The Basics of a Healthy Diet
In the member section of his website, Dr. Fuhrman often answers questions from patients. Occasionally, we share highlights of those question and answer sessions on DiseaseProof. For instance, the following exchange occured this past spring, which is about the kind of diet Dr. Fuhrman recommends in his books Disease-Proof Your Child and Eat to Live. This question addresses Dr. Fuhrman's idea of getting the maximum nutrition from the minimum number of calories.
QUESTION: 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?
DR. FUHRMAN: 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, when you eat a diet that contains processed foods and trans fats, lots of saturated fats and lots of salt, your diet is relatively toxic and when you stop eating for a few hours, you start to feel lousy. Feeling weak, achy, abdominal spasms, and headachy, are not how one feels true hunger.
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 the obesity epidemic we have, 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. Your taste improves as you start to eat healthier in a nutrient dense diet and 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.