When people think of a diet, the first thought is often that we are served poor meals on a small plate. We rarely get satisfied and go to bed with a grunting stomach.
But the word ‘diet’ actually comes from the Greek word ‘diatia’, which means lifestyle or way of life. And that’s exactly what the Pioppi diet stands for!
You don’t have to eat less and you don’t have to count calories. The Pioppi diet is a lifestyle designed to improve your health.
The Pioppi diet recommends a low-carbohydrate diet with lots of fats, vegetables, fruit, fish, olive oil and alcohol in moderation.
What’s the Pioppi diet?
Imagine the following… A special village on the Italian coast where the longest living people in the world live. The villagers rarely suffer from diabetes or heart disease.
They follow a natural diet that includes red wine, chocolate and the most delicious Italian food you can imagine.
Isn’t that enjoyable? A lasting holiday feeling!
I’m talking about Pioppi, a village of 300 inhabitants located in the south of Italy where the local population enjoys a longer life expectancy.
It is striking that Pioppi is located in a historical poor region of Italy, where the local population in the past often had to deal with scarcity. Residents of Pioppi – who did not have a supermarket for decades – appeared to follow a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, olive oil and fish.
They eat pasta and bread, but in small quantities. People did not eat much meat; it was far too expensive. A diet with little sugar and an abundance of locally produced vegetables and fish, with olive oil given with almost every meal.
These foods gave the residents considerable health benefits. And although it may not have been deliberate, the residents fasted intermittently, as a natural part of life in the village due to temporary scarcity.
The Pioppi diet is based on avoiding refined carbohydrates and added sugars. People are also encouraged to eat more vegetables and fatty foods, such as oily fish and olive oil.
The Pioppi diet is the latest diet that stimulates people to eat low-carb and high-fat foods. According to its creators, it would significantly improve health.
This diet does not focus so much on counting calories or more exercise. It asks the user to follow specific dietary guidelines.
Ironically, this is also the village where American scientist Ancel Keys spent six months a year researching the cause of heart disease.
How does the Pioppi diet work?
As you have read, the diet is mainly based on the foods that are eaten in the village of Pioppi.
It is a high-fat diet that encourages you to eat a lot of vegetables, nuts, legumes and fish. The diet is meant to live healthier without drastically reducing calories or being physically active.
The basic concept of eating more fruit and vegetables and less red meat is worth following, but it is also not entirely unique.
The secret of the diet lies in its simplicity. Or rather I should say lifestyle!
There are other important factors that have contributed to old age and good health. Because of this diet, the inhabitants of one village have become the longest-lived people in the world.
It is the combination of unprocessed food, lack of stress in society, a lot of outdoor exercise and an abundance of vitamin D, which makes the inhabitants of this village the longest living people in the world.
The basic principles of the Pioppi 21-day plan
These are the main points of the 21-day plan of the Pioppi diet:
Eat more fats and fibres
The Pioppi diet recommends to eat high-fibre food three times a day. This means that you eat two servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables per day. In addition, the Pioppi diet recommends eating the right fats from natural products.
These are extra virgin olive oil (up to four tablespoons per day), a handful of nuts per day, three portions of oily fish per week as a minimum, (e.g. salmon and sardines), eggs (at least ten per week), full fat dairy products, coconut oil, dark chocolate and many non-starchy vegetables.
There are no restrictions on the intake of fat from food. So you can enjoy butter, cheese, yoghurt, legumes, fruit and vegetables to your heart’s content. As long as they are part of your three main meals a day.
Limit red meat to 500 grams per week (preferably eat grass fed) and avoid processed meats.
A glass of red wine can be drunk with dinner every day, but keep to the maximum of 14 glasses per week.
Avoid refined carbohydrates and added sugars
This type of carbohydrate has only been consumed in large quantities over the last few decades, while we have eaten unprocessed carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables for thousands of years without any problems.
The Pioppi diet eliminates all added sugars and refined carbohydrates, such as rice, bread, pasta, fruit juice, honey, syrups and potatoes.
You should also not cheat with a natural sweetener like honey. In addition, industrial seed oils (soy, sunflower, corn, peanut, etc.) are not allowed.
The dietary guidelines are only the beginning of the Pioppi diet. This diet also stimulates substantial changes in your life. What do you have to think about? Intermittent fasting!
The 21-day plan of the Pioppi diet recommends fasting contractions for a period of 24 hours a week.
The makers recommend that you start after dinner and then skip breakfast and lunch the next day and just drink water.
The makers of the Pioppi diet encourage to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Give yourself enough time to sleep and create a ‘sleep-friendly’ environment.
If you end the evening with a hot bath or hot shower and then dive into the bed with an exciting book or soothing music, you will fall asleep in time.
Keep in mind that light, sound and temperature are all factors that can significantly influence your sleep. The temperature in the room should be between 18 and 24°C and you want to keep it as quiet and dark as possible.
Blackout curtains, earplugs and a sleep mask are all tools to get a better night’s sleep.
The Pioppi diet sees breathing exercises as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and to reduce stress. Through our stressful lives, we often forget to take a deep breath and relax well.
Only if you do this properly and regularly will you start to notice the difference. It is recommended that you do short breathing exercises every day. Breathe in for five seconds through your nose and then breathe out for five seconds through your mouth. Do this four times a day.
Be physically active
The Pioppi diet emphasizes that sufficient exercise per day cannot solve an unhealthy diet. But you still need to be physically active.
The population of Pioppi traditionally worked mainly outdoors and many people did physical work. They don’t have a gym in Pioppi, but people are constantly on the move.
Strive to walk 30 minutes a day at a steady pace and spend as much time as possible in nature. Aren’t you such a walker? Dr. Aseem Malhotra’s book also offers exercises that you can do with your own body weight.
In addition to sufficient exercise and breathing exercises, it is recommended to spend more time with family and friends.
Social isolation is a major risk factor for depression and premature death, especially in the elderly.
Positive social interactions and good relationships help to reduce the influence of external stress, which is also involved in inflammations in the body (3).
Advantages of the Pioppi diet
Advantage #1: Weight loss
Weight loss varies from person to person. But actually, the Pioppi diet is not specifically aimed at weight loss. It is designed to make people healthier with weight loss as a healthy side effect.
The inhabitants of Pioppi are not daily in the gym to find and also do not train consciously to lose weight. They stay slim by eating healthily and by staying active.
With the abundance of vegetables and fats, it will certainly provide good satiety, making you less hungry. Because the diet focuses on healthy fats and good carbohydrates, you also have less need for sweet foods.
A study from 2016 showed that participants who ate a lot of olive oil and nuts lost more weight than those who followed a low-fat diet (4).
Benefit #2: Beneficial for obesity and type 2 diabetes
Targeted at foods rich in healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and oily fish, it provides our body with rich sources of unsaturated fat and reduces the intake of red meat and refined carbohydrates.
In a 2013 study, 7,500 men and women at high risk of cardiovascular disease were treated, and after 5 years the researchers found that the more participants adhered to the Mediterranean diet, the lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke (source).
The transformation of a healthier body through the Pioppi 21-day diet plan sounds too good to be true. Or is it?
In the program Doctors of Tomorrow Antoinette Hertsenberg went with three candidates to the Italian village to follow the Pioppi diet for a few weeks. The candidates had all kinds of health problems, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
At the end of the test, all candidates were eliminated. The weight loss ranged from 6 to 8 kg. Their abdominal girth was also greatly reduced (on average 8 cm).
Blood sugar levels had improved and bad cholesterol had decreased. HDL cholesterol also increased and blood sugar levels improved. A candidate’s values had improved to such an extent that in theory his metmorphine could be reduced (medication that lowers the blood sugar in the body).
Advantage #3: Many similarities with the Mediterranean diet
Dr. Malhotra discovered that the inhabitants of Pioppi followed a Mediterranean-like diet, rich in good fats and vegetables, moderate proteins and limited amounts of refined carbohydrates and added sugars.
The Italian village of Pioppi was recognized by UNESCO as the home of the Mediterranean diet (source).
In fact, it is very similar to the popular Mediterranean diet, and follows many of the same rules and guidelines. Although the Pioppi diet and Mediterranean diets are similar, they differ in three main ways.
Unlike the Mediterranean diet, the Pioppi plan avoids refined carbohydrates, allows saturated fat and promotes fasting once a week,
With regard to saturated fats, the Pioppi diet plan encourages people to stop fearing saturated fat and cholesterol. Sugar should also be considered the number one enemy.
Numerous studies have shown the different health benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
- Reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from heart and vascular disease by 30% (5)
- A reduction in the risk of metabolic syndrome, also known as metabolic syndrome, by 6.7% to 13.7% (6).
- A Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 52% (7).
- People with diabetes who follow the Mediterranean diet, improve their blood glucose and insulin values more than with a low-fat diet (8).
Disadvantages of the Pioppi diet
Disadvantage #1: Not evidence-based
Because the Pioppi diet is a relatively new diet, few studies have been done.
The author of the Pioppi diet book has not done any real research in Pioppi. Instead, they relied on their observations of the villagers.
Testimonials and observations are evidence, but of very low quality.
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses provide a much more reliable picture. The authors of the book only quote small-scale studies to support their claim.
Although the short-term results are good, more research is needed to make sense in the long term.
Disadvantage #2: The diet is controversial
The Pioppi diet recommends that refined carbohydrates and added sugars be completely avoided or at least that the quantity be drastically reduced.
Although monitoring portion size is not a bad thing, completely eliminating whole food groups is a bit extreme.
Disadvantage #3: Divided into phases
The Pioppi diet is based on 21 days. This gives the impression of a quick solution. The book does mention what you should do after those 21 days, but this is very limited.
So the long term is mainly left to the people. If you hope for a magical transformation in 21 days then you will probably only be disappointed.
This is also the phase where many people go wrong and return to their old habits. It is therefore questionable whether this diet will enable you to change your eating habits permanently.
Pioppi Diet: A new trendy diet?
When a new diet on the market that promises to transform your health in three weeks, it is wise to be skeptical.
In general, many of the principles of the Pioppi diet reflect a healthy dietary advice that is packaged in a slightly different way. It also takes into account other factors that are important, such as the importance of sleep and sufficient exercise.
However, demonizing food groups is not wise and can be confusing for many people. The foods that cause the biggest peaks and troughs in your blood sugar level are those with lots of refined carbohydrates and added sugars. The Pioppi diet recommends avoiding refined carbohydrates and added sugars completely.
That is the first step in the right direction that I can only applaud.
Although the diet is controversial, there are several guidelines that are worth following. In that respect, it looks a bit like a low-carbohydrate diet, but it consumes considerably more fats.
In order to limit yourself a little, you should mainly look at the portion size. Eating mixed meals can therefore be useful. Proteins, fats and fibres help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. This will help to reduce post-meal peaks and troughs in blood sugar levels.
The Nutrition Centre is critical of the Pioppi diet. The Nutrition Centre states that important nutrients, such as B vitamins and dietary fibres, are deprived by the Pioppi diet. The Nutrition Centre is also not in favour of eating a lot of eggs and red meat (source).
According to Professor of Diabetology Hanno Pijl, the Nutrition Centre is far too negative about the Pioppi lifestyle, he says to the NRC:
Their advice is for healthy people. Different guidelines apply for people who are overweight, type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. In type 2 diabetes, carbohydrate reduction is already part of the treatment.
The Mediterranean diet has strong scientific evidence that it is good for health (9, 10). Important health markers, such as blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol all improve on a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in antioxidants and low in saturated fat and processed foods. The Pioppi diet is a variant of this, but cannot be compared one-to-one with the Mediterranean diet.
If you decide to follow the Pioppi diet, use it as a guideline. Eating fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables is healthy. The amount of meat, fish and fats may be a little less.