“You cannot buy your health; you must earn it through healthy living.” –Joel Fuhrman
I’ve recently become a big fan of audiobooks.
I like them because I can listen to them while I’m out walking, running, or driving in my car and I cannot do that with normal books. Anyways, my most recent conquest on Audible was Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. It was a very good read (a very good listen in my case). There are a couple of things that set the Eat to Live diet plan apart from many other weight loss plans I’ve seen. First is the plethora of scientific evidence and studies that support the claims in the book. I’ve never seen a more comprehensive guide to diet and nutrition that uses actual research and data to back it up. Next is the seemingly drastic measures that the plan calls for in order to achieve a truly healthy lifestyle. Let me explain the seemingly part. If someone told the average Joe that he should be eating nothing but vegetables, fruits, and beans every meal in order to be healthy, that would seem drastic to him given the typical 21st century Western diet.
Yet, this is precisely what the book recommends.
On the Eat to Live diet plan, foods such as lean meat, eggs, fish, and olive oil (all foods that I thought were healthy and that I eat quite frequently) should be eaten sparingly, if at all. So this eating plan may seem rather extreme even to those who have adopted what is generally considered a healthy, natural, whole foods diet. Fuhrman uses the Health = Nutrients / Calories formula as a baseline indicator for any diet. In other words, even popular weight loss diets such as Atkins don’t make the grade because of the lack of nutrients. It’s not enough to cut out processed junk foods and snacks. Animal proteins are equally dangerous disease-causing agents. The premise of the book is that only a whole food, plant-based diet will provide the nutrients necessary for optimal health and disease prevention while keeping calories low enough for sustained weight loss.
How does the eating plan work?
Ultimately, 90% of food intake should be whole, natural, plant-based foods. Of these, green vegetables should make up the majority of what you eat. Beans and legumes are also a staple of the diet (which is a problem for me because I don’t like beans). The consumption of fruits (but not fruit juices) is allowed and encouraged. Whole grains are also acceptable but not a staple. All dairy including fat-free milk and cheese, as well as meat and animal products, oils, and refined foods should be eaten sparingly “as condiments” if at all. The latter category of foods should make up one-tenth of everything you eat or less. All of the recommended foods should be eaten in as close to a raw state as possible to preserve maximum nutrient density. For example, fruit juices, even when squeezed directly from the fruit, are less beneficial because many of the unknown micronutrients present in the non-juice portion of the fruit as well as synergistic interaction between micronutrients in both the non-juice and juice portion of the fruit are compromised.
What did I take away from this book?
Having adopted a mostly Primal diet, I thought I was in good shape. In truth, I probably am compared to the average American. But that’s not saying much considering these days, obese and disease-ridden is the average. Perhaps even a Primal diet shouldn’t be considered the benchmark. Perhaps achieving truly optimal health (and even physical fitness) lies in a plant-based diet. Having read about some of the feats ultramarathon runners Scott Jurek and Rich Roll have accomplished on a purely “plant-powered” diet, it’s difficult to argue against this. I’ve started to reconsider some of the nutritional principles I’ve lived by over the past several years. For example, the necessity of adequate animal protein to build muscle. I learned that calorie for calorie, broccoli has more than twice the protein of steak without all the fat and cholesterol. Just some food for thought, pun intended.
Do I see myself going vegan anytime soon?
No. I love meat and eggs way too much for that. I also love cheese and the occasional restaurant binge or junk food meal. If I were overweight, then I may need to take more immediate actions regarding my diet because my risk would be dangerously high. The main thing I gained from this book was awareness. Awareness that my diet, while perhaps better than most people, isn’t perfect. And while having adopted a better diet and fitness lifestyle than most people lowers my risk of obesity and disease compared to the average person, I can do even better. Potentially much better. I am not going to give up meat or junk food anytime soon. What I am going to do is attempt to eat more green vegetables and a little less meat. I am going to try to acquire the taste for beans. Awareness is a powerful thing. You don’t have to follow the Eat to Live diet 100% in order to better yourself. Making gradual improvements over time is better than trying to go all out and then giving up completely.