The Eat to Live Diet is a diet style created by family physician Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who was also featured on Dr. Oz’s show, that focuses on nutrient-dense unrefined foods. Dr. Fuhrman points out that the standard American diet (or the USDA’s recommended food pyramid) is rich in calories but low in nutrients resulting in an overfed and malnourished population.
According to his book Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, the key to losing weight is to eat foods that have a high amount of nutrients per each calorie. This concept can be expressed in the equation: Health = Nutrients/Calories. According to Dr. Fuhrman, nutrients are noncaloric food factors such as minerals, fibers, vitamins and phytochemicals.
According to USDA Economic Research Service, on average, people in the US consume 62% of calories from refined and processed foods, 25.5% from dairy and animal foods, and 12.5% from fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Dr. Fuhrman explains that this common American diet mainly comprised of refined and highly processed foods are preventing people from getting much-needed nutrients. When we don’t eat nutrient-rich foods, we build up toxic waste products in our system. This in turn makes us gain weight and makes us hungry. In addition, he mentions, processed foods are addictive.
In the Eat to Live diet, Dr. Fuhrman recommends eliminating or drastically reducing processed foods and animal products including dairy. He recommends radically increasing unrefined plant foods, mainly non-starchy vegetables and fruits. He believes that reducing animal products will not only help with weight loss but also with reducing cancer risks.
If you are worried about not getting enough calcium due to elimination or reduction of dairy products, Dr. Fuhrman states that fruits and vegetables are the best foods for bones, and that you can get lots of usable calcium from foods and vegetables. As a matter of fact, he mentions, a diet containing a reasonable amount of unrefined plant foods will provide sufficient calcium without dairy products.
Some people may be afraid that this diet is tasteless, and Dr. Fuhrman states that your taste buds can be changed and eventually you will find eating healthy foods pleasurable.
One great thing about the diet is that there is no calorie counting. As a matter of fact, given the foods that are allowed on the diet, some people may even have difficulty consuming enough calories.
Alanis Morissette has reportedly successfully lost 20 pounds with this diet.
Eat to Live Diet Programs
In his book, Eat to Live, Dr. Fuhrman lays out 2 eating plans, the 6 Week Plan and the Life Plan. The suggested method is to do the 6 Week Plan first, which is very strict, and then transition to the Life Plan, which allows some cheating.
#1 – 6 Week Plan
Here is what you can and cannot eat during the 6-week period.
You can eat an UNLIMITED amount of:
All raw vegetables (including salads). Goal should be 1 pound (16 ounces) per day.
* A pound of raw vegetables is usually less than 100 calories
* Example: a small head of romaine lettuce and 2 bell peppers
Steamed or cooked green vegetables. Goal of 1 pound per day.
* Example: 2 cups of cooked broccoli and 1 cup of cooked brussels sprouts
Non-green but nutrient-dense vegetables such as eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and cauliflower.
Beans, tofu, legumes, bean sprouts. Goal of 1 cup per day.
Fresh fruits. Goal of 4 fruits per day (NO FRUIT JUICE).
Overall goal for vegetables is to eat at least 1 pound of raw veggies AND 1 pound of green veggies per day.
You can eat a LIMITED amount of:
- Whole grains. Up to 1 cup or 1 serving per day.
- Cooked starchy vegetables. Up to 1 cup or 1 serving per day.
- Raw seeds and nuts. Up to 1 ounce per day.
- Avocado. Up to 2 ounces per day.
- Dried fruit. Up to 2 tablespoons per day.
- Ground flaxseed. Up to 1 tablespoon per day.
You must ELIMINATE:
- Animal products
- Dairy products
- Fruit juice
- Snacks in between meals
#2 – Life Plan
After the 6 week plan, Dr. Fuhrman recommends moving on to and sticking to the Life Plan which offers more choices.
Here is a gist of what you can eat during the Life Plan.
- 90% unrefined plant foods (vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, seeds, whole grains). See below for how much of each*.
- 10% rest
The 10% is basically the portion that you can incorporate cheat foods, such as meats, dairy, and sweets. The book recommends that you limit these low-nutrient foods to 150 calories per day for women and 200 calories per day for men.
*Below is the percentage of daily calories Dr. Fuhrman recommends for each food item.
Vegetables: 30-60% of total calories, 50% raw and 50% cooked recommended
Fruits: 10-40% of total calories
Beans and legumes: 10-40% of total calories
Seeds, nuts, avocados: 10-40% of total calories
Potatoes and whole grains: 20% or less of total calories
Oil, eggs, fish, fat-free dairy, poultry: 10% or less of total calories
Processed foods, sweets, beef, cheese: Sparingly
Recommended Meals Under the Eat to Live Diet
Dr. Fuhrman recommends that you eat 2 HUGE salads a day, with the goal of consuming an entire head of romaine or other green lettuce daily.
Berries and fruits are great for breakfast.
Making a large pot of vegetable bean soup once a week is an excellent idea and will last multiple meals.
According to Dr. Fuhrman, the most powerful cancer-fighting foods are greens, onions, mushrooms, beans, and seeds (“GOMBS”) and they are recommended highly.
The Eat to Live book contains tons of other health and diet information. Several other interesting points he mentions are:
- Elimination of caffeine or limiting to at most 1 cup per day is recommended.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements are recommended as well as Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Alcohol consumption should be restricted.
- The most nutrient-dense foods of all foods are leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach.
There are some delicious looking recipes in the book as well, which will make following the diet a lot easier.
Video: Interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Here is a video of an interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman that summarizes his concept and the Eat to Live diet.