The Wild Diet may be the diet for you if you want to drop a few kilos but don't want to give up your beloved cheese or chocolate.
It sounds too good to be true, right? The idea behind it seems simple: Stop counting calories and instead focus on quality, healthy, organic foods to help retrain your body to burn fat instead of sugar. But is the Wild Diet safe, and will it work for you?
What is the Wild Diet?
The Wild Diet was created by Abel James, a celebrity trainer on ABC and host of an award-winning podcast, Fat-Burning Man. James promises "real food, real results," and foodies have been going mad for the Wild Diet meal plan ever since he revealed it to the world in 2015.
The Wild Diet focuses primarily on high-quality food sources like fresh, simple, whole foods and bans processed foods, soy, corn oils, MSG, grains, refined sugar, and other refined carbohydrates.
It is a type of ketogenic diet, because by eliminating processed carbohydrates, the body goes into ketosis (burning stored fats for energy).
For most people, the main advantage of the Wild Diet meal plan is hard to resist: You don't have to give up your favourite treats, like ice cream, bacon, eggs, and steak. In fact, the Wild Diet encourages people to eat these foods, because they are sources of high-quality fat.
However, some experts point out that this rule may be deceptive. You can't eat these things in unlimited quantities; you have to remain conscious of portion size and eat only when you're hungry.
"The Wild Diet's catchy selling line, 'Feast again with your friends,' can be misleading," says Luiza Petre MD, a board-certified cardiologist and weight management specialist. "This is a weight-loss plan, not an 'anything goes' scenario."
What does the Wild Diet consist of?
To help you decide whether the Wild Diet meal plan could work for you — and before you head to the grocery store carrying your Wild Diet shopping list — it's important to understand what you'll be eating. Here's what a typical day enjoying Wild Diet recipes might look like.
Breakfast: Perfect Bacon & Sunny-Side Up Eggs
- Pasture-raised pork bacon
- Grass-fed butter
According to the Wild Diet, good quality animal products are those that are free from hormones, antibiotics, and chemical additives, such as pasture-raised pork bacon.
Lunch: Nori Wraps
- Leftover meats or smoked salmon
- Roasted seaweed
- Goat cheese or avocado
- Thinly sliced veggies
Many of the Wild Diet recipes include avocado (despite its being high in fat and thus high in calories) because it is rich in antioxidants and considered to be a "good" monounsaturated fat.
According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol levels and LDL ("bad" cholesterol).
Dinner: Chicken Parmesan
- Almond flour or coconut flour
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Boneless, skinless pasture-raised chicken thighs
- Grass-fed butter
- Organic tomato sauce (with no sugar added)
- Mozzarella cheese
- Organic mixed greens
- Organic extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
The Wild Diet meal plan recommends buying organic food wherever possible, because it has greater health benefits than its non-organic equivalents.
A meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that organic dairy and meat was 50 per cent higher in omega-3 fatty acids and had a better balance of omega-3s to omega-6s than non-organic dairy and meat.
Snack: Home-roasted nuts
- Almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts
Selenium is crucial in helping improve many bodily functions, from stabilising mood to fighting inflammation, and Brazil nuts contain the highest source of selenium in the world.
In fact, according to a study published in Biological Trace Element Research, just one Brazil nut per day is able to improve anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses in the body.
- Unsweetened coffee
- Unsweetened tea
The Wild Diet bans fruit juice and sports drinks, but allows you to drink as much unsweetened coffee, tea, and seltzer as you like. It also recommends drinking eight 8 250ml glasses of filtered water a day.
Dessert: The Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake
- Organic coconut flour
- Blanched almond flour
- Flaxseed meal
- Ground cinnamon
- Sea salt
- Vanilla extract
- Organic coconut oil, melted
- Unsweetened, full-fat organic coconut milk
- Pure maple syrup
- Grass-fed sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt
- Grass-fed heavy cream
- Organic cream cheese
- Organic coconut palm sugar
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Grass-fed butter
- Dark chocolate chips
The Wild Diet allows natural sugars such as maple syrup and coconut sugar. Natural sugars are packed with fibre, water, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, whereas refined (processed) sugar is usually a combination of glucose and fructose and has no nutritional value.
When you look at the Wild Diet food list for these recipes, you'll see a common thread: organic, nutrient-rich products with nothing processed.
Sample Wild Diet shopping list
Before you embark on the Wild Diet, be sure to have these common ingredients at home so you can whip up the Wild Diet recipes quickly and easily (and without having to head back to the store).
Below are some of the Wild Diet shopping list staples you'll want to stock in your pantry.
- Coconut (coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut butter, shredded coconut)
- Chocolate (cacao powder, cacao nibs, chocolate chips)
- Canned foods (wild salmon, organic pumpkin — pumpkin contains heart-healthy potassium and vitamin C)
- Raw nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds — sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E and vitamin B6 and contain phytosterols for health cholesterol)
- Snacks (kale chips, crackers, seaweed, nori)
- Nut and seed butters (almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter)
- Vinegar and condiments (apple cider vinegar, mustard, liquid aminos)
- Baking (coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, pure stevia, coconut flour, almond flour, ground flaxseed meal)
Does the Wild Diet work?
You don't have to dig deep for the Wild Diet reviews that prove this way of eating can lead to weight loss and a happier, healthier lifestyle.
When followed as prescribed, there's little doubt the Wild Diet wouldn't be effective for most.
"The reduction of simple carbohydrates and sugars has been shown to reduce appetite and may be helpful in obtaining long-term weight loss," says registered dietitian nutritionist Tanya B. Freirich. "The focus on eating when hungry and stopping when full is a healthy approach to food choices. Including more fresh, whole, organic foods is a healthy choice for everyone."
Freirich points out that following the Wild Diet food list may require more time, effort, and money than other food plans, but these cons could become pros.
"You may have sticker shock at the grocery store. However, medical care in the long term will cost you much, much more," she says. "And while you will need to dedicate more time to cooking and preparing your own foods, as finding suitable choices on the run may be difficult, buying outside food is not always the more economical choice. However, eating out with friends may become difficult, as not all restaurants offer pasture-raised or wild animal proteins."
If you think it's time to change your mindset when it comes to eating or dieting, the Wild Diet meal plan might give you that nudge you've been needing.
"Part of the Wild Diet involves the psychological aspect of eating," explains Dr. Petre. "It incorporates advice such as mindful eating — in other words 'Eat when you are hungry' and 'Listen to your body.'" The Wild Diet also advises against calorie-counting, which may help those who have developed an unhealthy attitude toward weight loss.
Is the Wild Diet healthy?
While certain hot new diet plans promote unhealthy eating habits and have no scientific basis, the Wild Diet definitely has the potential to be a healthier approach to eating, because it focuses on nutrient-dense, real foods without being overly strict.
"I'd recommend that people following this diet focus on eating a variety of all the foods included," says Frierich. "For the vegetables, be sure to eat the rainbow — each colour family provides more of certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you apply this to all the categories, from vegetables to proteins to fat sources, you will be able to eat a complete diet."
Frierich also stresses the importance of getting B vitamins (such as thiamin and niacin) from sources such as sunflower seeds, tuna, avocado, and mushrooms when you remove whole grains from your diet.
The Wild Diet is likely to be healthy for most people, but some may be better suited to a slightly different diet. For example, people with diabetes or people with a high degree of insulin resistance may do better on a stricter low-carbohydrate diet, such as an LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) diet, which has been proven to control blood sugar levels.
People who may find it very difficult to give up certain unhealthy foods may also fare better on a stricter eating plan that doesn't allow for "cheat" days — occasional days when you can eat anything. These more relaxed days make the Wild Diet less restrictive and may increase your chances of sticking to it.
However, cheat days may cause problems for some people, particularly if they have an unhealthy relationship with food or have difficulty controlling their sugar and/or wheat consumption.
Wild Diet vs. Paleo: Which is better?
There has been a great deal of debate around the Wild Diet vs. Paleo diet, because these two diets share many similarities. Both diets limit sugar intake, are higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates, and ban processed foods and oils.
Additionally, neither diet requires strict calorie counting, and both diets encourage listening to your body and feeding it with real, nourishing foods only when hungry.
Basically, the Wild Diet advocates eating whatever your body tells you in whatever quantities it tells you as long as you are within the basic Paleo guidelines.
"Essentially, the Wild Diet is a Paleo diet with added fat," says Dr. Petre.
Abel James himself says, "My approach has always been more flexible than Paleo, certainly the idea of 'popular Paleo' that seems to ignore the subject of food quality entirely. And popular Paleo today often puts meat at the front and center of every meal."
The Wild Diet food list makes plant-based foods (colorful, non-starchy vegetables) more than 50 percent of the plate, with 25 percent (one palm-sized portion) allocated to pasture-raised meats and eggs or wild seafood, and two smaller sections for low-sugar fruits and "good" fats like avocado, nuts, hard cheese, and grass-fed dairy.
Different variations of the Paleo diet exist, but many of them suggest that a larger percentage of the plate be made up of meat, eggs, or fish.
Another difference is that the Wild Diet allows red wine and beer in moderation, whereas a very strict Paleo diet bans all alcohol.
Many Paleo eaters adopt intermittent fasting (cycling between periods of eating and fasting), and while James does include information about intermittent fasting on his website, he states that this may not be for everyone. Women in particular need to be cautious of intermittent fasting as it can have an effect on their hormones.
While the Wild Diet and the Paleo diet are very similar, the Wild Diet offers a modified option that is fairly easy to sustain in the long term and that may deliver better results for someone who has never followed Paleo before.
This article was originally published on Woman's World.