‘The American diet is dangerous’: What to eat instead, according to Joel Fuhrman

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“The American diet is dangerous,” Dr. Joel Fuhrman said to a crowd of 900 on Thursday, April 11 in the Utah Valley University Sorenson Center. 

Fuhrman is a seven time New York Times bestseller, a lover of the Utah ski slopes and a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

At the event put on by local restaurant chain Aubergine Kitchen, Fuhrman presented research and international studies all warning against the dangers of consuming the typical American diet. 

Dr. Joel Fuhrman speaks to a crowd of people in the Sorenson Center at Utah Valley University. Fuhrman warned against the dangers of the American diet. (Sydni Merrill)

According to Fuhrman, the typical American diet consists of mostly processed foods which decrease the quality of life and lifespan of the average American. 

The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, according to the CDC. Fuhrman said Americans are eating themselves toward heart disease, as well as cancer and dementia. 

“More greens, more beans, more nuts and seeds,” Fuhrman said is the best way to prevent heart disease, cancer and dementia. “They crowd out the unhealthy foods you crave and fill you up.” 

Fuhrman said the best way to live healthier and longer is to eat foods full of nutrients, foods that come right from the earth. Yet he’s found that only around 14% of the average American’s diet contains unrefined, unprocessed plant-based food. 

“My goal is to help you all become nutritarians,” Fuhrman said. “Which means you’re eating to live longer to protect your health, which then increases your creativity, mental function and physical health.”

A nutritarian is someone who follows a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. Fuhrman gave four key pieces of advice, applicable to college students and those looking to improve their health.

  1. Eating more nutrient dense foods will fill up the body faster, regulating metabolic rates and encouraging eating only when hungry.
  2. Focus on green vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale.
  3. Beans are highly effective preventative food, helping to prevent heart disease, dementia and cancer. If beans are difficult to digest, start with smaller portions and slowly increase bean intake over time.
  4. Oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, are better for consumption than animal produced products, such as butter, and better than no oil intake. However, nuts and seeds are better to consume than oil. “You don’t see oil growing on trees. You have to eat real food,” Fuhrman said. 
CEO Elcio Zanatta, left, facilitates a question and answer with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, right, and the audience. Audience members asked Fuhrman about their own personal health journeys. (Sydni Merrill)
Members of the audience smile during Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s presentation. The event was sold out. (Sydni Merrill)

Marianne Chambers is a sophomore at BYU who attended the event. While she said she is by no means a nutritionist or nutritarian, she is trying to be more health conscious. 

“I have to be realistic with myself, like with college culture especially. I’m not going to choose to not eat a cookie at a party,” Chambers said. 

However, Chambers said she is going set small goals for herself, such as eating leafy greens at every meal and adding more beans into her diet. 

“I couldn’t be a nutritarian tomorrow, but the key is small steps and consistency,” Chambers said. 

Elcio Zanatta, CEO of Aubergine Kitchen, said he hoped bringing Fuhrman to Utah for this event would inspire people like Chambers.

Zanatta first became acquainted with Fuhrman through one of Fuhrman’s books, “The End of Heart Disease.” Several years later, they both connected through their shared goals of bringing plant-based healthy food to as many people as possible. 

“Our purpose since the very beginning is to help people make changes in their lives for the better with real food,” Zanatta said. 

Aubergine Kitchen started in 2014; now, they are celebrating their 10 year anniversary with 10 locations in Utah, and their first out of state restaurant opening in Mesa, Arizona in September. 

“Food is everything that gives you power, energy,” Zanatta said. 

That is so vital for college students, those pursuing academics and anyone to understand, Zanatta said. He is a first generation American and his children are BYU graduates. 

To ensure he serves healthy food to his family and community, Zanatta said he always asks himself, “Would I let my grandchildren eat here?”

The event was the first of its kind put on by Aubergine Kitchen. According to Zanatta, it won’t be the last. 

BYU sophomore Hailey Allphin found out about the event because she and her mom are big Aubergine Kitchen fans. Alphin said she was excited to learn more about how she can be more intentional about the food she puts in her body. 

“We have so much power to fuel our bodies through food and nutrition. It affects not only our physical health but our mental health. The two are so interconnected,” Allphin said. “I don’t think we always realize the power that we have.”

Allphin said she wants to become more in tune with her body and listen to what it needs. 

“With college life it’s so easy to be on the go and prioritize convenience over nutritional value. But sometimes we do a disservice to ourselves because that hinders our academic performance,” Allphin said. 

BYU students can learn more about nutrition and receive free nutrition consultations through the Women’s Services and Resources Center. Consultations are free for everyone.

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