This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.
In living the Eat For Health plan, you will become a nutritarian and learn to include more nutrient rich foods in your diet. A vegetarian or vegan diet that is plant-based also contains a portfolio of natural substances that have various health advantages, including protection against cancer. I am taking the liberty here to use the words vegan and vegetarian interchangeably, but a vegan diet is one that contains no foods of animal product origin whereas a vegetarian diet may contain some dairy. The advantages of a vegetarian (or vegan) diet are mostly because vegetarians are more likely to consume more vegetables, beans, fruit, nuts, and seeds compared to those eating more conventionally, not simply because they are refraining from meat products. Vegans who live on processed cereals, white flour products, rice, white potato, and processed soy products should not be expected to significantly extend their lifespan because their diet cannot be considered nutrient-rich.
Being a nutritarian differs from being a typical vegetarian because the focus on high-nutrient vegetation improves health dramatically, and one can reduce the level of animal products to a safe level without having to exclude them completely. Without considering nutrient density, a vegetarian diet could be just as bad as one that includes a lot of animal products. A vegan diet is an option for excellent health as long as care is taken to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods. Making animal products the disease-causation villain while filling up on low-nutrient plant foods or processed soy foods will not suffice to achieve health excellence. The reduction in consumption of animal products is only one important feature of this eating-style, not the focal point. Even though you could consider yourself a nutritarian and vegan, the critical issue for disease reduction is not whether one is a strict vegan or not; the issue is the nutrients per calorie of a given diet.
People advocating a meat-based diet may be able to critique a grain and flour-heavy vegan diet as having metabolic deficiencies, but not a diet that is low in animal products and based on nutrient-dense plant foods. This program contains the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, gleaned from the reduction of animal products, without the risks from all those lower-nutrient, higher-glycemic foods such as sugar, French fries and processed grains.
In addition, you do not have to exclude all animal products from your diet to follow this plan and to receive profound benefits to the health of your blood vessels and the rest of your body. You just have to reduce them to safe levels. Humans are primates, and all other primates eat a diet of predominantly natural vegetation. When the great apes eat animal products, it is a very small percentage of their total caloric intake. Likewise, modern medical studies confirm that in order for humans to maximize their potential for a long, disease-free life, they have to keep animal products to a relatively small percentage as well. Animal products are low in micronutrients, contain almost no antioxidants and phytochemicals, and are rich in calories. Thus, they should be limited for health excellence. We want to thrive in our later years, not just survive long enough to reproduce and then deteriorate.
The main point here that I want to emphasize, as always, is the benefit of nutritional excellence. In the Standard American Diet, less than five percent of the total caloric intake comes from nutrient-rich foods. This dangerously low intake of unrefined plant foods guarantees a weakened immunity to disease, leading to frequent illnesses, and a shorter lifespan. When you eat a truly health-supporting diet, you can expect not only a drop in blood pressure and cholesterol and a reversal of heart disease, but your headaches, constipation, indigestion, and bad breath should all resolve. To achieve this means eating less animal products, processed foods, sugar, and flour, and eating more high-nutrient plant foods and exercising. This lifestyle shift is the key to disease protection in general.