Disease Proof

Interview with a Nutritarian: Peter Max

“I’m positive and optimistic. It’s all about brightness. We are living in a euphoric world all we need to do is see it. I paint that.” ~Peter Max

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the world-renowned artist, pop culture icon and enthusiastic nutritarian, Peter Max. Famous for his artwork since the 1960s, he is known for his use of patriotic American icons and symbols in his artwork. Max has painted for six U.S. Presidents and he has been the official artist at major events such as the Grammy Awards, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Super Bowl, just to name a few. In addition to his artistic pursuits, he is a fervent defender of environmental causes as well as human and animal rights. Max is the epitome of a passionate individual and it is evident that he exudes just as much enthusiasm for health and wellness as he does towards his artwork.

Were you always interested in nutrition and wellness?

My interest in nutrition and the “we are what we eat” mindset kicked into high gear in the 1960s when I met Swami Satchidananda in Paris in the 1960s.  It was this one encounter that changed my diet forever and I became a vegetarian immediately afterwards.  He really captivated a group of us and each one of us stopped doing drugs and took an interest in yoga, self-awareness and how what we eat influences our well-being and long-term health.  I didn’t learn about Dr. Fuhrman until a decade ago, but once I read Eat To Live I was hooked and haven’t looked back since.  I went from being just a vegetarian to a committed nutritarian.  I have to say that Dr. Fuhrman has been one of the biggest guiding lights in my life and I recommend his books to everyone I meet.  That is how much I believe in the power of his nutritional program. 

What is your diet like now?

Each day I drink a green smoothie and I make sure to eat large salads, beans, berries, nuts and seeds.  There is a big difference between being a vegetarian and being a nutritarian.  I haven’t eaten processed foods for years and eat grains rarely now. Seeking to optimize the nutrient per calorie ratio of the foods we eat makes so much sense and it has become my way of life.   

How do you feel now that you’ve been a nutritarian for a decade?

I can honestly say that I have never felt better in my entire life.  I feel 25-30 years younger and have enough energy to work all day as an artist and travel without limitations. I do pushups every morning and walk up the steps instead of taking the elevator. The nutritarian diet makes me feel light and never weighed down. 

In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you?

I love that as I am getting older, I don’t have to worry about health problems that may have otherwise left me incapacitated and unable to pursue my artwork.  Being a working artist is important to me and gives me such joy. I’m grateful that I feel as healthy as I do and am able to continue doing what I love. There is nothing better than the gift of health because without it we can’t enjoy life to the fullest and participate in the activities that give meaning to our lives.  Thank you, Dr. Fuhrman! I really cannot express how thankful I am to know you and see how much you are helping people take control of their own health.

And thank you, Peter! It was an honor to interview someone who not only contributes beautiful artwork to the world, but has a kind heart to go along with it.  What a fantastic role model to look up to.  We wish you continued success with your artwork and only the best of health in the days to come.

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Comments (17) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Emily Boller - January 25, 2013 9:41 AM

I collected Peter Max notebooks and folders many years ago when I was in elementary school and junior high. Even as a kid I loved his colorful and joyful works. They always inspired me.

Now Peter Max also inspires me with his vibrant health that enables him to continue to produce works of art way into his "retirement" years.

I love that we can all live a quality life, free of disease and medications, and free of numerous doctor appointments in our older years. That's what eating for health is all about, and I'm so thankful for those who have set a great example for us to follow.

I agree with Talia, "What a fantastic role model to look up to."

Sara Hansen - January 25, 2013 10:50 AM

I was reminded again of the important difference between being just a vegetarian and a committed nutritarian. A real light bulb moment. Thank You to Peter and Dr. Fuhrman

Robert G. Monie - January 25, 2013 11:07 AM

Artists and creative people should forget the old romantic ideal of dying young or going crazy. It's best to live long and stay sane. Frank Lloyd Wright was still creative in his 90s and Jacques Barzun made it till 104, still sharp as a tack. Nice to see Peter Max doing it right. I've been a grain-eating vegan for years but have recently switched to nutritarian. Nothing beats those greens, alliums, beans, roots, tubers, and nuts for staying healthy.

Bob Monie

Brett Wilcox - January 25, 2013 11:11 AM

Beautiful story. Aging isn't what it used to be. I'm in my 50s and plan to run across America on a Nutritarian Diet with my teen-aged son.

Highland Fashionista - January 25, 2013 12:17 PM

Its inspiring to see these profiles of vital older people. I work as a hospital nurse practitioner, and it is easy to sometimes forget that there are loads of older people out there (or young ones for that matter...patients are getting sicker younger these days, as we all know) who have not succumbed to the effects of the poor western diet.

Karin - January 25, 2013 1:56 PM

My husband and i tried eating a more variety of salad greens. While to my surprise i liked spinach ( never ate it cooked as a child), neither of us liked the bitter taste of arugula, watercress and kale. Is this a problem that is solved just by eating more of it and waiting til it tastes good or are we doing some thing wrong?

We have added more beans to our diet, but after failing with the salads, kind of went back to our old eating habits. After gaining over 10 lbs since December I want to try again. Do you have any suggestions? I have also added more fruit to my diet. I have always loved fruit but it always seemed to expensive to buy- until i cut out other crappy food and then lo and behold, there was money!

Valerie Sims - January 25, 2013 9:29 PM

Karin--A few suggestions on the greens include trying other varieties of kale such as baby kale, lacinto or dino kale (two names for the same type), and red kale; bok choy (also called pak choi and other variations of these names); chard; one of my favorites, collard greens; Romaine lettuce; spring mix/mesclun. Chop fresh rosemary, parsley, cilantro, or basil into the greens. You may begin to come up with some combinations of your own from these.

It is reassuring to read this post today, a day similar to every other day when I do not interact with anyone who is the least interested in eating anything outside of a SAD diet. I like to be reminded that others are out there, and if I am patient, some people will see the significance of a nutritarian way of eating.

Karin - January 26, 2013 2:28 PM

Thanks, Valerie. I didn't know they had baby kale. I'll have to look for that. In fact, i think it's BABY spinach i like. I think i have to check out the higher end grocery store veggie department. I've heard of chard, and i do eat romaine lettuce.

Lisa - January 26, 2013 5:54 PM

I'm committed to eating a plant-based diet. There is so much to learn. Reading this article revealed another item I need to learn about...the issue with grains. HELP! We mostly eat steel-cut oats for breakfast...is this not a good idea, then? I was under the assumption that steel-cut oats (and whole grain oats in general) have amazing health-promoting properties...below is something I read from the blog, "Happy Healthy Long Life",

Why You Want to Eat Oats Everyday
The New Science Behind Oats - Avenanthramides  

Old news:  Oats have a soluble fiber, known as beta-glucan that helps to lower cholesterol by reducing its absorption into the blood stream.  They are also low-glycemic, taking a nice leisurely time to digest, so they keep you full longer, and keep your blood sugar steady.  All commendable qualities.
New to me news--the Avenanthramides--the heart healthy polyphenol found in oats :   Over at the USDA-Agricultural Research Vascular Biology Lab at Tufts University, Dr. Mohsen Meydani is the "oat expert".   It turns out that the polyphenols in oats, better known as avenanthramides, are the real power players when it comes to heart health.  First off, they prevent LDL from oxidizing, which sets the process of atherosclerosis into motion.  They work their magic by "decreasing inflammation in the artery walls, by limiting the growth of artery-stiffening smooth muscle cells inside arteries, and by preventing white blood cells from sticking to artery walls."  Harvard Health Letter, May 2010.
But it gets even better.  Meydani has recently found that the avenanthramides in oats are not only anti-inflammatory, but they put a stop to the kind of wild cell growth in the artery walls that starts the whole process of atherosclerosis in the first place--which can eventually lead to heart attacks.  As if that weren't enough--when you ingest these avenanthramides with your morning oatmeal, you're also preventing atherosclerosis by increasing artery-saving nitric oxide production in the endothelium or lining of your arteries. That's the "magic gas" that keeps the arteries relaxed and dilated.  And it's a dose-response--the more avenanthramides, the greater the nitric oxide production. Side benefit:  lowered blood pressure.  For Meydani's research click here and here.
Curbing colon cancer with avenanthramides, too.  We knew that oats and other whole grains helped to reduce colon cancer, but the mechanism wasn't fully understood.  Meydani's just-published research in Nutr Cancer 2010 Nov. 62(8):1007-16 found that the avenanthramides in oats tamp down inflammation in the colon, and inhibit the growth of colonic cancer cells.

John B. - January 27, 2013 2:31 AM

Mr. Max is a very good example what we can become if we dedicate some of our time to thinking what is healthy and good for our body. I'm a vegan, but I can't say no to some meals that can be considered junk. Especially now in the winter it is hard to me to keep eating as many fruits and veggies as possible and I stick to a bread, soya butter and jam.
The good thing is that we have many organic restaurants in Vancouver where I can go and eat healthy and enjoy great taste meals. It compensates my home behaviour. Anyway I feel good and still did not get cold nor fever, even though the temperatures are well under 0.

Sara - January 27, 2013 10:37 AM

Lisa- there is nothing wrong with steel cut oats for breakfast. Whole grains are good, green vegetables are better (way better). Are you trying to lose weight? If so you only want one serving of starchy foods a day, if not you can have more. Do you put something like blueberries in your oats? I go for green smoothies to get greens in .

Helyn - January 27, 2013 11:58 AM

Wow! I love Peter Max! How fabulous to know that he is a Nutritarian. He looks great!

Thanks for sharing that info on oats, Lisa!

Barry - January 28, 2013 8:29 AM

Gotta question for anyone.I bought the book "Eat to Live" and put the knowledge into action & acheived good success. But what primarily would anyone say is the difference between a vegetarian and a nutritarian. ,,,,,no dairy??? If not,,,is there something I'm missing here???

Sue - January 28, 2013 4:16 PM

What exactly is the definition of Nutritarian and how is it different from vegetarian?

Claudia - January 28, 2013 8:17 PM

Barry- The difference is that you can be a vegetarian eating a really unhealthy, low nutrient diet, in which case you wouldn't be a nutritarian at all. For example, coke and potato chips are vegetarian, but not healthy, and not nutritarian. Also, you don't have to be a vegetarian at all to be a nutritarian. A person can eat a small amount of meat and still be considered a nutritarian as long as they eat a diet that is mostly plant based with a high nutrient density.

Dalores - January 28, 2013 9:32 PM

Barry, a vegetarian doesn't eat animal products. They could still be eating a lot of junk food. A nutritarian chooses food that is whole food high in nutrition.

elizabeth sutaria - March 15, 2013 11:37 AM

The interview with the artist, Peter Max , was very encouraging to read! He is a great example to people my age
(65)to be committed to the "Nutrarian" way of eating so that people can keep on being active and involved in the
occupations they love because they are maintaining health
in their bodies!! I have just, really, begun this "lifestyle
commitment" to the Nutrarian way of eating with the goal of
losing weight to have a healthier life, in general. It is great to have a blog with encouraging and helpful comments
from an accessible community of "like-minded" people!Weekly food shopping in my neighborhood supermarket is like going to a nutritional war zone for me (at this point)because it contains so many low or "no-nutrient" foods and so few health giving ones!!

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