Eat to Live

Eat to LiveI am reading the book Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. It contains a formula that as a math formula doesn’t make any sense. But as an idea, it felt like a revelation. Here it is:

HEALTH = NUTRIENTS/CALORIES

The idea is to choose foods that contain more nutrients per calorie. The formula doesn’t make sense for many reasons. Taken to its logical conclusion, the best foods would be vitamins and tea. The formula doesn’t provide bounds: it just emphasizes that your calories should be nutritious. However, too few calories — nutritious or not — and you will die. And too many calories — even super nutritious — are still too many calories. In addition the formula doesn’t explain how to balance different types of nutrients.

Let’s see why it was a revelation. I often crave bananas. I assumed that I need bananas for some reason and my body tells me that. Suppose I really need potassium. As a result I eat a banana, which contains 800 milligrams of potassium and adds 200 calories as a bonus. If I ate spinach instead, I would get the same amount of potassium at a price of only 35 calories.

The book suggests that if I start eating foods that are high in nutrients, I will satisfy my need for particular nutrients, and my cravings will subside. As a result I will not want to eat that much. If I start my day eating spinach, that might eliminate my banana desire.

I’ve been following an intuitive eating diet. I am trying to listen to my body hoping that my body will tell me what is better for it. It seems that my body sends me signals that are not precise enough. It’s not that my body isn’t communicating with me, but it is telling me “potassium” and all I hear is “bananas.” What I need to do is use my brain to help me decipher what my body really, really wants to tell me.

As Dr. Fuhrman puts it, we are a nation of overfed and malnourished people. But Fuhrman’s weight loss plan is too complicated and time-consuming for me, so I designed my own plan based on his ideas:

I will start every meal with vegetables, as they are the most nutritious. I hope that vegetables will provide the nutrients I need. That in turn will make me less hungry by the next meal, at which time I’ll take in fewer calories. I will report to my readers whether or not my plan works. I’m off to shop for spinach. Will I ever love it as much as bananas?

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6 Comments

  1. Philip Petrov:

    Come on! You are from an “Eastern country”, right? Well we do eat salads and drink vodka/rakia/whatever with it always before starting to eat. It’s not written in a book – it’s coming as a tradition from my grand-grand-grand-grand-…-grandfather. Don’t buy these junk books and start thinking about “hmmm, how and what did my grandma eat when I was young”. And voalla – you will be “healty” :)

    P.S. Yes, your grandma probably did not ever eat McDonnalds in her life, right? :)

  2. Joseph Gregory:

    Hello Tanya,
    My name is Joseph and I’m at your blog to ask if you would consider helping me with something. I have no right to ask, but I’ve been having trouble finding someone who might help. I’m writing a book in which one character has just won a huge lottery. I would like to get the time frame correct in reference to how long it would take for a state lottery to reach one billion dollars if it couldn’t draw a winner. Thank you for your consideration.

  3. Tanya Khovanova:

    Dear Joseph,

    The probability that the jackpot keeps growing depends on the number of people buying tickets. But when the jackpot is high, people behave like crazy and all start buying tickets. It is difficult to estimate this human component. I do not expect the current lotteries to ever reach one billion. I think it should be a new lottery, maybe an international one with different odds.

  4. Erik:

    Dont you just love these nutrition formulas? The word nutrition cannot be captured in a formula because there’s no single definition for nutrition! Your example with bananas and the potassium is not valid because of the difference in phytonutrients both bananas and spinach have. I you go for a run, for example, a banana would be more nutritious than spinach! If you have an iron shortage, spinach would be more nutritious! Unlike math, biology or nutritional science are not exact sciences!

  5. John the Scott:

    i found ayurveda to be an effective diet system with too compilcated rules.

    your body type -determined by the distribution of solid, liquid, fire, and gas- defines what you should eat casually.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_matter
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda

    unfortunately, for my tastes (npi), i’ve found that most books in the west are either too new ageish to be practical
    and that most brief summaries tend to put too much emphasis on the greek humor system, for some reason,
    instead of emphasisiing the states of matter that you and i known from physics. not sure why.

    fortunately, any decent yoga teacher ought to steer you to a Ayurveda practitioner. well worth even a single consulation.
    the best author i’ve read in the west is david frawley.

    -j

  6. John the Scott:

    oops. i meant to write “with simple rules” instead of “with too compilcated rules”.

    -j