Joel Fuhrman on the Top 20 Superfoods and Why They Matter
Joel Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician, researcher, six-time New York Times best-selling author, and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. He writes about the importance of nutrient density—abundant in superfoods—in the following excerpt from his book, Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.
Understanding Nutrient Density
There are two kinds of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrate, fat, and water. Excluding water, they are the three calorie-containing nutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and they are calorie-free.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) contains too many macronutrients and not enough micronutrients. A micronutrient-rich diet supplies your body with fourteen different vitamins, twenty-five separate minerals, and thousands of phytochemicals that have a profound effect on human cell function and the immune system. Foods that are naturally rich in these micronutrients are also rich in fiber and water and are naturally low in calories.
The ratio of micronutrients to calories in a food is the nutrient density of that food.
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Given the thousands of fragile phytonutrients in a berry or a sprig of broccoli, nutrient intake is more complex than originally thought. You cannot buy superior nutrition with a series of health-food store supplements; colorful plant food is just too complex and complete with beneficial substances, many of which have not even been identified yet.
The secret to a successful, healthy, and happy life is to eat a diet lower in calories and higher in micronutrients.
It’s all about nutrient bang per caloric buck. The nutrient density of your body’s tissues is proportional to the nutrient density of your diet. My “Health Equation” represents this concept of striving for micronutrient adequacy in fewer calories to improve health and life span: H = N/CHealth = Nutrients/Calories.
The SAD does the opposite; it contains lots of high-calorie foods that are deficient in micronutrients.
To achieve superior health and longevity, we must eat more foods that are micronutrient-rich and have fewer empty calories.
Very few people are aware of this simple concept, which explains why oils are NOT healthy. They are rich in calories but are virtually devoid of nutrients and fiber.
In addition, eating fewer calories or moderate caloric restriction in the environment of micronutrient adequacy slows the aging process and advances health and longevity. However, what is also conventionally ignored is that little effort to restrict calories is needed once you consume a diet that is nutritionally superior. When you consume all the high-nutrient produce your body needs, you automatically desire the right amount of calories and no longer feel comfortable eating the amount of food that sustains an unfavorable weight.
In other words, it is actually difficult to remain overweight when your diet is excellent.
The Top 20 Superfoods
1. Collards, mustard greens, and turnip greens
4. Bok choy
5. Cabbage (all varieties)
8. Lettuce (Boston, romaine, and green leaf)
9. Brussels sprouts
13. Bell peppers (red and green)
16. Berries (all varieties)
17. Pomegranates and cherries
18. Onions (and leeks, scallions, and garlic)
19. Beans (all varieties)
20. Seeds (flax, hemp, chia, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower)
The more high-nutrient food you consume, the less low-nutrient food you desire.
Excerpted from Fast Food Genocide by Joel Fuhrman, MD. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2017.