To be healthy, you must eat healthfully. However, for most of us, there is an internal conflict — part of us wants to be healthy, but another part seeks pleasure without regard for the consequences. Fear of change and the temptation of unhealthy foods that you love can derail your best intentions. To establish a healthy diet, the key is to learn and practice until you prefer healthy foods over the bad-for-you options. (These concepts are explained in more detail in my books The End of Dieting and Eat for Health.)
The Nutritarian approach, which focuses on adopting a high-nutrient eating style, helps you learn to choose healthier options and then, eventually, only crave those good-for-you foods. Choosing the Nutritarian diet means you Eat to Live to avoid the need for medicines, to avoid the need for medical intervention, to avoid invasive surgery, and to avoid the medical tragedies that are so prevalent in our society. You decide to Eat for Health because you realize life is valuable and worth living fully, with your full mental faculties and physical abilities maintained into your later years.
Living a Nutritarian life is making the decision to maintain great health your entire life. Here, 8 steps to help you achieve that:
1. Understand food addiction.
Understanding food addiction is crucial to being able to make dietary changes. You may know that your diet and your health matter, but your brain doesn’t want you to change — your brain will always drive you to avoid discomfort. Changing to a healthier diet creates both emotional anxiety and even physical discomfort (or withdrawal), so your decision making may be influenced by your brain’s subconscious desire to avoid this discomfort.
Your primitive brain may be looking for rationalizations to explain why making a significant diet change is just not for you. This primitive portion of your brain can be your body’s worst enemy. You have to learn about the addictive nature of processed foods and make a commitment to avoid them for a period of time to break free of this addiction. The only way that works is to let no excuse stand in your way. There is a solution for every potential obstacle. It is perfectly normal to feel poorly for a few days, when you improve your diet.
2. Understand nutrient density.
My dietary advice is unique, because I focus on quality, not quantity. The most important nutritional concept is this: Health = Nutrients/Calories. For excellent health and life expectancy, focus on consuming more foods with a high micronutrient-to-calorie ratio. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals — they do not contain calories, but they have vital functions in the body. High–nutrient foods come straight from nature — whole plant foods like vegetables, fruit, seeds, and beans should be the basis of a healthy diet. The nutritional discovery here is that without adequate micronutrients, you’ll be overwhelmed by food cravings, discomfort, and the demand to over-consume calories, which derails any effort to lose weight or eat healthfully.
3. Change your mind.
The brain also wants to avoid being different from others in your social circle. Ask yourself, and honestly answer, “Am I engaged in eating behaviors that are detrimental to my health?” “Am I afraid to be different?” Even if those around you partake in unhealthy eating, it doesn’t mean you have to join in. You don’t have to share the pizza or eat the birthday cake. Gaining knowledge helps to enable behavioral changes — my readers and patients are successful because they become experts in nutrition as they follow my program. Know that heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer are mainly results of poor diet and lifestyle choices, not primarily the result of genetics or aging. Once you truly know the powerful effects — both positive and negative — that food can have on your body, you will feel empowered to eat healthfully and to stick with it.
The ability to make the right decision consistently requires planning. You need time to prepare and organize your life so that you have good-tasting healthy foods around you at all times to lessen temptation. Keep a weekly schedule to utilize your time more efficiently. Make shopping lists. Cook enough for multiple meals each time, so that you do not have to cook every night. Make sure to leave room for exercise, recreation, and spending time with family. The better you plan your schedule in advance, the easier it will be to adopt your new habits into your life.
5. Re-train your taste buds.
Like developing any new skill, it takes practice to begin to enjoy new foods — you may have to try a new food up to 15 times before you begin to really like it, especially if your taste has been desensitized by the intense sweets and overly salted and processed foods that are the standard in the American diet. As you learn to enjoy the taste of healthy foods, your desire for unhealthy food will continue to lessen. Try new and different produce, for example dishes made with artichokes or exotic mushrooms, and experiment with different herbs, spices, and salt-free seasonings to create dishes that you love to eat. Find hundreds of recipes in my Eat to Live Cookbook.
6. Embrace your natural sweet tooth.
Our natural sweet tooth has a purpose — sweets from fresh fruits and sweet vegetables provide us not just with carbohydrates for energy but also with a large assortment of phytochemicals and other substances that prevent illness. Fruit makes the best dessert — for example, try blending up some frozen berries and bananas with a little hemp milk and vanilla extract for a delicious and easy berry-banana ice cream.
7. Make the salad the main dish.
Leafy greens are the foods with the highest nutrient-to-calorie ratio — eat at least one large salad a day. I love to create delicious, healthful, nut-based salad dressings that add flavor!
8. Avoid nutrient deficiencies.
No one diet can supply the optimal amount of nutrients for everyone, and individuals have different abilities to absorb certain nutrients. One of the most important deficiencies to recognize is vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. Over half of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D. A healthy diet can also be sub-optimal in zinc, B12, iodine and DHA.
Read about Dr. Fuhrman’s eating plan to lose weight, prevent and reverse heart disease, and live your healthiest life in The End of Heart Disease: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.