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The Cure for the American Diet: Nutrient Density

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The American diet causes disease. It is composed of 25 percent animal products and 62 percent processed foods and only 5 percent of calories from fruits and vegetables.(1) We could not have designed a more effective cancer-causing, heart-attack-causing diet if we had scientifically planned it. Our nation's food choices have produced a population with widespread chronic illness and health care costs spiraling out of control. You cannot escape from the biological law of cause and effect -- food choices are the most significant cause of disease and premature death. We cannot win the war on these diseases by putting more money into medical interventions or drugs. We must unleash the disease-fighting artillery in our own kitchens.

The key to excellent health and longevity is to eat a high ratio of micronutrients to macronutrients. Macronutrients contain calories -- fat, carbohydrate and protein -- thereby supplying us with energy. Micronutrients -- vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals -- don't contain calories, but have other essential roles. Thousands of these compounds work synergistically to detoxify carcinogens, deactivate free radicals, enable DNA repair, and maintain immune defenses. Lack of phytochemicals due to a low-micronutrient diet has an inevitable consequence: chronic disease. Low-nutrient foods also stimulate overeating. Low-nutrient, high-calorie food is known to be physiologically addictive, having effects on the brain similar to those of illegal drugs.(2) Dieting by portion control doesn't work because one is constantly fighting addictive drives. However, the drive to over-consume calories is blunted by high-micronutrient food.

I describe the basic principle of nutritional science with my Health Equation:

Health = Nutrients / Calories (H = N / C)

Your future health can be predicted by the nutrient density of your diet

The human body is a miraculous self-healing machine, but those self-repair systems require a nutrient-dense diet. It is normal for my diabetic patients to become un-diabetic, and for my patients with heart disease to have the plaque in their arteries shrink and slowly disappear -- these high-nutrient foods are powerful medicine:

  • Green vegetables contain potent anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates (3), and are the most nutrient-dense of all foods.
  • The Onion family contains cancer-protective organosulfur compounds (4), and consuming mushrooms regularly decreases the risk of breast cancer. (5)
  • Fruits, especially berries and pomegranate. Berries are full of antioxidants and are linked to reduced risk of diabetes, cancers and cognitive decline. (6) Pomegranate has multiple cardiovascular health benefits, for example reducing LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and accelerating atherosclerotic plaque regression. (7)
  • Beans are a nutrient-dense weight-loss food -- they stabilize blood sugar, promoting satiety and preventing food cravings. Regular bean consumption helps to reduce cholesterol and is associated with decreased cancer risk. (8)
  • Nuts contain a spectrum of beneficial nutrients including healthy fats , LDL-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine, minerals and antioxidants; they have significant cardiovascular benefits and promote weight control. (9) Seeds are abundant in trace minerals, and each kind is nutritionally unique. Flaxseeds provide abundant omega-3s, pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and iron, and sesame seeds are high in calcium and multiple vitamin E fractions.

Doesn't every American have the right to know they don't have to suffer a heart attack or a stroke? They can protect themselves. They could choose otherwise, but shouldn't they be informed of the most effective lifestyle to protect against cancer? Should they just be given drugs for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and more or should they know they have the opportunity for a complete non-drug recovery? I believe the time is now to take action and improve the health of our country. If we mobilize our resources to educate people of all ages, we can win this critical war against heart disease and cancer, which we are presently losing. We don't need to find the cure, it has already been found and it is sitting there on the shelves of our grocery stores.

Dr. Fuhrman is a best-selling author, nutritional researcher and board certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. Visit his informative website at DrFuhrman.com.

References:

1. USDA Economics Research Service, 2005. ; www.ers.usda.gov/publications/EIB33; www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodConsumption/FoodGuideIndex.htm#calories

2. Johnson PM, Kenny PJ. Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print]

Scripps Research Institute (2010, March 29). Compulsive eating shares addictive biochemical mechanism with cocaine, heroin abuse, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100328170243.htm

3. Higdon JV et al. Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic
Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007 March ; 55(3): 224-236

4. Powolny AA, Singh SV. Multitargeted prevention and therapy of cancer by
diallyl trisulfide and related Allium vegetable-derived organosulfur compounds.
Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):305-14.

5. Zhang M, et al. Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer. 2009;124:1404-1408

6. Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, Hu FB. Intake of fruit, vegetables, and fruit juices and risk of diabetes in women. Diabetes Care. 2008 Jul;31(7):1311-7.

Hannum SM. Potential impact of strawberries on human health: a review of the science. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2004;44(1):1-17.

Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr. 2009 Sep;139(9):1813S-7S.

Stoner GD, Wang LS, Casto BC. Laboratory and clinical studies of cancer chemoprevention by antioxidants in berries. Carcinogenesis. 2008 Sep;29(9):1665-74.

7. Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr 2004;23(3):423-33.

8. Bazzano LA, Thompson AM, Tees MT, et al. Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Nov 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1605-15.

9. Sabaté J, Ang Y. Nuts and health outcomes: new epidemiologic evidence. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1643S-1648S. Epub 2009 Mar 25.

Mattes RD et al. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. J Nutr. 2008 Sep;138(9):1741S-1745S.

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