You Are What You Eat
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a renowned natural-health expert and author of ‘Eat to Live’ explains how to eat better now.
Not everyone is born with a destiny, but Dr. Joel Fuhrman is an exception. While pursuing a career as a professional athlete in his youth, he watched his father use diet and nutrition to cope with serious medical conditions. By the early 1970s, he was a member the United States World Figure Skating Team and following in his father’s footsteps by seeking out nutritious foods to improve stamina. Afterward, when he inherited his family’s shoe business, he couldn’t help but feel that he wasn’t following his true passion. Armed with the concept that nutrition was the future of medicine, Fuhrman enrolled in Columbia University’s premedical program.
Today, he is a board-certified family physician with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He has written numerous books and articles linking disease prevention and nutrition, including "Eat to Live Cookbook: 200 Delicious Nutrient-Rich Recipes for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Reversing Disease, and Lifelong Health" (Little, Brown & Company, 2013). Here, Dr. Fuhrman shares how green vegetables can prevent cancer and why olive oil isn’t as healthy as you think.
What does it mean to ‘eat to live?’
Over the last 20 years of my life, I’ve read more than 20,000 studies linking nutrition and cancer. To be able to live between 95 and 100 years old, you need the compounds in legumes and grains. Your future life expectancy is linked to the micronutrients in your diet. We need to focus on eating foods that are high in nutrients. We can’t just focus on pasta and bread. We need to focus on quality. It’s not just about being thin. Nutritional quality matters and populations live longer when they eat these high-nutrient foods.
What’s wrong with the way Americans eat now?
On average, Americans are only eating 5 percent of their daily calories from natural plant foods. Sixty percent of the American diet is processed foods, and about 26 percent is made up of animal products. If we want to put a dent in the cancer epidemic, Americans are going to have to eat a dramatically higher percentage of produce in their diets. If you really want to win the war on cancer, we have to go from 5 percent to 60 percent or 80 percent. We can have a society that wins the war on cancer and heart attacks in America.
What exactly is ‘processed’ food?
You might consider a hot dog a processed food, but I consider it an animal product. For me, processed foods are products containing white flour, white sugar and oil products. If you look at the micronutrient content of a processed food, it usually doesn’t have a hundredth of the nutrient value of a whole food. All nutritional value is lost in processing, so Americans are just taking in calories, without the micronutrients that would have been present in the whole-food form.
Your food pyramid has nuts and avocado – foods with very high fat content – as the third largest food group. What makes these fats OK?
If we look at the science of the literature, people who eat nuts and seeds on a regular basis – three or more times per week – have a 60-percent lower risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death. We’re not saying people shouldn’t eat fat; they should eat fat from whole plant foods instead of animal products. When eating lots of nutrient-dense, powerful anti-cancer foods, a lot of the beneficial nutrients are fat-soluble, so you need fat to get the most out of these foods.
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