Dr. Joel Fuhrman, “Eat to Live”
PHYTO-CHEMICALS: NATURE’S “MAGIC” PILLS
While studies show the health benefits of a diet rich in unrefined plants, Americans continue to eat primarily processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. This trend has led to an increase in fatal heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Shifting to a diet consisting of 90 percent fresh vegetables, fruits, and beans would dramatically boost quantities and varieties of phyto-chemicals (essential chemicals found in plants that protect the body from disease) and improve overall health.
“Americans currently consume about 25.5% of their calories from fiber-less animal foods and another 62% from highly processed refined carbohydrates and extracted oils. Almost half of all vegetables consumed are potatoes, and half of the potatoes consumed are in the form of fries or chips.”
Only 5% of most Americans’ daily calories come from fruits, vegetables, and beans; the remaining 95 percent come from processed foods, refined carbohydrates, oils, and saturated fats. Conversely, studies show that populations in poorer countries consume more than 75 percent of their calories from unrefined plant sources— ten times more than Americans— and have lower death rates from heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Diets low in “nutritional quality” are killing Americans. The human body is designed to consume high quantities of plant-derived food. When it doesn’t, according to Fuhrman, cancer results.
Phyto-chemicals also activate other immune responses, defending the body against viruses and bacteria, and improving overall health. Fuhrman reports that less than 1 in 100 Americans consumes enough calories from vegetables to enjoy the health benefits of phyto-chemicals. To adjust this inadequacy, he recommends eating two huge salads a day— as much as an entire head of green lettuce. Many people don’t realize vegetables are high in protein. After all, the biggest animals (e.g., cows, gorillas, elephants) eat mainly green vegetation.
Fuhrman illustrates that it’s easy to get enough protein from plants and feel full without relying on fattening, cancer-promoting animal products. Fuhrman argues that Americans’ confusion about what constitutes a healthful diet is compounded by the nutrient-weight ratios of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which hide the nutrient deficiencies of processed foods. He believes these numbers purposely hide the low nutrients in some foods to promote the agriculture industry.
The USDA Food Pyramid, now called MyPyramid, contributes to this agenda by promoting higher levels of meat and dairy consumption than Fuhrman recommends. He believes the pyramid should place vegetables, not grains, at its foundation.
“Unprocessed plant foods contain thousands of compounds, most of which have not yet been discovered, that are essential for maintaining health and maximizing genetic potential. Welcome to the phyto-chemical revolution.”