Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a renowned physician and nutritional researcher, has penned several best-selling books on warding off every kind of illness (from the common cold to cancer) simply by changing the way we eat. His new book, The Super Immunity Diet, is based on his firmly held belief that food is medicine. His book relies on what he calls a “nutritarian” diet, based on foods with the highest nutrient per calorie density.
According to Dr. Fuhrman, most people’s immune systems are functioning at only around 50%. Science-based research shows that nutrient-dense foods packed with antioxidants have the power to double your immune system’s function so you can keep disease and illness at bay.
What’s more, as you age, toxins (from both the environment and your diet) build up in the body. By the time you hit your 40s, daily stress, hormonal shifts and years of toxic build-up create a scenario in which you can get sick easier and more often.
Dr. Fuhrman believes that his diet can help boost your immune system so that it’s functioning at 100% of its capacity. By eating nutrient-dense foods, you’ll scrub out and destroy toxins that cause illness, and help your body activate its own clean-up system to provide super immunity. You’ll renew your energy, lose weight, put an end to sick days and increase longevity. In fact, by creating a super immune system, Dr. Fuhrman believes men could live up to age 95, and women could live up to 100 years of age.
Dr. Fuhrman has studied the dietary habits of the longest-living populations around the world and found that they all have one thing in common: nutrient-dense diets.
Here are Dr. Fuhrman’s 4 key rules:
1. Base Your Meals on Phytonutrient-Rich Foods
These are the foods with the most vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (organic plant compounds such as antioxidants, including beta carotene, vitamin C, folic acid and vitamin E), and the least amount of calories. Phytonutrient-rich foods include colorful fruits and vegetables such as dark, leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers and berries. Dark leafy greens contain lymphocytes that aid digestion. Berries, for instance, contain anthocyanins and bioflavonoids that protect the heart and ward off cancer.
Many of the superfoods you are familiar with fall under the nutrient-dense category. See how some of your favorite foods fare on Dr. Fuhrman's index.
2. Eat Slow-Absorbing Foods
Avoid fast-absorbing foods such as saturated and trans fats, sugar and white flour. These “fast foods” create a high glucose response in the blood stream, spiking insulin, which promotes fat storage, weakens the immune system and increases your risk of cancer. By eating slow-absorbing foods, your body is able to properly absorb essential nutrients and use them to fight disease. Slow-absorbing foods include nuts, seeds and beans. The sterols and stanols in nuts and seeds actually help pull bad fats out of the body, allowing good fats to be absorbed to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, increase brain function and more.
3. Use Meat as a Condiment
The prime building blocks of the nutritarian diet are plant-based foods. Too many animal products in the diet raises the hormone IGF-1, which acts similar to insulin by promoting more fat storage and tissue growth, tied to cancer. Cut back on your meat consumption so that it comprises only 10% of your diet. The best way to do this is to use meat as a “condiment” or flavor enhancer instead of as a main dish.
4. Add 10 More Chews to Every Bite
Chewing your food facilitates the release of important nutrients and releases powerful enzymes that protect our cells. The average person chews each bite of food as few as 15 times. Try adding 10 more chews to every bite. Studies show that people who chewed more often also consumed 10% less food.
The Super Immunity Diet
By adhering to the Super Immunity Diet, Dr. Fuhrman believes you’ll be able to strengthen your immunity up to 10 times within approximately a 2-month period.
Start With a Hot Breakfast: Super Seed Oatmeal
Start with slow-absorbing steel-cut oats that promote digestive-tract health. Add some flaxseed, sunflower seeds and fruit, such as blueberries, packed with phytonutrients to also boost immune health. You’ll feel comforted by this dish's warmth and maintain a feeling of fullness longer than if you were to eat simple white carb-based cereals that rush into the blood stream too rapidly.
Lunch Should Always Be A Salad: Caesar’s Secret Salad
Make salad your main dish at lunchtime. Start with a bowl of leafy greens, the darker in color the better, such as phytonutrient-rich kale or spinach. Top with some of your 10% daily meat intake as a “condiment.” Dress with one of Dr. Fuhrman’s nut-based dressings, such as his Cashew Dressing or nut-based Caesar dressing which help to facilitate the absorption of the anti-cancer and immune-boosting phytochemicals found in the greens and other vegetables.
Stick With Stew for Dinner: Goji Chili
A veggie-based stew packed with beans that act as slowly digestible starches and phytonutrient-rich greens makes a satisfying dinner that’s also easy to prepare. Make it in advance and live off the same stew throughout the week to save cooking time. Dr. Fuhrman’s Goji Chili Stew is loaded with red beans, black beans, pinto beans and antioxidant-rich goji berries. Plus, it contains lively spices and herbs so you don’t have to rely on salt or sugar for flavor.
Dr. Fuhrman’s Never-Get-Sick Chocolate Cake
Dr. Furman’s “approved” cheat food is a delicious cake chock-full of fruits and vegetables. Enjoy a slice a couple times a week.