Book Review: Eat to Live, by Joel Furhman, MD

Eat to Live Food PyramidIt’s high time I write about this book, and the eating style promoted in it. It’s gotten pretty popular, and was the number one seller on Amazon yesterday. I picked it up back in December and as soon as I got into the first chapter, I found myself wanting to chow down on piles of vegetables. Furhman does a really great job about pumping you up with all the details of exactly what each variety does for you. He packs the book with success stories, mostly of people who were seriously ill from the effects of a lifetime of eating S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) food.  He has heavily documented the volume, and as a family practitioner, he has really done his nutrition research.

So how does he say we should eat? Mostly vegan, or all vegan. Maybe a scant few servings of low fat or fat free dairy each week, small amount of lean poultry. But we aren’t talking boca burgers, vegan cookies or other processed vegan junk food—only whole foods. No refined sugar or refined white flour—the sweetest thing on his menu are dates. The main goal is to obtain the most nutrients per calorie possible, which means lots of greens, like kale, collards, spinach. Plenty of veggies and fruit of all varieties. A cup of beans a day. Raw nuts, seeds. Oh, and no oil. Yeah, you heard me right—that include olive oil. No caffeine either, including coffee.

In this book, he suggests committing to a six-week start on the eating plan. Like ripping off a bandaid—just jump in one hundred percent. Prepare, of course. Set a date, clean all the S.A.D  food out of your house, go shopping for greens and all the other produce. Maybe get a good blender if you can afford it.

So what are my thoughts on this plan? Most people will just shrug it off as way too hard. But it seems  the people who succeed made it work because they were scared, at the end of their rope, and suffering from severe disease caused by their poor eating habits and obesity. And you know what? It’s not as hard as a bypass surgery, or living with the effects of a stroke. And your tastebuds can change to like eating this way, really.

I did find by committing to it 100% I was able to stick with it for the full 6 weeks,  lose my taste for sweets, and even lost the desire to overeat. I still drank my daily two to three cups of coffee, as I’m very aware of its health benefits for many people (which I’ll post about later). Even while eating the vegan version of his plan, I wasn’t hungry, and by the end of the 6 weeks was 20 pounds lighter.

I only have two bones to pick with Fuhrman.

First, he suggests that folic acid supplementation at the level currently prescribed prenatally for prevention of neural tube defects (like spina bifida), might increase the risk of breast cancer, and recommends people on this eating plan not supplement with the full 800mg daily. Whoa. There is simply not enough evidence in the medical literature to make this extrapolation—much less to recommend stopping folic acid supplementation prenatally. However the benefits from folic acid in reducing death and disability by neural tube defect in developing babies are well documented. While I do recommend this eating plan, I always emphasize my firm recommendation of folic acid supplementation for women of childbearing age.

Second, he discourages coffee use. What? There really is some good evidence that for a lot of people (though not everyone), coffee is beneficial! So, yeah, I might be biased because I love it, but I’ll outline all the good evidence that supports my coffee habit in a post down the road.

Other than those two things I disagree with, there are really a lot of good suggestions and evidence backing them up. Veggies, veggies, veggies, y’all.

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  • Sarah September 22, 2012, 9:17 PM


  • Guest Posting today at Living Well Spending Less August 20, 2013, 10:38 AM

    […] me shed the pounds, check out my Magic Soup recipe-less recipe, as well as my thoughts on the book Eat to Live and on being a Cheating Vegan. Very soon I'll be plotting my Post-Partum Freezer Meal Diet to […]

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