Tana Amen, B.S.N., R.N., author of The Omni Diet (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), says she grew up on a steady diet of Cap’n Crunch, Pop-Tarts, chocolate milk, pan-fried steaks, and frozen pot pies that wreaked havoc on her health and the health of her family. After suffering from an immune disorder, thyroid cancer and depression, she decided to overhaul her diet (and her life). After 10 years and a few false starts — including the USDA Food Pyramid diet, vegetarian diet and a high-protein diet — she developed the Omni Diet. Now, at age 43, Amen says she’s the healthiest she’s ever been.
Amen is so convinced that her diet works, she promises that if you give her two weeks, she’ll change your life. This isn’t her first foray into preaching healthy living; she is also a member of a faith-based healthy living plan, called The Daniel Plan, which includes Mehmet Oz, M.D., as a member, as well as Amen’s husband, Daniel G. Amen, M.D. (Although it’s called “God’s prescription for your health,” Amen’s name is a coincidence.)
According to Tana Amen, the Omni Diet’s benefits include: decreased inflammation; optimized brain function; high-quality, nutrient-dense calories that satisfy your appetite; a variety of nutrients; decreased feelings of hunger and deprivation; hormone balance and the subsequent breaking of food addictions, and increased energy and feelings of well-being. Those are some mighty tall promises, tough for any diet to fulfill.
Amen’s diet mantra? “Food can be as healing as medication or it can be as toxic as poison.” She says her diet plan — 70 percent plant foods and 30 percent protein (including animal protein) — provides the ideal balance of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish and lean meats that gives your body everything it needs for peak performance, maximum weight loss and optimal health.
While the book is sprinkled with inspirational stories of the people Amen has counseled, the real focus of the book is on the diet itself, as well as a collection of Omni recipes, menus and a shopping list.
Her “foods to ditch” list includes some surprises: whole grains, canola oil, soy foods, 100 percent fruit juice and farm-raised fish. While she offers a rationale for each, not all her conclusions are fully backed by science. For instance, she says corn disrupts blood sugar balance, and soy contributes to impotence in men and (in excessive amounts) causes systemic inflammation. Another thing to keep in mind before you decide if the Omni Diet is for you is the almost complete lack of bread, rolls, crackers and potatoes, except for a few gluten-free crumbs.
Amen’s recommendations, though, are spot-on when it comes to eating lots of fresh vegetables, a moderate amount of fruits (especially berries), naturally raised lean meat and poultry, wild-caught seafood, eggs, olive oil, and fresh herbs and spices. And she gives valuable advice that goes beyond what you put on your plate, from writing in a food journal every day to finding an “accountability buddy” to help you stay on track.
However, many of the foods she recommends can be either budget-busters or are hard to come by, depending on where you live and shop, such as macadamia oil, naturally raised lean beef, wild-caught seafood, goji berries and raw shaved coconut. Also, keep in mind that most recipes, like Benedict-Style Poached Eggs and Brain-Boosting BBQ Chicken Salad, take some preparation time and you’ll need to restock your fridge and your pantry before you get started.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always a bit suspicious of diet-book authors who promote products bearing their names. Such is the case with the Amen Clinics supplements (her husband is the doctor there), which she offers in preformulated mixes to meet needs identified by taking a quiz in the book. There is a formula for a brain and memory boost, controlling cravings, mood support and optimizing your energy level.
Bottom line? Despite her promises, the diet isn’t going to miraculously turn your life around. But if you’re willing to take the time, can spend the cash and do the planning, you can no doubt lose weight (though likely not as fast as she says, unless you start out with a lot to lose), lower fat levels in your blood and improve your blood sugar. Amen to that! But my issue is more with the claims for the diet than the diet itself, although it’s too restrictive and far more difficult to follow than healthy eating has to be.
Photo credit: Jim Kennedy
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