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THE ALCHEMIST DIET



Alchemy was an ancient study which preceded chemistry and enthralled its practitioners with false promises long before chiropractic and the Kardashians

Concerned with attempts to convert base metals into gold, alchemists attempted to find a universal elixir of life. In other words the fountain of youth. Alchemy has fallen out of favor with the emergence of more rigorous methods of scientific inquiry, such as the aforementioned chemistry. Now the subject is the stuff of fairy tales, which include excellent novels, such as one of my favorites, Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist. I have read the book twice, in English. I speak Portuguese or did once upon a time and have yet to attempt the modern classic in its native language. Something to add to my day's to-do list I guess.


I mention Alchemy because New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady may have found the elixir of life. With his stunning Super Bowl victory last month, Brady, who was 39 years and 186 days on the Feb 5 game day, became the second oldest quarterback to ever win the big game. And unlike the front-runner Peyton Manning, who at 39 years and 320 days retired after he won the previous year's Pigskin Classic, Brady has no plans to hang up his cleats any time soon. Next year he'll once again don the Patriots' red, white and blue and become one of only a half dozen or so other quarterbacks to play the game in his 40s. So what's the man's secret? 


As SI reports, it's all about lifestyle, diet mainly. Brady goes to sleep early, eats well and for the most part avoids alcohol. He eschews junk foods such as ice cream and burgers and pizza, which from early youth the athlete is taught to view as rewards for intense exertion and on-the-field prowess. Like Brady's teammates, who call his hummus and raw snack bars and avocado with cacao (which he eats in place of ice cream and calls delish) "that birdseed shit." No accounting for taste. But there is accounting for health, and Brady's got it in spades. Let's take a closer look at what the superstar fuels up on.


Brady's diet is seasonal. He eats certain things in the winter that are considered "hot property" foods, like red meat. In the summer, he emphasizes raw veggies. He subscribes to the 80-20 theory - 80 percent alkaline, 20 percent acidic. Alkaline foods being veggies and acidic foods being meats and grains and coffee and alcohol, which he avoids.


Now, the alkaline diet has gotten a lot of bad press. It is not really backed by science. But an 80-20 diet emphasizing raw foods over cooked varieties is a good option, and whether the weather's cold or hot, it's easy to achieve. But you'll have to eat a good deal more fruit than Brady, who pretty much avoids these seed-bearing foods on account of their sugar content. But fruits are yummy and crammed with anti-oxidants. How could you avoid 'em, or the nightshade veggies that Brady also shuns. These foods, which include tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers (all of which I eat every day!) are purported to cause inflammation and are avoided by those with joint pain or arthritis. The irony being that these foods have some of the highest levels of anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants of any foods out there. Red peppers have more vitamin C than oranges, and tomatoes provide lots of vitamin A. And lycopene, who can forget lycopene!


So start the day with some fresh seasonal fruit. My favorites are melons in the summer and citrus varieties in the winter. Then, after an optional workout, favor a shake with bananas, berries and chia seeds. That's all raw so far. For a snack before lunch favor raw veggies such as bell peppers, jicama, and carrots. For lunch have a cooked meal. I like to include three staples: a legume (bean, pea, lentil) which I cook myself; a starch (squash or potato); and a green vegetable (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, chard and green beans are some of my favs). This meal can be divided in two and eaten again in the evening, or you can follow this hearty lunch with snacks such as bananas, avocados and raw nuts and seeds. 


The cooked portion of your meal plan contains approximately 600 calories, which on a 3000-calorie diet is 20 percent of your total intake. So you're there. Caffeine and alcohol are optional on this diet. You can enjoy them moderately since you are basically not eating any acid-forming foods at all. That is if you buy into the acid/alkaline thing. 


Oh and buy your beans and nuts and seeds in the bulk section of your local market. They are usually fresher since the turnover is higher, and less expensive to boot. Also, store your nuts and seeds in the fridge to preserve freshness.


On this diet you can be like Brady and beyond. Now if we can only get him to kick the red meat. Doubtful. I know how much Brazilians love their barbecues, and Brady's lovely wife is after all from Rio Grande do Sul.


Hey, nobody's perfect. Except you.

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