Dr. Andrew Weil's Diet
Dr. Andrew Weil's diet plan recommends altering your diet to reduce inflammation in the body, which is thought to be due in part to obesity.
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Low-grade inflammation has been blamed for a number of chronic health conditions, from heart disease to allergies. Andrew Weil, MD, an early proponent of integrative medicine, developed a diet plan dedicated to overall health and wellness. In addition to changing what you eat, Dr. Weil’s diet emphasizes exercise and stress reduction as important components of the plan. The program can be used for weight loss and maintenance.
“Like the Mediterranean Diet, this diet emphasizes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pasta, olive oil, nuts, seafood, and red wine in moderation. It also includes soy foods daily and Asian mushrooms,” says Nancy L. Cohen, PhD, RD, professor and head of the department of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Weil also advocates drinking hot tea about four times a day and taking anti-inflammatory supplements, particularly vitamins C and E, selenium, CoEnzyme Q10, and fish oil. (Dr. Weil’s Optimum Health Plan is part of the Everyday Health network.)
Dr. Weil’s Diet: How Does It Work?
Dr. Andrew Weil’s diet emphasizes whole foods and overall healthy eating along with exercise. The basic balance of the diet is:
- 50 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates: Weil recommends complex carbohydrates that do not result in a speedy release of blood sugar; whole, unrefined, organically grown sources of carbohydrates are preferred.
- 30 percent of calories (or fewer) from fats: Sources of healthy fats are emphasized, particularly those that offer omega-3 fatty acids. Fish, nuts, and flax are encouraged.
- 10 to 20 percent of calories from protein: Vegetable protein sources are a better bet than animal sources, according to Weil, who does not ban meat entirely but rather encourages other sources.
Weil, who has a medical degree from Harvard, uses scientific principles and medical reasoning to support his diet advice. He does not recommend speedy weight loss, but instead advocates a reasonable rate of two pounds a week for those who want to lose weight. Exercise is recommended to help with both weight loss and weight control.
Dr. Weil’s Diet: Sample Diet
Here is a dinner that you might eat on Dr. Weil’s diet:
- Japanese mushrooms (such as shiitake) in a broth with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, scallions, and soba noodles.
- A slaw of chopped green and red cabbages and carrots mixed with a dressing of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil.
Dr. Weil’s Diet: Pros
There are several benefits of the Dr. Andrew Weil diet:
- Variety. The Dr. Andrew Weil diet offers people the chance to eat a variety of foods and food combinations. Even foods that are not encouraged, such as red meat, are not completely off-limits. “It is not as restrictive as Atkins or South Beach,” says nutritionist Judy Penta, BS, CHHC, a certified holistic health counselor and personal trainer with Patients Medical in New York City.
- Healthy fats. Although not strictly a low-fat diet, the fats emphasized by the Weil diet are considered healthy.
- Nutritious fruits and vegetables. The diet promotes eating healthy whole foods and is “generally a healthy diet,” says Penta.
- Achievable weight loss. People can lose weight following this diet, although at a slower — and possibly more healthful — rate than promised by other popular diets.
- Lifelong potential. “This diet can be used as a lifelong program,” says Penta.
Dr. Weil’s Diet: Cons
Concerns about Dr. Andrew Weil’s diet include:
- Not enough calcium. People on the diet should be aware of their calcium intake, says Cohen. “It limits milk and other dairy products and does not recommend calcium or vitamin D in its supplements. While it is possible to get enough calcium from non-dairy sources, it is very difficult,” explains Cohen.
- Value of suggested supplements. The Dr. Andrew Weil diet advocates the use of certain specific supplements. However, “it is not clear that the supplements will be beneficial. Trials of vitamin C and E supplementation have not demonstrated consistent benefits, and there is limited research with CoQ10,” says Cohen. CoQ10, or CoEnzyme Q10, helps in creating energy in cells and can be found in beef, sardines, peanuts, and soybean oil. It can also be taken as a supplement. Consumer advocates at the Center for Science in the Public Interest have raised questions in the past about a potential conflict of interest for Weil, who may benefit financially from the sale of the supplements he advocates.
- Soy alert. Many recipes and preparations for the Weil diet involve soy, which “may be contraindicated for some people,” says Penta. Because of the mild estrogen-like activity of large amounts of soy, women who have had breast cancer or other estrogen-sensitive cancers should check with their doctor about a safe level of soy in their diet.
- Cost. Because of needing to buy supplements and the higher cost of eating organically, many people may find following Dr. Andrew Weil’s diet to be expensive.
- Learning curve. For many people, the Weil diet features foods and tastes that may be entirely new, which can mean a learning curve as you adjust to this way of eating and cooking.
Dr. Weil’s Diet: Short- and Long-Term Effects
The most desired short-term effect of this diet is weight loss, which is manageable for those who follow the diet and monitor their portion sizes. Weil also promises that the diet will result in long-term health benefits, from allergy-reduction to improved heart health, but these have not been substantiated by any scientific research.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s diet is overall a healthy approach to eating and living, which can lead to weight loss and may have other health benefits for those who follow it.
Learn more in Everyday Health's Diet and Nutrition Center.