This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.
All the different types of nutrients are vital to achieving and maintaining optimal health and nutritional excellence; however, phytochemicals hold a special, elite place in the nutritional landscape. When consistently consumed in adequate quantity and variety, phytochemicals become super-nutrients in your body. They work together to detoxify cancer-causing compounds, deactivate free radicals, protect against radiation damage, and enable DNA repair mechanisms.1 When altered or broken strands of DNA are repaired, it can prevent cancer from developing later in life.
Consuming phytochemicals is not optional. They are essential in human immune-system defenses. Without a wide variety and sufficient amount of phytochemicals from unprocessed plant foods, scientists note that cells age more rapidly and do not retain their innate ability to remove and detoxify waste products and toxic compounds. Low levels of phytochemicals in our modern diet are largely responsible for the common diseases seen with aging, especially cancer and heart disease. These are diseases caused by nutritional ignorance and, in many cases, can be prevented. Approximately 85 percent of our population acquires and eventually dies from heart disease, strokes, and cancer. This is extremely high compared to other populations around the world and at earlier points in human history.
Let’s take heart disease as an example. Heart attacks are extremely rare occurrences in populations that eat a diet rich in protective phytochemicals, such as the Okinawans of Japan, but are omnipresent in populations, such as ours, that eat a diet low in protective nutrients.2 Compelling data from numerous population and interventional studies shows that a natural, plant based diet rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals will prevent, arrest, and even reverse heart disease.3 With what we know about heart disease causation, no one needs to die of heart disease today.
Only via nutritional excellence can you address all the invisible, but potentially dangerous, plaque throughout your coronary arteries. Unlike surgery and angioplasty, the dietary approach addressed in this book does not merely treat a small segment of your heart, but rejuvenates all your blood vessels and protects your entire body against heart attacks, strokes, venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, peripheral vascular disease, and vascular dementia. Eating this way is your most valuable insurance policy to secure a longer life, free of medical problems. Thousands of people following my eating-style have reversed their high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease and have been able to discontinue their medications. Nutritional excellence simply made them well when drugs did not. You can see once again, the most effective prescription is excellent nutrition.
To receive the benefits of nutritional excellence, however, you must actually eat well. Many people believe they can meet all of their nutrient needs by taking supplements; however, supplements can’t match or duplicate all the protective, strengthening elements of real fruits and vegetables. There are too many unknown and undiscovered factors in these natural foods. There are more than 10,000 identified phytochemicals, with more being discovered all the time. Only by eating a diet rich in whole foods can we assure ourselves a full symphony of these disease-protecting, anti-aging nutrients. Supplements can be useful in delivering micronutrients found in foods that would be very difficult to incorporate into our diet, such as fatty fish. This is why the word “supplement” is a good one: the pill is supplemental to a healthy diet and cannot take the place of one.
Our bodies were designed to make use of thousands of plant compounds. When these necessary compounds are missing, we might survive because our bodies are adaptable; however, we lose our powerful potential for wellness. Chronic diseases often develop, and we are robbed of living to our fullest potential in good physical, emotional, and mental health. Ultimately, we are what we eat. We get the materials to build our cells from our diet because food provides the raw materials that our bodies use to create tissue and to function at a high level. Consumption of healthy foods leads to disease resistance; consumption of unhealthy foods makes us disease-prone.
Eating right enables you to feel your best everyday. You may still get sick from a virus, but your body will be in a far better position to defend itself and make a quick and complete recovery. Optimal nutrition enables us to work better, play better, and maintain our youthful vigor as we age gracefully.
1. Liu RH. Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action. J Nutr. 2004;134(12 Suppl):3479S-3485S. Weiss JF, Landauer MR. Protection against ionizing radiation by antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals. Toxicology 2003;189(1-2):1-20. Carratù B, Sanzini E. Biologically-active phytochemicals in vegetable food. Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2005; 41(1):7-16.
2. Hu FB. Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):544S-551S. Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J. Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China study. Am J Cardiol 1998 Nov 26;82(10B):18T-21T. Fujimoto N, Matsubayashi K, Miyahara T, et al. The risk factors for ischemic heart disease in Tibetan highlanders. Jpn Heart J. 1989 Jan;30(1):27-34. Tatsukawa M, Sawayama Y, Maeda N, et al. Carotid atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk factors: a comparison of residents of a rural area of Okinawa with residents of a typical suburban area of Fukuoka, Japan. Atherosclerosis 2004;172(2):337-343.
3. Hu FB, Willett WC. Optimal diets for prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA 2002 Nov 27;288(20):2569-2578. Esselstyn CB. Resolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic Through Plant-Based Nutrition. 2001 Autumn;4(4):171-177.