What's different about The Spartan Diet?

The Spartan Diet is different from other diets in scope, purpose, perspective, detail, emphasis, limitations, approach and mission. It’s versatile, adaptable and can be tailored to meet your own specific nutritional requirements, environment and circumstances.

Most diets are weight loss diets. Others seek physical health or disease prevention or management eliminating major important food groups like grains and fruit or putting emphasis on extra consumption of particular types of foods or nutrients. Still other diets focus on morality or religious observance. 

The Spartan Diet is the only diet whose purpose and mission are to optimize the totality of the self. What do you really want out of life? And how can diet and lifestyle help you achieve it? We love asking those questions of Spartan Dieters — and we enjoy watching the answers change as people find out what's possible. 

The Spartan Diet is also a lot more detailed than others. Rather than simply listing the food categories you should eat, I tell you where to find them, how to choose them, when to buy them, how to store them and which kitchen gear you should use to prepare them and how to figure out how much to eat.

The Spartan Diet goes into minute detail about how to transform food for optimal bioavailability. Not all grains are created equal, for example. There are many grains, other than modern wheat, that add important nutrients essential to long term health including vitamins, mineral and fiber. Beyond that, it’s about the right preparation. For example, soaking grains before consumption is part of the necessary preparation to eliminate anti-nutrients as well as break down compounds that can prevent the absorption of nutrients by the body. I’ll explore in depth why grains get a bad reputation and why they’re a vital part of any diet for optimal health. 

The Spartan Diet also helps you foster the mindset necessary for healthy living. It's easy enough for a diet to tell you what to eat. But where do you get the motivation to stick with it? The Spartan Diet helps you develop something better than motivation and better than inspiration — the mental strength and the daily habits that lead to optimum health and healthy living. 

The Spartan Diet is the only diet governed by and based on how to attain maximum health above and beyond all other considerations. The Spartan diet emphasizes balance, moderation, variety and seasonality and above all, quality.

Some diets are defined by their limitations. For example, a vegetarian diet allows no animal flesh. A vegan diet goes further, not allowing animal derived foods including eggs, dairy and  honey. A raw-food diet allows no foods heated to above a certain temperature, say, 118 degrees Fahrenheit. While all of these diets can be very healthful, the limitations are not governed by health. The limitations are decided in advance, and do not change as our understanding of health changes -- often even at the expense of one’s own health.

The Spartan Diet is defined in part by limitations, too, but these are not based on dogmatic beliefs, outdated data or bad pseudo science; they’re based on solid scientific research and proven ancient wisdom. For example, many food types are categorically non-Spartan Diet foods. Industrial foods (I’ll tell you in detail what that means later on), inferior refined oils, domesticated animal meat, farmed fish and others. The Spartan Diet limitations are based on health above all other considerations. A vegan diet allows both healthy and unhealthy foods. French fries can be vegan, for example. On a vegan Spartan diet you would choose to make and eat, for example, oven roasted organic potatoes instead. Or better yet, you would understand that a variety of oven roasted organic vegetables such as cauliflower, butternut squash, parsnip, carrots, red onions, sweet potatoes and heirloom purple potatoes with olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic would be far more interesting, delicious and nutritious. And to go even further, for optimal nutrition, I would suggest adding some homemade beans and quinoa to complement the meal for complete protein.  

Speaking of vegetarianism, you may want to know that the Spartan diet is actually compatible with all of these types of diets. For example, a vegetarian who adheres to Spartan diet principles for vegetarian food is something we like to call a vegetarian Spartan. You can also be a vegan Spartan, pesco-ovo Spartan (vegan plus fish and eggs) or any kind of Spartan you like or just a Spartan who adheres to the Spartan Diet principles as they are.

The Spartan diet is neutral on these kinds of restrictive diets. If you choose to abstain from all animal products, and want to be vegan, you can make that diet the healthiest form of veganism possible by preparing your meals according to Spartan Diet principles. Having been vegetarian and vegan for over 23 years, as the author, I’m well aware of the intricate and often, noble reasons for choosing to be vegetarian or vegan. I’ll go into further detail on this subject for optimizing and spartanizing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

Some diets are low-fat or low-carb. Consistent with the Spartan Diet's emphasis on highest food quality, the Spartan Diet includes the healthiest fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil and the fats in nuts, seeds and avocados, and the healthiest carbohydrates, such as fermented and or sprouted whole grains, beans, nuts and other whole plant foods. Equally consistent, the Spartan Diet rejects low-quality fats, such as refined cooking oils, and the fats in domesticated meat like beef or pork such as beef tallow or pork lard. And it also shuns low-quality carbs, such as refined white sugar, sugary foods and drinks, white rice, processed breakfast cereals, white modern wheat flour and so on. In other words, when it comes to food in general, the Spartan diet focuses on balanced meals, practicing moderation, choosing variety and seasonality and above all, highest quality. Emphasizing the highest-quality fats and carbs produced or prepared in the healthiest ways in moderate quantities while favoring those with the highest nutrients — that's the foundation of the Spartan Diet.

The Spartan Diet is the only diet that places emphasis on "right sizing" food quantities and portions based on nutrient content within the context of nutritional needs — not on conventional practices. Some foods and food types are healthy when taken in very small quantities, but unhealthy in larger quantities. Nearly every food type has its ideal quantity. I use the oxymoron "extreme moderation" to describe Spartan Diet portioning. 

And the Spartan Diet is about more than just food — it’s an integrative and holistic approach to leading a health-promoting lifestyle. Sunshine, exercise, nature, sleep, relaxation techniques and the avoidance of drugs, vices and toxins are also on the diet. Maximum health requires a total health approach for optimum physical and mental well being including what you consume orally, through your skin and your mind.

Recipe: Oven Baked Berber Eggs

One of my favorite rituals is: getting Berber eggs in Fez. 

The ancient Medina in Fez, Morocco — also called Fes el Bali — is a joy to live in. The city was founded around 800 A.C., and the whole city still feels locked in that era. 

We always stay in an ancient riad at least 300 but sometimes 900 years old. (A riad is like an inside-out house, with the garden in the center of the house with a view straight up to the sky and all rooms encircling the garden connected by tiny ancient stairs. 

We rise, dress and clamor down very narrow, uneven dark steps until arriving at a huge, ancient door. Step outside and we're in a dark, low crooked ally, with local kids always running around, playing and chasing stray cats. Down the alley and stepping into the much brighter main lane, with vendors and craftsman of every description making or selling hand-made wares, clothing and everything else. Live chickens for sale. Goat heads. Lamb chunks sitting on open counters. Fruits and vegetables. A dozen varieties of dates, all displayed in big piles. Baked goods range from very thin bread to endless sweets. As we make our way down the crowded lane, we nod to the friendly merchants. While visitors are pressured to take a look at goods on offer, we never are because they recognize us and see us every day while we're living there. 

Down this lane, step up onto another shadier lane, down another alley to yet another main walkway — no vehicles in this medina except donkeys, which are used (along with hand carts) to transport literally everything available in the Medina. 

After 20 minutes of slogging through what feels like early medieval Morocco, we arrive a lane so narrow it's practically a crack in the wall. Down a dark, shoulder-wide space between old buildings, we duck down through a low door, dropping a foot to a lower floor, down a narrow hallway and arriving at a big riad converted to a hip restaurant filled with friendly waiters, cooks and staff, as well as locals, travelers and expats. 

As a riad, the restaurant tables are tucked away in little rooms on four uneven floors (plus a rooftop), which you arrive at on extremely steep and narrow stairs. We find a table, order Berber Eggs (which come with flat Moroccan bread), tea, fruit and whatever else we like, then enjoy hours of eating, talking and working.

You can see why this is one of my favorite rituals.

The Berber Eggs themselves are both the excuse for my ritual, and also its reward.

Let’s make the Spartan Diet version of Berber Eggs.

Get the recipe