Eat To Live! Thoughts and excerpts from the book that changed my life

hippocrates-let-food-be-thy-medicine-and-medicine-be-thy-foodThree months ago in October 2013, my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves to eat vegetarian for one month just for fun. Upon mentioning this little challenge to someone, she suggested I watch the documentary on Netflix called Forks Over Knives and if I was interested, she recommended (and let me borrow) a book called Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Then at dinner with my husband’s parents a few days later, they suggested the same documentary and also recommended the same book. First we watched the documentary — and we’re so thankful we did. Our whole entire perception of nutrition was completely altered, and I felt like we had been lied to our whole lives about what proper nutrition is. The two-hour documentary got a lot of its facts from the book Eat to Live. Enlightened by the documentary, I knew the book would be the real deal…and it was. (Just like the Harry Potter series; books are always better.) Anyway, because of the profound education we received from the documentary and the book, both my husband and I have maintained our vegetarian diet since October 1st, 2013. However, I will add that we aren’t nazis about it. On average we probably have had a small serving of meat maybe once every two weeks. It’s much easier than we thought it would be to go veg, and neither of us miss or crave eating meat. We also both love that we continually find new tasty menu items that we normally would not have ordered. Not to mention I’ve lost 12 pounds since going veg (with not very much exercise I hate to admit — probably averaging only once or twice a week). My goal is to eventually consistently consume 90% of my calories from a whole-foods plant-based diet. I also want to keep educating myself about nutrition from a wide variety of books/studies because I know that people are really good at summarizing (*cough* manipulating) data in ways that promote their own ideas :) That being said, the following information comes directly from the book Eat to Live and I have not cross-checked any of Dr. Fuhrman’s summaries of the data he reports about.

As I read Eat to Live, I marked all the pages that had information I wanted to remember. I’ve copied direct excerpts of Dr. Fuhrman’s book here and the material belongs to him. The information comes from thousands of studies which he cites, and if you want those, you’re going to have to get the actual book for yourself. My hope is that sharing with you the powerful and irreplaceable benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, contrary to the harmful diet that the majority of Americans consume, will usher you into a lifestyle of truly eating for optimum health!

Dr. Fuhrman, M.D., is a board-certified family physician and nutritional researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. He has cared for more than ten thousand patients and more than 90 percent of his diabetic patients who are on insulin at the time of their first visit get off all insulin within the first month of following a whole-foods plant-based diet. 

The killer diet:
This graph shows a striking correlation between heart disease/cancer and diet. Countries with the lowest death rates eat the most calories from unrefined plant-based foods. This graph is from the World Health Organization in 1960s.


The number one killer of Americans is heart attack, diabetes, and stroke (52 percent) and cancers are number two killer (38 percent). What causes premature death in americans? Yes, it is true that diets with excess fat, empty-calorie foods and a high consumption of animal products are contributing factors; however the most crucial reason is what we are missing in our diets by not eating enough produce. Americans consume about 42 percent of calories from fiberless dairy & animal products, 51 percent from processed/refined carbs & extracted oils, and only 7 percent fruit and veggies; but if you don’t include potatoes since they are mostly consumed in the form of chips or fries, the percentage of fruit and vegetable consumption drops to a mere 5 percent. On the contrary, populations with the lowest death rates from America’s major killers consume more than 75% of their calories from unrefined plant substances (whole fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grains).

Excerpt from the Foreward by Dr. Mehmet Oz: “Although the United States in the most powerful nation on earth, the one area in which this country does not excel is health. Ideally, Americans should be able to translate financial well-being into habits that lead to longer and better lives, untroubled by expensive and chronic medical illnesses. While high-quality nutrition is readily available throughout the United States, the American public, rich and poor, is drawn to eating unhealthy food. In a recent survey of 9,500 Americans, 36 percent were overweight and 23 percent were obese. Several reasons for this epidemic of obesity in modern life have been offered including advertising, the loss of family and social cohesiveness, the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle, and lack of time to prepare fresh foods. In 1978, Americans ate 6 billion fast-food meals and by 2000 this figure was 110 billion. I am a cardiovascular surgeon, yet I have become convinced that the most overlooked tool in our medical arsenal is harnessing the body’s own ability to heal through nutritional excellence.

The Food Pyramid and everything that’s wrong with it:
In June of 2011, the Food Guide Pyramid was replaced with “MyPlate,” a design conceived as a crucial part of Mrs. Obama’s campaign against obesity. Although My Plate provides a much better guide to eating healthfully, it still recommends consuming grains and animals products daily in every meal. Also, Dr. Fuhrman points out that foods are grouped in ways that don’t make sense anymore. Meat, beans, and nuts are all in the same food group because they are considered protein-rich foods. However, while nuts and beans have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk, meat is linked to increased risk. The truth is, most Americans still eat more closely to the old Food Guide Pyramid which recommends daily:
-6 to 11 servings of bread, rice, and pasta (remember that 98% of Americans eat refined grains as opposed to unrefined, more nutritious grains).
-4 to 6 servings of dairy, meat, poultry, or fish.
This diet is rich in calories but extremely low in nutrients, antioxidents, phytochemicals, and vitamins. You would be overfed and malnourished, the precise nutritional profile that causes heart disease and cancer.

Animal products and risk of heart issues and cancers:
All animals products are low (or completely lacking) in the nutrients that protect us against cancer and heart attacks — fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, folate, vitamin E, and plant proteins. They are rich in substances that scientific investigations have shown to be associated with cancer and heart disease incidence: saturated fat, cholesterol, and arachidonic acid. Diets rich in animal protein are also associated with high blood levels of the hormone IGF-1, which is a known risk factor for several types of cancer.

High levels of apolipoprotein B in the body is strongly correlated with coronary heart disease. Studies show that the higher one’s cholesterol level, the higher risk of heart disease. Animal protein is rich in apolipoprotein B and cholesterol and raise these levels in people; inversely, vegetables lower these levels. Your total cholesterol should not exceed 150 and your LDL cholesterol should not exceed 100.

What about Chicken and lean meats?
The China Project showed that consumption of lean meats and poultry still showed a strong correlation with higher cancer incidence. These findings indicate that even low-fat animal foods such as skinless white-meat chicken are implicated in certain cancers. Also, chicken and beef have similar amounts of cholesterol. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are cancer-causing compounds are more concentrated in grilled chicken than in beef. Likewise, studies indicate that chicken is almost as dangerous as red meat for the heart. The best bet for overall health is to significantly limit or eliminate all types of meat — red and white.

Animal products and risk of breast & prostate cancer
The China Study showed that even Chinese people who consumed the most animal products consume less than half the amount Americans do. It was observed in the China Study that as animal-food intake increased from about once a week in the lowest third to about four times a week in the highest third, breast cancer rates increased by 70 percent. Of note is the fact that fresh vegetable consumption was a control factor, meaning that the only difference in the diets was the varying addition of meat — yet it yielded a huge risk increase. There is almost no breast cancer at all in populations that consume less than 10 percent of their calories from animal products. Also, researchers at the University of Tromso in Norway found that lean women who exercise four or more hours per week have a 72 percent reduced risk in breast cancer than sedentary women.

An international study of men in 59 different countries showed that those who ate the most meat, poultry and dairy products were most likely to die from prostate cancer; those who ate the most unrefined plant foods and nuts were least likely to succumb to the disease.

Meat and risk of dementia:
In a carefully designed study of a diet with meat compared to a vegetarian diet, the subjects who ate meat, including poultry and fish, were found to be twice as likely to develop dementia than their vegetarian counterparts.

Got Milk? No thanks…
Milk and Osteoporosis
We’re taught that we should drink milk to help give us strong bones. But did you know that American women who drink thirty times as much cow’s milk as New Guineans suffer forty-seven times as many broken hips? A multi-country analysis of hip-fracture incidence and dairy-product consumption found that milk consumption has a high statistical association with higher rates of hip fractures. The only reason cow’s milk is considered such an important source of calcium is that the American diet is centered on animal foods, refined grains, and sugar, all of which are devoid of calcium. Any healthy diet containing a reasonable amount of unrefined plant foods will have sufficient calcium without milk. There are several other studies that suggest that dairy products are not protecting us from osteoporosis as we have been indoctrinated to believe since childhood. On the contrary, studies show how fruits and vegetables are protective against osteoporosis. Many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk.

Milk and other harmful ailments 
Dairy lactose is strongly associated with ischemic heart disease. Milk consumption is strongly associated with bladder, prostate, colorectal, and testicular cancers. Dairy fat is also loaded with toxins and is the primary source of America’s high exposure to dioxin. Dioxin is a highly toxic chemical compound that even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits is a prominent cause of many types of cancer in those consuming dairy fat, such as butter and cheese.

Cheese and risk of cancer:
In the past 25 years, cheese consumption by Americans has increased 193 percent. Cheese has more saturated fat and more hormone-containing and promoting substances than any other food, and the incidence of our hormonally sensitive cancers has skyrocketed.

Fish and risk of disease:
Yes, fish has Omega-3 fatty acids which are good for you, and I write what Dr. Fuhrman has to say about this a bit further down. But did you know that fish has been shown to increase heart attack risk if it is polluted with mercury? Keep in mind that even though in Finland, where men consume very high amounts of fish, their mortality rate from coronary heart disease is one of the highest in the world. Eating lots of fish exposes you to high mercury levels, which can promote lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation occurs when body lipids react with oxygen to cause a compound that plays a major role in the development of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Fish and risk of birth defects:
Higher levels of mercury found in mothers who eat more fish have been associated with having children with birth defects, seizures, mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and cerebral palsy. This is mostly the result of women having eaten fish when they were pregnant.

Fish and risk of cancer:
Fish is one of the most polluted foods we eat, and it may place consumers at high risk of for various cancers. Scientists have linked tumors in fish directly to the pollutants ingested along the aquatic food chain. In some instances, such as with the PCBs (a colorless, odorless chemical) in Great Lakes trout and salmon, it can be shown that a person would have to drink the lake water for one hundred years to accumulate the same quantity of PCBs present in a single 8 ounce portion of these fish. From flounder in the Boston Harbor to English sole in the Puget Sound, scientists report that hydrocarbon pollution from habitat concentrate in fish. Medical authorities suspect prolonged exposure to small doses of PCBs can contribute to a variety of human health problems, including developmental problems in children, liver damage and various forms of cancer. There are high cancer rates around New Orleans, where fresh fish and shellfish are a staple of the local cuisine. Those on high fish diets have lower blood markers of immune system function, representing a lowered defense against infection and cancer.

The bottom line: Choose fish over other animal products, but be aware that the place where it was caught and the type of fish matter. Salmon, flounder, sole, tilapia, trout, and cod have the lowest levels of mercury. Tilefish, swordfish, mackerel, and shark have the highest levels. Never eat high-mercury content fish. Don’t accept recreational fish from questionable waters and limit eating fish to about twice a week.

Stop wasting your money on vitamins and supplements. Do you know what phytochemicals are? The term “phytochemicals” refers to a wide variety of compounds made by plants that prevent and fight diseases and cancer. Although scientists have identified and successfully extracted some phytochemicals to sell in the form of a supplement, scientific evidence does not support claims that taking phytochemical supplements is as good for long-term health as consuming the plant-based foods from which they are taken. However, a whole foods plant-based diet doesn’t provide sufficient vitamin b12, so that is recommended to take.

It may never be possible to extract the precise symphony of nutrients found in vegetation and place it in a pill. . . . Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients, which work in subtle synergies, and many of these nutrients cannot be isolated or extracted. Phytochemicals from a variety of plant foods work together to become much more potent at detoxifying carcinogens and protecting against cancer than when taken individually as isolated compounds.”

Fun fact: A tomato contains more than ten thousand different phytochemicals.

Risks of vitamins and supplements
In some cases, taking certain vitamins show increased harm. We should avoid taking beta-carotene supplements according to the journal of the national cancer institute, the Lancet, and the New England journal of medicine. If you insist on taking a multi-vitamin, take one withOUT beta carotene or vitamin A because it may impair the absorption of the hundreds of other carotenoids which will hinder anti-cancer activity.  In a Finnish trial, participants who took beta carotene and vitamin A had a 28% higher death rate from lung cancer and a 17% higher death rate from heart disease than the placebo takers.

Heart attacks and strokes:
There are two components to a heart attack or stroke. First, you must develop atherosclerotic plaque. This plaque builds up over many years from eating a diet deficient in unrefined plant foods. Almost all Americans have such plaque, including the vast majority of American children. Once this fatty plaque accumulates and partially blocks a coronary artery, a clot can develop or crack in the surface of the plaque. This clot is called a thrombus, which can enlarge and completely block the vessel, causing a heart attack, or break off and travel upstream, obstructing a more distal coronary site. A traveling thrombus is called an embolus. Emboli and thrombi are the causes of almost all heart attacks and strokes.

Blood pressure and heart attacks/strokes:
True or false: a blood pressure of 140/90 is normal? False. It’s not normal, it’s average. This number is used as “normal” because it is the midpoint of adult Americans older than sixty. The risk for heart attacks and strokes starts climbing at 115/70. In societies where we do not see high rates of heart disease and strokes, we do not see blood pressure increase with age. In rural China the healthy elderly had the same low blood pressure readings as they did when they were kids. Almost all Americans have blood pressure that is unhealthfully high. At a minimum, we should consider blood pressure higher than 125/80 abnormal.

The American Heart Association diet recommendations (that may cause a heart attack):
-Total fat intake should be restricted to no more than 30 percent of total calories.
-Cholesterol intake should be less than 300mg daily.
-Salt intake should not exceed six grams of sodium chloride daily.

More than a dozen studies have demonstrated that the majority of patients with coronary artery disease who follow an American Heart Association step one or step two diet have their condition worsen. No study has shown that the patients who follow an American Heart Association diet can reverse of stop the worsening of coronary artery disease. Note that Dr. Fuhrman, who specializes in reversing patients with heart disease, recommends no more than 300mg of Cholesterol and six grams of salt per week. Numerous studies have documented that heart disease is reversible for the majority of patients following a vegetarian diet.

Fish and preventing heart attacks/strokes:
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that interfere with blood clotting. These fish-derived fats also have some effect on protecting the arterial walls from damage from other fats. However, increasing fish intake beyond one or two servings per week has not been shown to offer additional protection. The best way to prevent heart attacks or strokes is to follow a high-nutrient diet with little or no animal products, thereby ensuring that suck blockages don’t develop in the first place. Diets with adequate plant material get most of their omega-3 fatty acids from non-fish sources, so eating fish isn’t a necessity in order to get enough omega-3s.

Fruit prevents cancer and disease:
Scientific studies show a clear and strong dose-response relationship between cancers of the digestive tract, bladder, and prostate with low fruit consumption. Higher fruit consumption shows a powerful dose-response association with a reduction in heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

Vegetables prevent disease and cancer:
Vegetables have powerful levels of carotenoids and other nutrients that prevent age-related diseases. For example, the leading cause of age-related blindness in America is macular degeneration. If you eat greens at least five times per week, your risk drops by more than 86 percent.

In a study of adults in Germany, those on a vegetarian diet for at least 20 years had a 75 percent less death rate from colon and rectal cancers than their non-vegetarian counterparts.

Good to know…
Protein percentage per calorie of common foods:

1. Bananas: 5%
2. Brown rice: 9%
3. Corn on the cob: 11%
4. Baked potato: 13%
5. Regular pasta: 14%
6. Fruit yogurt: 15%
7. Whole wheat bread: 16%
8. Burger King cheeseburger: 21%
9. Meat loaf with gravy: 24%
10. Frozen Peas: 30%
11. Cooked lentils: 36%
12. Tofu: 44%
13. Frozen Broccoli: 45%
14. Cooked spinach: 51%

In conclusion:
In order to protect yourself and prevent or reverse life threatening diseases, cancers, and other harmful ailments, you should consume 90% of your calories from a whole-foods plant-based diet. Some people think that the following this regimen is “extreme.” If you care about your current and future health, it’s not extreme, it’s imperative. Extreme is the $20 billion annual revenue of the U.S. weight-loss industry, including diet books, diet drugs and weight-loss surgeries. Extreme is how Americans spent $307 billion on prescription drugs in 2010. Extreme is the costs associated with heart disease in the U.S. are estimated to reach $818.1 billion a year by 2030. Extreme is that in 2012, diabetes cost the nation a record high $245 billion.

If you want to live in optimum health, then start incorporating and work towards establishing a 90 percent whole-foods plant-based diet. In the words of Hippocrates, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Just for fun:
List and quotes of famous vegetarians.
List and quotes of famous vegans.


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