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Everything you need to know about the controversial hygienist diet

Based on the precepts of Greek philosophy, defends that man should eat the closest thing to his natural way to fight diseases and stay in good health.


We hear about a new way of eating that is gaining popularity from time to time. This is the case with the hygienist diet, which, in recent times, has once again made headlines around the world.

It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, it is far from being a new diet. The hygienist diet emerged around the 1940s, under the tutelage of the naturopath Herbert Sheldon. It is a continuation of the hygienist movement, which occurred almost a century earlier, in 1830, in the United States.

In essence, this movement was against the practice of traditional medicine and presented new concepts and approaches to the causes and treatments of diseases.


The hygienist is a movement based on the Greek philosophy of health and well-being. It says that diseases are not the result of external causes, such as viruses and bacteria, but of derangement in a person's life habits, which go against human nature: how to eat unnaturally, sleep little, and consume harmful substances such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Well, how is this reflected in food? “The basis of the diet is human-specific food, i.e., fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouted grains, nuts, roots, and seeds,” explains Dr. Andrea Pereira, Clinical Nutrition Physician at the Albert Einstein hospital, co-founder of the NGO Obesidade Brasil. “Your menu is limited to two or three items, preferably from the same category. It prohibits any industrialized food and suggests the consumption of raw foods.”

In other words, no dishes are based on rice, beans, steak, and potatoes, as is typical of Brazilians. For hygienists, this mixture of foods is seen as a bomb for the body and as a gateway to diseases. Therefore, limiting food to a few foods, and avoiding mixtures between categories, is essential for this diet.

In the United States, there are schools specializing in the hygienist movement. However, there is still not enough scientific evidence that this diet should be followed or has any specific benefit. This information is essential in this case because the hygienist’s diet is quite restrictive and limited.


For Dr. Andrea, the lack of supporting studies on this type of food prevents us from talking about its benefits – it is only known that this whole movement would be a response to the rampant consumption of industrialized foods.

“In the literature, there are reports of diseases associated with the high consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods, such as obesity, cancer, and metabolic syndrome.” “So there is an indirect benefit in preventing these diseases.”

The implementation difficulties are also many since it is a very restricted diet. In essence, few ingredients are used, so it must be very well balanced so as not to lead to nutritional deficiencies – that is, a nutritionist’s guidance is essential.

It is also worth mentioning that this diet became more popular because of its supposed therapeutic than aesthetic benefits: the idea of ​​the hygienist diet is not to make a person lose weight or achieve a more defined body but to prepare the body against diseases, whether chronic or acute. In modern life – think of cancers, for example.

That's why, more than once, Dr. Andrea explains that the guidance of a specialized professional in the adoption of this diet - which can also work according to a fasting regimen - is essential, especially when considering the high risks of nutritional deficiencies and the possibility of a loss of muscle mass, due to the low consumption. of proteins.

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