Dr. Joel Furhman wrote the bestselling book Eat to Live back in 2003 and it changed lives. Billed as a diet for “fast and sustained weight loss,” it taught readers how to think about food in a new way: As nutrient-dense packages that would help their bodies operate at their highest levels, by fueling them with the best quality vegetables, fruits, and seek calories that carry a benefit as well as energy. The purpose was to help the population lose weight and be healthier, both. He created what he calls “the Nutritarian diet,” which is a nutrient-rich diet style that sets it apart from other diets. He writes in his new book, Eat for Life:
“By paying attention not just to vitamins and minerals, but also to the thousands of other phytonutrients—that is, the beneficial chemicals found in plants—that are essential for maximizing immune function, such a diet style can have a profound effect on extending healthspan (meaning the number of hears we can expect to be healthy) and lifespan.”
Vegetables, he adds, are the foods that have the highest micro-nutrients per calorie. The chapter headings include: Your Health is in Your Hands, We Can Prevent Cancer, The Struggle to Lose Weight and We Can Reverse Disease. For anyone who is concerned with their health right now, this is a new healthy-living, nutrition bible not to be put down.
Dr. Fuhrman’s approach is not only nutrient-dense but also vegan, gluten-free, low in sodium, fat, and oils. The diet also avoids or minimizes processed foods, and focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Dr.ll Fuhrman sat down with The Beet recently to talk about the important information in his new book, Eat for Life, and the actionable recipes and advice that he wants people to follow.
Dr. Fuhrman wants to help us all eat healthier right now, not just for weight loss, but also for our own disease prevention, natural immune-boosting potential, and overall longevity. He also has one food or ingredient he wished we would all stay away from. Read on for what that is.
Q. If everything in Eat to Live is still true, Why did you want to write a new book?
A. Science. In the 14 years since he began writing Eat for Life, the science and cumulative effect of research into the power of foods and the effect on cancer and disease is undeniable.
Back then I just had my case studies to concince myself and others. Now we have so many studies that prove that food is medicine. And we have access to foods that have powerful effects on longevity, like blueberries which are now available to us year-round, and microgreens like baby arugula.
The accumulation of science and new research studies offer up clinical evidence of people using a plant-based diet to reverse disease. It was anecdotal when I wrote Eat to Live. Today it is undeniable.”
Q. What is the most exciting news you have seen come along in the nutrition space?
A. The same nutritional protocol that slows aging also cures so-called incurable diseases.
Like Lupus. Instead of needing a kidney transplant like Selena Gomez, people should know they can get well by changing to a plant-based diet.
Lupus, chronic conditions like asthma, and mortal threats like cancer and heart disease can be prevented and even reversed if someone takes the right approach to their diet.
Q. What practical advice can you give us about how to eat, today!
A. Eat early. There is new information that a calorie in the morning is not the same as calories as night. So it’s better to eat earlier in the day. Intermittent fasting is fine as long as you eat breakfast and lunch and skip dinner.
In fact, your body functions better in terms of the work it has to do to repair and regenerate cells overnight if it sleeps on an empty stomach.
Q. How do You get people to change their habits, even if they are healthy now?
A. My role is to give them the pinnacle of advice. My specialty is not to water it down but to idealize it for people. Other doctors will water it down. And I won’t do that. If you want to be healthy, this is the way to eat.
I have been dealing with that [dilluting of the message] for 40 years. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, we know that works but you’re not going to get many people to do it. But the opposite is true because they water it down and don’t get the benefit. If you’re an alcoholic you don’t water it down.
You have to make a decision. If you have the information and you still choose to eat unhealthily, then it’s like a smoker who knows the risk and still chooses to smoke. My job is to arm people with information to allow them to be their healthiest.
Q. Got it. So what is the biggest barrier to following the advice in your books?
A. The question is can you make it taste great. And then, can people stick with it for the long term? The recipes we have put together over the last 20 years are delicious. So now we have ways to make the most powerful way to eat also taste great.
That and it has to work. Eating a little bit of oil causes hydrolysis, and a little bit of sugar keeps weight on. So if you give it to them in moderation, they keep one foot in both worlds and never make the progress for the rest of their lives. Unless you can give them results, they eventually become less desirous of the best way to eat.
It actually becomes easier to do it all the way. That is why I have a food retreat for people who have food addictions and need to get well, and a lot of them can’t do it because of the addictive nature of food.
Q. So when it comes to eating healthy, you say go all in? Eat whole plant-based food?
A. Baby steps don’t work. I have an all-year-round facility where people can come under my care. The majority of people are we’re overweight and they need to lose weight. Once they stay on the program, their recidivism rate goes from 80 percent to 10 percent. The majority are there to learn how to eat healthily and lose weight and acclimate their taste buds.
One is the most important thing is to set the example yourself. Be the role model. People see you are never sick, you don’t have weight problems and you feel great. that is powerful. the second thing is people look around their families and then what are you going to do? Wait until they have a heart attack to be healthy? Wait until somebody develops a life-threatening condition to start being healthy?
People, whether they are healthy or not, they are living with medical fear and intervention. It’s a religion to think doctors are going to save you and increase your lifespan, and that is not true. To me the evidence is so convincing. To think that people can do sports well into their 60s and 80s and stay young and strong if they eat healthfully and are active. I am a skier and I still ski at the level that I have for my entire adult life, even moguls.
Q. That is a perfect segway to What do You eat for breakfast, or lunch or dinner?
A. Breakfast: not yet. I haven’t eaten yet today. But usually it’s oats and berries.
I’ll take frozen berries out of the freezer and mix it with either some flax seeds or hemp seeds or milk or some steel-cut oats. Or maybe I will have half of an avocado and a couple of oranges and a handful of nuts.
Mostly lunch is my main meal of the day. I advocate that people structure their day that way. Yesterday I had a giant salad and beans on top and arugula and seeds.
Then dinner is just a bowl of lentil soup or six-beet soup. Mushrooms and onions and something like fruit for dessert. Yesterday I was on TV from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and I went to Whole Foods and had a good-sized lunch and then a light dinner. I try to have a giant salad at least once a day. Everyone should.
The enhanced life span you get is enhanced even more if you eat an earlier and lighter dinner. You do more healing and repair when you sleep with no food in your stomach. We don’t want people to eat a big meal late at night.
You need to stack your calories to the earlier part of the day. A calorie in the morning is better. When you have a calorie at night it counts for almost 2 calories. A calorie before bed is almost definitely stored as fat.
Q. Do you use your own diet to manage your weight?
A. Yes. But for me, it depends on the season and what I’m training for. I love mogul skiing and I bomb down the moguls and in the wintertime, I do more on my legs and core. But that means I am better in the moguls. I weigh 145 in winter, but a, fairly lean top. By Summer I go up to 148 and I get stronger. Then in September, I do my bench jumps and box jumps to get lighter … Lower back and midsection for moguls and bumps.
Q. What is the worst thing — or the one thing — you would tell people not to eat? Sugar?
A. Oil. Olive oil. Olive Oil is going to cause breast cancer. Lets put it this way: Oil is absorbed 100 percent by the body and stops the break down of fat. Fat secretes cytokines and produces more estrogen—and that leads to cancer. it’s the biggest scam perpetrated on the population, that olive oil is a health food. It’s just better than butter.
Any study that shows the beneficial effects of oil is not true. Most of us eat 400 calories in oil a day, so if you cut that out you will lose weight.
But eating nuts and seeds is actually healthy. If you take all the natural oils out of your diet, but then you put back in nuts and seeds you start losing weight. So eating nuts and seeds is fine.
Q. Do you believe that we should all try to lose weight for health and longevity?
Most of America is overweight. Just because everyone else is walking around 20 to 30 pounds overweight we think it’s okay to have that fat on your body. It becomes normal.
Our body fat levels are generally too high. Women should be below 25 percent body fat composition, and men should be below 15 percent body fat, for optimal health.
Optimal body fat for a woman is 22.5 and a man below 12 percent. I have a body fat of about 9 percent. All the fat in my diet comes from nuts and whole foods. All oils are stored as fat. Nuts and fat in moderation are fine to burn for energy but most of us don’t burn it.
Q. What foods should we eat more of, as in unlimited amounts?
A. Know your G BOMBS, meaning foods that do the most good for you. I call them G Bombs because they are loaded with benefits and I describe them in my book Super Immunity. G-Bombs is just a reminder of what to eat. It stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds. They don’t just have low calorie and high nutrients, these foods have ultra therapeutic benefits that make weight loss easier. They are also known to fight breast cancer and other diseases.
- Seeds (and Nuts)
Q. What do you do if you just want a big slice of pizza or other junk food?
A. You need to break the cycle of processed or junk food. I am the only person who addresses that when your diet is poor you get toxic hunger from metabolic waste. This is why people eat more calories that they need.
Q. So you think that the American diet is one reason we are all on so many meds?
A. My passion and my excitement for doing this, the reason I went to medical school, is I knew people should have the right to get well. And without taking all those medicines. People don’t have to be on drugs for the rest of their life.
If you’re not going to be told you can get well, then you don’t have informed consent. People have to know they have an option. there are not that many diets that work to reverse disease and give you a longer lifespan… Nutritarian eating does.