by Nikki Horvath
Growing up with a vegan mother makes for an interesting adolescence in the kitchen, especially when the rest of the family eats the Standard American Diet. I was always open to my mom’s “crazy” ways. I also thought it was cool that she was different from the other moms—despite not understanding all of her lifestyle choices. Then one day the flood gates opened.
I watched some documentary films I found around the house (The Witness and Mad Cowboy). If you’ve seen them you may relate to the overwhelming sense of emotions that followed: grief, confusion, anger, compassion and betrayal. This is where it all started—my inevitable exposure to animal cruelty in the meat and dairy industries. I couldn’t deny what I was seeing. But for me, making what seemed like such a big change from everything I thought I knew seemed like it was going to be an impossible task—even with having my own mother available with knowledge and open arms. Like many who embark on this journey I had a difficult time connecting the suffering of these poor, beautiful creatures from what was on my plate. I needed to cross that bridge at my own pace.
From introduction to intrigue I threw myself into the nutritional aspect of plant-based eating and veganism. While immersed in books, films, published studies, articles, lectures and the like, I came across one stand-out source of information—Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Many of the foremost experts on plant-based nutrition had an impact on me, such as Dr. Colin Campbell, Dr. Michael Gregor, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Alan Goldhamer, and enthusiasts like cowboy and former cattle rancher, Howard Lyman, and actress Alicia Silverstone.
While most, if not all plant-based doctors, nutritionists and health practitioners agree on 90% of what the others are teaching, there was something about that 10% difference of Dr. Fuhrman’s approach that screamed “YES!” to me. So needless to say when I found out he was coming to Chicago for a one-day health immersion, I jumped at the chance to attend and I was not disappointed.
While I’m very familiar with his teachings, there is always something new to learn from him. He stays up-to-date on the latest nutritional research. I also knew I was in for an entire day of light comedy–Dr. Fuhrman is a funny guy.
The event was a first of its kind as these health immersions are usually a full weekend instead of one jam-packed day of information such as this. We arrived bright and early. The lecture was to be held in a room fit for 400; I’d say we maxed out. As soon as the doctor arrived and I saw the man in person, I admit I was a bit star-struck. He warmed up the crowd with some jokes and gave us his first instruction—that if we don’t think one of his jokes is funny to laugh anyway because laughter is important to good health.
The lecture began with an overview of what he calls the “nutritarian” lifestyle and then more in-depth discussions on cancer and other all-too-common western diseases and food addictions. You would do yourself a great kindness by attending one of his live events, but here is what I found to be most important.
Here are the basics without getting too technical:
- Eat to live, don’t live to eat. This means your life does not revolve around food; food is fuel. Although eating is meant to be a pleasurable experience (when hungry), it is not the only pleasure in life. You should eat when you’re hungry. You should not feel you have a stomach just like you do not feel you have a kidney or a liver. If you can feel the fullness of your stomach, you have eaten too much food. Eat when hungry, and eat until satisfied but not full. If you have to, get up during the meal to better gauge your level of satisfaction and hunger.
- G-BOMBS: Emphasize the consumption of Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. These foods are nutrient-dense and proven cancer-fighters. Eat them daily.
- Beans are your best friend and the preferred carbohydrate source over grains and starchy vegetables. Hello, diabetics! Beans contain “resistant starch,” which are starch molecules that are not fully absorbed during digestion. This means the calories and carb content of beans are much lower than indicated on the can. The undigested matter acts as a prebiotic, ie. food for the probiotics in your gut. If you rarely or never eat beans, slow and steady intake is best for comfort. Bacteria in the gut and colon alter with the digestion of beans and are responsible for bloating that often occurs. Over time the gut will build up enough good bacteria to tolerate them in larger amounts. This is your best protection against colon-cancer, which is one of the leading cancers in America due to heavy meat consumption. In fact, those who eat beans just twice a week reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50%! (Note: Tempeh and tofu fit in the bean category as well.)
- Multi-vitamin supplements: They are advised but be wary of ingredients. Certain synthetic vitamins like Folic Acid, Vitamin A, beta carotene, Vitamin E, Copper, and Iron found in most supplements can be harmful and are easy to overdose when taken in [synthetic] supplement form.
- Animal products (meat and dairy), oil and refined sugars are the direct ingredients for crafting the American cancer pie.
Did you know?
- To obtain the full immune-boosting effects of onions, they should be chopped fine or blended before cooking. Most of us don’t throw whole onions in our dishes without chopping anyway, but you may not have known the health benefit of doing so. The cell walls of plants in the Allium family (onions, leeks, etc.) when cracked cause a chemical reaction that when eaten has these amazing benefits: 56% reduction of colon cancer, 73% reduction of ovarian cancer, 88% reduction of esophageal cancer, 71% reduction of prostate cancer and 50% reduction in stomach cancer.
- Oils are stored directly as fat within 3-5 minutes of ingestion. Oil is not a health food. Eat whole nuts and seeds instead.
- Mushrooms are extremely powerful against formation of tumor in breast tissue. So much so, that just one mushroom per day reduces breast cancer risk by 64%.
Foods are powerful. They are either a preventative medicine or silent killer. Prevention is the best protection.
Source: Dr. Fuhrman’s One-Day Health Immersion in Chicago. All statistics and nutritional information provided by Dr. Fuhrman during the Immersion.