We love Dr. Fuhrman’s food philosophies. He’s transforming the lives of so many trapped in cycles of poor health with his simple, but comprehensive views on how we should be eating. His professional insights have made him a best-selling author and main staple on the wellness scene. And although his thorough medical explanations are what have helped so many to grasp the value of the Eat To Live lifestyle, the principles of this way of life couldn’t be simpler.
Pick up a few key principles from our recent chat with the doctor below; we love how inspiringly accessible some of Eat To Live’s main tenets are – and his explanations about the addictive nature of processed foods and ‘toxic hunger’ are truly eye-opening! Here’s Dr Fuhrman…
The Chalkboard Mag: Your book Eat To Live has, for the past ten years, helped millions of people understand the benefits of eating a nutrient-rich diet. Tell us about some of the responses people have had since you first released the book…
Dr. Fuhrman: The most exciting thing is the thousands of people that have lost dramatic amounts of weight and never gained any of it back. In other words, they recognized this way of life as a life-saving change in the way they eat. So many have lost 100 pounds or more, complete reversal of serious chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, migraines, or autoimmune conditions. They regained their health, youth, and zest for life. Plus, most of the obese with lots of weight to lose lost the weight quickly, losing 100 pounds within the first year on the program. The most amazing part is that these were not patients of mine, they are people I never even met in person. They just read my book and followed the program. There is a library of success stories on my website where you can read the stories of many who have recovered from serious conditions using my dietary recommendations. My mission is to teach people that they can make the choice to live a long, healthy life unencumbered by disease, and not dependent on medications. Shockingly to me this message has reached millions the world over.
TCM: What is the core philosophy behind Eat to Live, and what is the difference between ‘eating to live” and a diet?
Dr. Fuhrman: The core philosophy of Eat to Live is my health equation: H=N/C (Health equals Nutrients divided by Calories). Your future health can be predicted by the micronutrient to calorie ratio of your diet; to achieve excellent health and longevity, your diet must be rich in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals) without consuming an excessive amount of calories. The foods with the highest nutrient to calorie ratio are green leafy vegetables, followed by other vegetables, beans, and fruits. Nuts and seeds, though higher in calories, are an important component of a healthful diet because of their sizeable cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits. My advice is to eat G-BOMBS every day: greens, beans, onions (and garlic), mushrooms, berries (and pomegranate) and seeds (and nuts). These are high-nutrient foods with disease-protective properties. When you follow an eating style based on these foods, you will be eating for optimal health, and your body to find its ideal weight automatically, with no hunger or deprivation. Unlike most weight-loss diets, my Eat to Live program does not use portion control or calorie counting. I recommend considering only the quality of the calories you consume. Portion control simply doesn’t work. Portion-controlled diets are trying to eat smaller portions of the same low nutrient foods. This doesn’t work because low-nutrient, high-calorie foods (the typical foods of the standard American diet) are addictive properties; they activate the pleasure pathways in the brain (similar to addictive drugs) and produce withdrawal symptoms that are often misinterpreted as hunger, creating a drive to eat too much and too frequently. I call this toxic hunger, and a high-nutrient diet can eradicate toxic hunger.
TCM: How difficult is it for people who try the Eat To Live protocol to make the lifestyle change?
Dr. Fuhrman: When making any switch in your eating style, there is always a short adjustment period. The first week of eating the Eat To Live way may feel uncomfortable, and this is normal. Headaches and fatigue may occur as the body is finally able to detoxify from years of a previous toxic diet. However, after that first detoxification phase, it becomes easier and easier to continue. Over time, one’s taste buds and food preferences change, and the old addictive drives and cravings fall away. Once people’s taste has become stronger and they learn the favorable cooking techniques and recipes, they get more pleasure from eating healthfully than they did eating the disease-causing, lifespan-shortening conventional diet. I have documented in a research study with over 600 participants this changing taste perception and that there is no loss of pleasure in those eating this way.
TCM: So, you’re saying that eating nutrient dense food actually helps to end food cravings?
Dr. FuhRman: On the Eat to Live program, people usually end up eating a greater volume of food than they were eating before, but fewer calories. Natural plant foods, because of their high micronutrient and fiber content, help you to feel satisfied after each meal, blunt your appetite, and prevent food cravings. Because you are eating nutrient-rich, filling foods, you never feel deprived, and it becomes almost impossible to overeat. Also, eating primarily unrefined plant foods, over time, naturally diminishes the addictive cravings that regular consumption of low-nutrient foods produces. As the level of inflammation goes down and toxic wastes decrease, people stop feeling those symptoms they thought were hunger in the past that were driving them to overeat and to eat too frequently. They are no longer shaky and no longer have headaches, stomach cramping or fatigue driving them to consume food and they get in touch with their instinctual sensations for true hunger felt in the throat. Healthful foods do not produce withdrawal symptoms or activate addictive drives, and after eating so healthfully, you prefer to eat only when really hungry, which directs you to the precise amount of calories you need. Importantly, your taste buds will change; you will prefer high-nutrient foods and no longer desire your old low-nutrient foods.
TCM: One thing Eat to Live is so famous for is helping people to loss impressive amounts of weight. Talk to us a little about that.
Dr. Fuhrman: Most people on fad weight-loss diets and portion-controlled diets do gain the weight back. Again, these diets fail because they require you to eat smaller quantities of foods that are inherently addictive, which is unsustainable in the long-term. My eating style is different. It is based on health-promoting and satiety-promoting foods that do not fuel addictive cravings. You meet your body’s micronutrient needs with no need to count calories. Eliminating the addictive component means that you will get in touch with true hunger, a drive that will lead you to the amount of food that you need to fuel your body, and no more. This will lead you to your ideal weight. However, this is not primarily a weight loss technique, this is the ideal weight every human should be eating to extend their life and not get cancer. In other words, the reason the weight is not gained back is because the adopters become nutritarians for life.
TCM: You’re also helping patient off prescription medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol after this type of nutritious diet. That’s amazing…
Dr. FuhRman: It varies – one must be careful and work with a physician if on medications for diabetes or high-blood pressure – but because this program lowers blood sugar and blood pressure so effectively, you can become over-medicated into dangerously low blood pressure and low blood sugars relatively quickly. At my weekly immersions and getaways, many people are able to stop all medications for blood pressure within the first week and be weaned off more than half of their diabetic medications in the first week.
TCM: You advocate eating at least one large salad a day, preferably two. We love our greens! Tell us what you do to help most people get accustomed to this.
DR. FUHRMAN: Sometime my patients worry about getting hungry with all this salad, but they are not eating only salads and they get to eat as much as they want. When they get hungry, they can eat! Eating when hungry is much more pleasurable than eating when not hungry. Delicious burgers, soups, vegetable casseroles, filing bean stews and chilies, as well as delicious desserts made with nuts or seeds, are all part of the program. One of the most important principles of the Eat to Live program is “the salad is the main dish,” at at least one meal. The point is to emphasize the most healthful foods – to form the foundation of your diet with vegetables, especially greens, which are high in nutrients and low in calories. SAD foods are rich, but the addictive withdrawal symptoms make you think you are hungry long before you actually are. However, high-nutrient foods like vegetables and beans are bulky, so they take up a lot of room in the stomach, which promotes satiety. They are also rich in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugars, also promoting satiety. The incorporation of healthy fats from nuts and seeds also helps to slow the emptying of the stomach. So when you eat high-nutrient foods, you naturally feel satisfied with a smaller number of calories. (See Dr Fuhrman’s salad dressing recipe below!)
TCM: The Eat to Live Cookbook isn’t strictly vegetarian or vegan, but let’s talk about protein and your views on that…
Dr. Fuhrman:The idea that animal products are necessary to get sufficient protein is a myth. It is almost impossible to “not get enough protein” (unless someone is malnourished or anorexic), because all natural foods contain protein, and except for fruits, plant foods contain plenty. Green vegetables, beans, and seeds are particularly rich in protein. Plus, protein from these plant sources is free from the saturated fat and excess calories of animal products, and is packaged with an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that prevent disease. Our culture is obsessed with protein, and this obsession has been fueled by the meat and dairy industries. Protein has become synonymous with strength; but the truth is that protein is not the miracle nutrient it is believed to be. No one in the Western world needs to worry about getting enough protein; they actually need to worry about getting too much, especially from excessive amounts of animal products. Recent findings in nutritional science have suggested that the excess protein in modern diets as a major promoter of common cancers. High animal protein consumption raises levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that promotes tumor growth and is linked to increased risk of several cancers.
TCM: Tell us how you’ve seen nutritional science change in the past decade – what are the most dramatic findings?
Dr. Fuhrman: Some of the most exciting findings in recent years have been in the field of longevity research. Calorie restriction has been known for some time to extend the life of animals, and more recent research has revealed that resveratrol and other polyphenols may activate some of the same longevity-promoting genes and pathways. Research into lifestyle factors and telomere length, a marker of aging at the DNA level, has also found that physical fitness and vegetable and omega-3 fatty acid intake are associated with longer (biologically younger) telomeres, whereas obesity and red meat consumption are associated with shorter (biologically older) telomeres.
TCM: What are some surprising tips you can share from the Eat to Live Cookbook?
Dr. Fuhrman: Always keep a bulb of roasted garlic on hand in the fridge, you can slice off the end and squeeze out the creamy cooked garlic, to add to salad dressings and creamy sauces for vegetable dishes. Garlic is incredible for your health.
TCM: One reason you’re so successful at getting people “hooked” on salads is your amazing dressing recipes! Why don’t use oil in most of your dressings? And would you share a simple dressing recipe from the Eat to Live Cookbook?
Dr. Fuhrman: Olive oil is not a whole food; it is a processed food, and 100% fat. Olive oil, contrary to popular belief, is not the major factor that made Mediterranean diets healthful. It was the unrefined plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and grains and the smaller amounts of meat, that provided the bulk of the health benefit. The monounsaturated fat content of olive oil simply makes it less harmful than saturated or trans fats. When olive oil is substituted for animal fats, benefits occur because you are omitting more dangerous fats. However, when you use nuts and seeds in place of oils you receive dramatic health benefits, for weight, and prevention of heart disease and cancer. I am not recommending that you eat your salads dry or that you use the sugar- and salt-laden fat-free salad dressings found in grocery stores. It is still important to consume some fat with your meals because fat-containing dressing dramatically increases the absorption of carotenoids from the green and other colorful vegetables. You can make a delicious dressing without oil, by blending raw nuts and seeds with vinegar, fruits, herbs and spices. The flavor possibilities are endless, and these dressings will contain high-quality, high-nutrient, whole-food sources of fat. Oils – even olive oil – do not supply the heart-health benefits of nuts and seeds, and at 120 calories per tablespoon, oil can easily sabotage your efforts at weight loss.
Eat To Live Raw Citrus Sesame Dressing
3 Tbsp unhulled sesame seeds, divided
1/4 cup raw cashew nuts, or 1/8 cup raw cashew butter
2 oranges, peeled
2 Tbsp Dr. Fuhrman’s Blood Orange or Riesling Raisin Vinegar, or white wine vinegar
orange juice, if needed to adjust consistency
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, mixing with a wooden spoon and shaking the pan frequently.
In a high powered blender, combine 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, cashews, oranges and vinegar. If needed, orange juice can be added to adjust consistency.
Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of sesame seeds on top of salad.