Instead, the bold claims turn the pillars of the Western diet on their head, vilifying whole grains and wheat as agents of disease.

Perlmutter’s take on the best dietary way to optimize brain power? A fat-rich, low-carb diet. Foods high on the Glycemic Index and those that contain gluten should be avoided, including foods that have long been touted as healthy forms of carbs such as wheat, rye, bulgur, barley and oats.

In essence, Perlmutter’s prescription for a brain-friendly diet could be described as a variation of the gluten-free diet, the Paleo diet or the Atkins diet. On the last, the doctor tries to differentiate the Grain Brain diet by saying that while the Atkins diet makes no distinction between fatty, grain-fed meats, which are high in inflammatory Omega-6 fats, Perlmutter recommends meat, fowl and fish that are grass-fed, free range or wild caught.

Here’s a sample grocery list for foods allowed on the diet. Story continues below:

No-Grain Diet
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Shredded coconut
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Flaxseed oil
Walnut oil
Grass fed beef
Free range eggs
Free range turkey
Free range chicken
Mixed greens
Wild salmon
Berries (in moderation)
Bell pepper
Goat’s cheese

A few rules of thumb for adhering to the doctor’s diet include tenets such as “If it can go bad, it’s good for you. If it stays good, it’s bad for you.”

When it comes to keeping Alzheimer’s disease at bay, Perlmutter also calls grass-fed beef, avocados and coconut oil the perfect trio of “memory foods.”

Coffee lovers will be happy to note that their morning cup of Joe is considered a powerful brain food for its anti-oxidative properties.

Similarly, foods high in omega-3s like olive oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil play a big role in the Grain Brain.

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