I have mentioned Dr. Fuhrman’s work in a previous blog post on nutrient-dense foods. At that time, however, I had only very recently heard of the doctor and hadn’t yet read or studied any of his work. Several months ago I did purchase what I believe is his best-selling book: Eat To Live. It was first published in 2003, but was revised in 2011.
You can check out some of the details he discusses in his book in that post I just mentioned, but let me say that Eat To Live is the whole-food, plant-based nutrition book that I feel makes the most sense for gaining optimal health. The book includes much research-based information on why eating certain foods, such as animal protein, salt and refined oils are not good for our health. Far from being a boring read, I have loaned the book out to many patients and many others I know have purchased it themselves, and all have found it most valuable and engaging. I strongly recommend you get your own copy of the book and read it yourself (you can check your local library too), but here is the gist of the kind of diet Dr. Fuhrman promotes:
– Ideally avoid or at least minimize (to under 10% of your calories): all animal products (this includes fish, eggs, dairy).
– Avoid added salts (this is an area that I really hadn’t concerned myself with until recently and it is amazing to examine how much salt is in almost anything remotely processed)
– Limit grains to one cup a day
– Eat at least a cup (or more) of beans/legumes a day
– Avoid refined sugars and processed foods of any sort
– Eat 50-60% of your calories from a combination of raw and lightly cooked non-starchy vegetables, with an emphasis on leafy greens
– Eat several whole fruits a day
– Avoid all refined oils (yes, this includes flax and olive oil, for example) and acquire your fats through whole foods such as small amounts of nuts and seeds and avocados.
The book also contains many interesting personal cases where individuals had been drastically overweight and/or sick and once adopting this way of eating, have had dramatic improvements in their health, such as weight loss of up to hundreds of pounds, reversal of type 2 diabetes, elimination of sarcoidosis, cessation of chest pain in cardiac patient and normalization of blood work. It also contains a decent amount of recipes and a menu plan that you could follow.
Is there anything I don’t agree with in this book?
– Included in the whole grains, he ‘allows’ wheat/gluten grains. Although some people will be fine with these foods, in my practice, I have found that many are not. The Dr. doesn’t discuss this. It is worth experimenting with a 3-week strict avoidance of all gluten, then reintroducing and evaluating how you feel at that time.
How does Dr. Fuhrman’s diet compare to say, the diets promoted by the Forks Over Knives docs, such as Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn?
Dr. Fuhrman limits intake of whole grains to one cup per day, whereas the FoK docs seem to advocate much higher amounts of whole grains (also including wheat/gluten grains). I prefer Dr. Fuhrman’s take on grain consumption for a few reasons including: A higher intake of grains means more calories spent on them rather than on vegetables and leafy greens; Grains tend to have an omega 6:3 ratio skewed vastly in favor of the ‘6s’, which can lead to the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Fuhrman is also a little more lenient with nuts and seeds, allowing 1-2 ounces a day, whereas the other Drs are, from what I understand, hard-core abstainers with perhaps the exception of 1-2 tsps of ground flax seeds a day for omega 3s.
You may want to check out Dr. Fuhrman’s website, where he also offers an online program. I don’t know very much about this, so can’t comment further.
Bottom line: Eat To Live is an excellent book that, if you want to optimize your health, you need to read! Highly recommended.