The TB12 Diet: One Size Does Not Fit All

Tom Brady about to pass the football print

Some of us at D2D are part of the New England ‘Patriot Nation.’ So, when the G.O.A.T (*Greatest of All Time) released his manual outlining how to achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance, it was quickly pre-ordered. I mean, who doesn’t want to achieve greatness like Tom Brady? He has made some of the greatest comebacks in football history and has earned (to date) 5 Super Bowl rings. Now 40, he argues that he is playing better than he was at 30. Regardless of your opinion of the Patriots, you have to respect the fact that Tom Brady has far exceeded the average tenure in the NFL and shows no signs of slowing down!

What is Tom Brady’s roadmap to his incredible success on the field?

According to his book, the principals of the TB12 Method support established knowledge that long term health (and proper weight management) at any age is directly linked to eliminating or reducing bodily stressors like toxic congestion, inflammation, and imbalances. And while you eliminate these triggers, you ADD in good stuff, like nutrient-dense foods, exercise, stress reduction activities, and clean air and water.

The TB12 Diet isn’t for everyone

While his method to maintaining overall health seems like a balanced approach, we did a couple of double-takes over Brady’s shunning of conventionally grown and genetically modified food. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is most important to your health, whether you shop at your local grocery store or the local farm stand. Whether you choose to buy conventional or organic foods, regulations ensure the safety of the food that hits your plate.

“If Brady wants to know the facts about today’s agriculture, he should come to visit my farm and learn the facts.” Maryland farmer who grows corn, soybeans, canning tomatoes, grapes, and fresh-market green beans writes to Tom Brady to discuss his misinformed ‘issues’ with conventional farming.

Brady’s very regimented diet is one that is designed specifically for his lifestyle and enables him to perform at the top of his game every day. He maintains that throwing the ball is easier than eating, so he tackles the quality, quantity, and timing of his meals with the same precision and focus as his passes to Gronk.

On the list of what he doesn’t eat are the usual suspects: sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. But he takes it a step further by adding nightshade vegetables to the list.

What are nightshades?

Nightshade vegetables are members of a large group of flowering plants in the Solanaceae family. Included in this large family are a few of the world’s most cultivated and consumed crops: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Tom’s chefs are likely not including these in recipes because (he may not like them!); yet there are some observational studies that claim patients who eliminate nightshade vegetables from their diets experience a feeling of improvement from varying forms of arthritis, allergies or autoimmune deficiencies.

Healthy people, on the other hand, should have no problem digesting nightshade vegetables. To date, there is no verified science behind these anecdotal observations, and the benefits of these nutrient-packed group of vegetables far outweigh any risk.

Despite the ominous name, ‘nightshade’ might have been coined from the fact that some of the plants in this family grow at night, and some prefer shade. Commonly, they all produce an alkaloid (solanine or tomatine) – which is poisonous to… insects… not humans. Blaming them for inflammation is overkill – except for those people who are allergic or sensitive to solanine. Their antioxidants actually can reduce inflammation!

The inflammation conspiracy against nightshades

The inflammation theories point to the alkaloid compounds in the leaves, roots, and stems of nightshade plants. Alkaloids are natural toxins produced by the plants as a defense against animals, insects, and fungi that might feast on them. Alkaloids actually have medicinal properties, but to the taste are bitter, which makes the plant less palatable to insect predators.

The alkaloids found in nightshades are quite low and not a health concern. Furthermore, millions of these vegetables are eaten every day around the world without incident. We wouldn’t recommend that you start munching on the leaves, stems, and roots of these plants, but the ripened fruit is safe, healthy, and completely digestible. In fact, as fruits and vegetable mature and ripen, the concentration of beneficial antioxidants actually increases!

To put this in perspective, “A large potato weighs about 300g (10.6 ounces) and has a solanine (a type of alkaloid) content of less than 0.2mg/gm That works out to around 0.03mg per kilogram for an adult, a hundredth of the toxic dose;  A murderous wife would have to feed something like 67 large potatoes to her husband in a single meal to poison him. Unless he’s a phenomenally big eater, arsenic would be a better bet.”
(Source: Science Based

Every body is a unique body

Given that everybody is unique, there is no one solution to address inflammation. Existing food intolerances, autoimmune deficiencies, and allergies will affect inflammation but what affects you may not affect others. But in general, the eating nutrient-dense foods like dark leafy greens, legumes, bright colored fruits, and vegetables, and skipping the white bread, overly-processed “junk” food, and sugar will help your body fight inflammation.

Eggplant is full of fiber, potassium, magnesium Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. The anthocyanins in eggplant may protect heart and brain health.

Most of us can excuse the specific elimination of nightshades as we are not professional athletes or getting slammed by 250-pound linebackers in our daily lives! Overall, eliminating whole food groups from your diet isn’t necessary unless you suffer from specific food intolerances or allergens.

Nightshades are Nutrient Dense

Whether chopped, cooked or processed, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers are nutrient-dense foods that can combat inflammation, decrease cancer and heart-disease risk, support good digestion, and can aid in bone, eye and brain health.

Bell peppers are low in calories and high in vitamin C, (one cup provides 157% of RDA of vitamin C) and supply good amounts of the B vitamins (B2, B3, folate, and pantothenic acid), vitamin E, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin K, manganese, and magnesium. Bell peppers are also rich in phytonutrients.

Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. They are also high in vitamin C. And if you don’t like them raw, chop and cook them in a sauce — which enhances the bioavailability of their nutrients.


Alpha and beta carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene are carotenoids responsible for the pigmented orange, yellow red color in fruits and vegetables. These have long been known as powerful antioxidants.

“At the end of the day, despite the vicious rumors, nightshades are brimming over with nutrients and vitamins, which are excellent for your health and for most people, should be welcomed warmly into their plant-based lifestyle.”

– UC Davis, Integrated Medicine

Nix The Toxins!

smog over a city

We know that the term ‘toxic’ is frequently used to describe a substance that is considered to be bad for your health. You have probably been told that a poor diet and lack of exercise can contribute to the build-up of ‘toxins’ in your body. But is it true? And where do these toxins come? Do you know what happens when a toxic substance enters your body? I mean…what is a “toxin” anyway?

Toxins are very complex

By definition, a toxin is a poisonous substance that is biologically produced (i.e., by a plant or animal). This term is often erroneously used to describe all substances that have the potential to be toxic to humans. Manufactured or synthesized chemical compounds (e.g., pesticides, chemicals used in plastics, solvents, and metals) that may be poisonous or toxic to humans are considered toxicants.

When discussing cleansing and detoxification, generally, any substance that does not nourish our cells or aid in the function of our cells to be toxic, i.e. not necessary and therefore a burden to some degree.

– Dr. Ben Kim

Don’t live in fear of toxic substances

Your body is equipped with detoxification systems that eliminate the toxic compounds you ingest. As an informed consumer, you are probably concerned with the toxic substances that may be found in your food or the surrounding environment. These toxicants can be anything from mercury in fish and some preservatives in food to cadmium in cigarette smoke and lead in paint. Because of this, it is unrealistic to think you will never ingest something that is ‘toxic’. However, while it is virtually impossible to be completely free of toxic compounds, you should not live in fear of them. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a balanced diet, and moderation when it comes to consumption of alcohol, refined sugars, and heavily processed foods is the best way to support your body’s natural detoxification processes. 

To better understand how substances may be toxic to us, we first need to learn about these chemicals and how they enter our bodies.

Most toxicants enter your body via ingestion, inhalation, or absorption.  Examples of toxicants are pesticides, flame retardants, heavy metals, and chemicals used in common cleaning agents. This also includes chemicals such as acrylamide found in cooked or processed foods and acetone in cosmetics like nail polish removerOne of the primary means for supporting your body’s natural processes to eliminate potentially harmful substances is a healthy digestive system. If you maintain a poor diet over a long period of time, your liver and gut health are compromised and your body cannot properly eliminate them.

Endogenous Toxins are toxins that are produced inside of your body. Some of these toxins are waste products from normal metabolic activities— carbon dioxide, urea, and lactic acid are examples of endogenous toxins that your body actively creates. Unless your health is severely compromised, you are well equipped to eliminate these endogenous toxins from your system” (Dr. Ben Kim).

As far as toxic substances are concerned, the primary issue is their ability to damage your healthy cells. Whether you inhale or ingest pollution, your body’s best defense is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

How does your body process toxic compounds?

Your liver is the primary detoxifying agent. It is well equipped to eliminate toxicants that are ingested, absorbed, inhaled, or created by your body.

Your body protects itself…

We previously discussed your body’s ability to ‘cleanse’ itself in our article, The Truth Behind Cleansing.  If you are eating well, exercising, sleeping, and avoiding significant toxic substances to the best of your ability, you can trust your body to protect itself. 

The problem occurs when you are exposed to more toxicants than your body is able to eliminate. If you are taking in too much too quickly, your body’s elimination processes may break down. The more toxicants taken in (e.g., the dose you receive), the more likely your elimination systems will become overloaded— resulting in harmful health effects.

Our kidneys and liver are well equipped to handle the detoxification process for potentially harmful toxic substances. That is what they are there for!

Your kidneys primary function is to filter your blood. The organ contains millions of microscopic units called nephrons, which filter your blood to eliminate waste and regulate your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. The liver, on the other hand, is the primary detoxifying agent. It is responsible for keeping pathogens from entering the bloodstream. It is well-equipped to eliminate toxicants that are ingested, absorbed, or inhaled, or created by your body. So, if you are careful about what cleaning products or pollution you might be exposed to on a daily basis and you maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle, your body has the tools to eliminate the substances that may be harmful.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Eat nutritious whole foods, exercise, and hydrate. This will help facilitate healthy blood circulation and the elimination of unneeded substances from the body. If your body is being fed and hydrated properly, your liver and kidneys have the tools to detoxify on their own. In fact, recent studies have shown that the traditional recommendation of ‘8 servings of water per day’ is actually unsubstantiated! Nutritionists are now saying that you should aim to consume roughly half an ounce to one ounce of water per pound.

If you weigh 150lbs you should be drinking between 75-150 ounces of water per day. This recommendation can also vary depending on your weight, size, and exercise regime.

All in all, we need to be realistic. You are never going to be able to completely eliminate exposure to all potentially harmful substances in your daily life. The best way to protect yourself is to be good to your body. Be aware of the cleaning solvents and other chemicals used in your home, skip the cigarettes, and avoid second-hand smoke and heavily polluted areas when possible.

Your body is well-equipped to handle the day-to-day threats of the environment. The danger only comes from overexposure. Hydration and a well-balanced diet help your organs efficiently and effectively eliminate toxicants.

What is Clean Eating?

a piece of kale and small pieces of fruit on a white background

Are you eating “clean”?

There are so many different ways to interpret this new food trend. What originally started as a healthy push to eliminate heavily processed foods (like sugary cereal, white bread, and candy) has now become a program that considers “processed food” as any foods that have been altered from their most natural form.

But, does this vague definition include best farming practices? Safe labor? Harvesting methods? Pesticide application? Treatment of farm animals? We’re not so sure…

Consumers want to feel more connected with their food— and this is a movement D2D certainly supports. However, the idea of “eating clean,” which has been heavily perpetuated by social media, is often very misleading. Media outlets, like Clean Eating Magazine and Fitness Magazine, outline various ways to practice clean eating but this definition varies depending on the consumer.

Sometime in the early 2000s, two distinct but interrelated versions of clean eating became popular in the US – one based on the creed of “real” food, and the other on the idea of “detox”. Once the concept of cleanliness had entered the realm of eating, it was only a matter of time before the basic idea spread contagiously across Instagram, where fans of #eatclean could share their artfully photographed green juices and rainbow salad bowls. The Guardian

The basic definition of “clean eating” means eating no “processed” food. But what does that mean?

After some research, it seems that the most basic definition of eating clean is a diet full of fresh, often organic, whole foods. This means no processing— and, for the record, “processing” can include steaming your veggies or putting fresh ingredients into the blender for a smoothie! In some cases, this eating method can actually be detrimental to the nutritional value of produce. Peas, for example, lose nutrients very quickly when harvested and are often flash frozen to protect the nutritional content. But frozen produce is considered processed, so by keeping clean you are actually getting fewer nutrients! Like peas, tomatoes also contain more nutrients when they are heat-processed, as they release more lysine.

“Processing is not always bad. Often processing removes toxins or bacteria, or allows for us to eat certain types of foods in the off-season due to freezing or canning. Processing can also include altering the consistency or taste of food to make it more appealing.”
Jessica Fanzo, assistant professor of nutrition at Columbia University

And how does the “clean” label apply to labor, animal farming, and best agricultural practices? Currently, there is no accepted standard by which companies are measured and able to deem their food “clean.” This whole clean trend is not as cut and dry as you might think…

Meet The Clean Label Project. This non-profit organization is currently working to add transparency to consumers’ food purchases and reduce the contamination that can occur in consumer products. They want to clarify the misleading labels and bring more awareness to the environmental contaminant issues that can affect your food. And while this initiative could prove to be very beneficial in the future, at the moment they can only advise on pet food. 

“Clean eating” means eating only organically grown foods — but does that translate to healthier?

It comes as no surprise that the organic industry is a fan of the clean eating movement. Similar to the use of the “natural” label, they have motivated the narrative on this term. Keep in mind, there are no set rules or regulations when you eat “natural” or “clean.” You might remember, we recently investigated the natural label in order to clarify that “natural” doesn’t translate to healthier.

Does organic mean “cleaner?”  The organic industry is deeply rooted in the clean eating trend, but as we discussed in the article Conventional or Organic? organic doesn’t always mean fewer or no pesticides have been used to grow the food.

What about the definition of “clean meat?”

What gets a bit trickier, however, is how to incorporate meat. How are you determining the cleanliness of your beef and poultry? Some diets recommend organic, grass-fed meat and poultry. But let’s think about this rationally— does feeding your cow grass really make its meat clean?  

Clean meat means meat that was produced using safe and regulated practices. It means animals that were harvested following the standards set by the USDA or respective governing organization of that country. It means meat that was inspected before entering the grocery store. And it means meat that won’t make you sick! The idea of “clean meat” being held to a different standard than our current global regulations would create a total disruption of our understanding of the food chain. This could lead to increased foodborne illnesses and would negatively affect the safety regulations that are already in place. Why are we trying to blur the food safety lines? It is harmful to our health!

Globally, consumers spend about $1 trillion per year on meat and this can have a pretty significant impact on the environment and our natural resources. Memphis Meats is an innovative food company that wants to find a safer, more ecologically-sound way to harvest meat while preserving farming resources. Meat created in a lab isn’t grass-fed, it isn’t considered organic, but it was harvested using clean and safe practices. In fact, it was cultivated in a petri dish! Memphis Meats actually hopes to cater to non-meat eaters by providing these individuals with a safe way to enjoy meat that does not harm animals.

Memphis Meats’ cell-based chicken and duck

Does “clean eating” incorporate labor regulations?

This idea of eating clean seems to only incorporate the food once it has reached our plate— but there is a fundamental issue with this. If the grass-fed, organic beef on your plate was farmed under harsh or unsafe labor conditions, is it still considered clean?

Good labor practices are a huge component of sustainability efforts. While some “clean-eating” consumers consider clean food to mean food created using safe and regulated labor practices, the majority of people eating clean focus solely on the processing of food.

UTZ chocolate, for example, created a model around sustainability that includes child labor laws, therefore child labor is prohibited on all contributing UTZ farms. Their products are farmed and harvested within regulatory guidelines, their factories are inspected, and their products are made safely — but their chocolate isn’t considered “clean.” Chocolate is made from by processing cacao beans. And as we learned in Crazy for Cocoa, there are nutrients in cacao beans that are available in a serving of dark chocolate. So, while we aren’t telling you to eat tons of candy, if you are buying a more nutrient-dense dark chocolate, shouldn’t we reward the companies employing these safe practices with our business?

The notion of clean eating can be very confusing, and raw ingredients often must be processed slightly to create a viable and safe product. Processed foods are not always the enemy, in fact, they often keep you from getting sick. The D2D team certainly supports a diet rich in fresh produce and lean meats, but the idea that your diet can be deemed “clean” is very misleading.