This spring, Dr. Fuhrman was interviewed by Marshall Glickman of Green Living Journal. The conversation gives an overview of the unique equation that underlies Dr. Fuhrman's approach (health = nutrition/calories), touches on the social challenges of healthy eating, and concludes with some meaningful news for those concerned about heart disease. With Mr. Glickman's permission, here is some of their conversation:
Thanks so much for the chance to ask you some questions, and especially for the huge amount of hours you've put into research. It seems hard to disagree with the formula Health = Nutrients/Calories. Can you flesh out your approach a bit, with a quick summary of what you advocate in Eat to Live?
Sure. There are a few points that together make the H = N/C approach unique. One is the concept of nutrient density; that is, as you start to meet the body's nutrient needs, it desires less food. This mean we're not going to crave food as much or want to eat as often.
Another is that when you eat foods that have toxic properties or that aren't healthy for you, they create addictive withdrawal symptoms once you stop eating them. Since those addictive withdrawal symptoms are relieved by frequent eating, they drive people to eat more frequently than is necessary. For example, if you stop drinking coffee, you get headaches. You can get rid of the headaches by breaking the caffeine habit or by drinking more coffee. Likewise, a diet that contains processed foods and trans fats, lots of saturated fats and plenty of salt is relatively toxic, and when you stop eating for a few hours, you start to feel lousy. Weakness, achiness, abdominal spasms, and headaches are not symptoms of true hunger. Like thirst, true hunger is felt in the throat, not the stomach. So the point is, in order to stop the addictive drives and perverted cravings that lead to compromised health and our current obesity epidemic, we must restore nutritional excellence. This puts people back in touch with the amount of calories they actually need. Dieting doesn't work because you are always fighting your addictive sensations.
Restoring nutritional excellence not only improves health, drops weight, and lowers cholesterol, once the perverted food cravings and addictions are gone, you can make appropriate connections between the body's natural signals--directing you to the right amount of calories needed to maintain an ideal weight. Otherwise, dieting becomes a guessing game of how much food to eat, measuring of calories, walking around starving all the time, and fighting against the natural drive to eat.
The third point is taste. As you start to eat more healthfully in a nutrient-dense diet, your taste adjusts itself so that you actually get more pleasure from eating, not less. That's why I say this is a knowledge-based system. You need to know that giving up some of your favorite, unhealthy foods requires only a temporary loss, but after a while you'll actually like this way of eating as much or more than your old way. When you're eating food that tastes good and aren't restricted on the quantity, you don't feel deprived.