He’s being hailed as one of the greatest athletes of all time and US footballer Tom Brady, 43, credits his success to avoiding ‘nightshade; vegetables.
Brady, who just won his seventh Superbowl, is being feted for his incredible longevity as an elite athlete and swears by a radical diet, sparking fears it could lead to 2021’s craziest diet trend.
One of the oldest quarterbacks in the history of US football, says one of the keys to his performance is avoiding “nightshades”, the plant family contains a chemical called alkaloids. It includes tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants and capsicums, which he believes promote inflammation.
Headlines following his win have included: “Tom Brady’s insane diet that keeps him at the top of the NFL” and “Tom Brady’s diet: How TB12 has prolonged Buccaneers quarterback’s career.”
Brady’s company sells a book touting his diet, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, which suggests sticking to “alkaline” foods that he claims neutralise the body’s pH level.
He says making sure about 80% of his calories come from alkaline foods “helps the body thrive, whereas eating too many acidifying foods leads to a condition called acidosis, which makes us more prone to infections, colds, flu, low energy, fatigue, sore muscles, joint pain, hip fractures, bone spurs, poor concentration, and mood swings.”
Allen Campbell, Brady’s personal chef between 2013 and 2016, said during game season Brady “focused on dark leafy greens, some grass-fed animal protein as well as legumes and whole grains”.
On an average day, his schedule includes a berry and banana smoothie before working out, followed by avocado and eggs for breakfast.
Lunch is usually a salad with nuts and fish for lunch, with plenty of nuts, hummus and guacamole for snacks.
Dinner is roasted vegetables with chicken.
Oh, and everything has to be organic. Each day Brady also tries to drink “a couple of hundred ounces” of water, usually enhanced with electrolytes.
However, nutritionists are warning people there’s no evidence that backs up Brady’s extreme diet. There isn't any scientific research that confirms they promote inflammation. In fact some studies even suggest that certain nightshades, such as tomatoes, might have anti-inflammatory properties and that anatabine, an alkaloid compound found in peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant has anti-inflammatory effects for people who suffer from joint pain and stiffness.
As Vox notes: “Unfortunately, with this book, Brady joins the club of diet gurus selling pseudoscience and woo about the body and nutrition. There’s no evidence that following Brady’s diet will turn his readers into 'sustained peak performers' or do the specific things he claims — like rebalance the body’s pH level. (Your lungs and kidneys do that.)”
“It’s next to impossible — in fact, I can’t think of an instance — where people have been able to change their blood pH with diet,” Stuart Phillips, a professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, told Vox. “So there’s zero foundation for the notion that alkaline and acid foods [are] able to do anything to your body.”
Aussie experts are also cautioning people to do their research before embarking on any diet program.
“Restricting vegetables, oh my God, we don’t even eat nearly enough,” CSIRO nutrition and research scientist Dr Gilly Hendrie told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding that 95% of Australians don’t eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day, and that vegetables, being nutrient-rich and kilojoule-poor, are a crucial part of maintaining a healthy weight. “We can’t have any message that says ‘Further restrict them’, because it’s just another barrier for people.
“It [also] doesn’t tell the full story. He’s an elite athlete, he trains; his body and his physique are his career, so he puts a lot of energy and effort into it, and people are linking this one concept of avoidance of these particular foods to how amazing and successful he is. There’s a lot of missing pieces that they’re not discussing. If one of us goes and just tries that one strategy in isolation we’re not going to become the next superstar in the Super Bowl. But, that’s kind of what the public want to believe.”
Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, also follows an extreme, largely plant-based diet and intermittently fasts two days a week.
The couple even dressed as their favourite food, avocado, for Halloween in 2017 (above).
Simone Austin, a past president of Sports Dietitians Australia, concluded to the SMH: ”Eating lots of plant foods, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables; we know that that is good for our health. Maybe [we should] stop focusing on what you should be cutting out, and [be] focusing on what you should be putting in.”