As part of my work as a freelance writer I am often reviewing diet books and spend a fair amount of my time keeping up with the latest diet trends and reading the publications that are hot off the press.
You might imagine how wonderful it is to have publishers send you a continuous stream of diet books for free. At first I expected this to be a definite perk of the job. But after reading many versions of the same types of calorie-controlled diets, reformulated with a supposedly ‘new’ twist, I find I am often left feeling less than inspired.
However, every now and then I am pleasantly surprised with a diet program that, not only holds my personal interest, but also is also solid in its approach to nutrition that truly supports the health and well being of its readers.
Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free is one such book. It is written by Dr. Joel Fuhrman – who specializes in preventing and treating disease with a high-nutrient plant-based diet – and is also the author of Eat For Health.
One of the aspects of Fuhrman’s work that I appreciate is his emphasis on improving our health by paying attention to the quality of the foods we eat. Fuhrman’s philosophy is centered on consuming those foods that have a high ratio of nutrients in relation to their calories. By focusing on micronutrient rich super foods we can boost our immunity to ward off colds and flus, as well as protect ourselves from conditions such as autoimmune disorders, heart disease and cancer.
In Super Immunity, Fuhrman outlines how certain foods including leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, onions, garlic, pomegranate, berries and seeds can improve our natural defenses. All of his claims are well supported by up-to-date scientific research.
For example, mushrooms contain substances called aromatase inhibitors that significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer. “In one recent study, women who ate at least 10 grams of fresh mushrooms each day (equivalent to just one small mushroom) had a 64 percent decreased risk of breast cancer. Even more dramatic protection was gained by women who ate 10 grams of mushrooms and consumed green tea daily.” (Up to 89 percent decrease in risk.)
In addition to emphasizing immune-strengthening and cancer-fighting foods, Fuhrman outlines guidelines to help readers to adapt a Super Immunity diet.
- Focus on foods that are high in nutrients and prepare meals at home.
- Eat at least one large green salad every day and ideally two.
- Include at least an ounce of raw nuts and seeds and one serving of beans in the diet every day.
- Preferably avoid animal products but at least limit intake to 10 oz. per week for women and 12 oz. per week for men.
- Fruits and vegetables should comprise 90% of your caloric intake.
A two-week meal plan is included along with 85 ‘super immunity’ recipes. The meal plan is vegan but a few of the recipes provide options for dieters who prefer not to completely eliminate animal products.
Fuhrman is not an advocate of a 100% raw diet, so the recipes include a combination of raw and cooked meals. The emphasis is on whole foods, so oils are used very sparingly, with raw nuts and seeds being the main source of fat in the diet.
Fruits and vegetables form the basis of every meal and portion sizes are generous, so you certainly won’t go hungry on this plan. However, because of the high fiber and water content of the meals, the diet is naturally low in calories, making it a perfect program for dieters who want to lose weight but also enjoy eating large meals.
Here is an example of a day’s eating on the Super Immunity Plan:
Forbidden Rice Pudding (ingredients include black rice, soy or almond milk, dried apple, wild blueberries, cinnamon and vanilla)
Spinach Salad with Strawberry Sesame Vinaigrette
Tangy White Beans and Zucchini
Raw snow peas, broccoli and carrots
Island Black Bean Dip
Braised Kale and Squash with pumpkin seeds
Black Cherry Sorbet
Super Immunity includes recipes for both raw and cooked plant-based meals and will appeal to vegans as well as anyone interested in improving their health through a better diet. For those of us who prefer to eat a raw food diet here is a list of some of the raw food recipes included in this book:
- Cinnamon Apple Omega Milk
- Detox Green Tea
- Waldorf Blended Salad
- Marinated Kale Salad
- Rainbow Chopped Salad
- Triple Treat Cabbage Salad
- Golden Onion Morsels
- Chunky Blueberry Walnut Sorbet
- Coconut Carrot Cream Pie
- Golden Delicious Truffles
Overall I found the book to be an enjoyable read and I picked up on a few key concepts that will no doubt improve my overall diet: like ensuring a daily intake of ‘super fruits’ like pomegranate, goji berries, acai, mulberries and, well, all kinds of berries actually. I’ll also be looking at more ways to incorporate cruciferous vegetables and mushrooms into my regular eating schedule.
While these are factors that I already was aware of, it is helpful to be reminded of the reasons why these foods are so good for us, because this helps to maintain the motivation to be consistent in making intelligent food choices.
The following is a salad recipe that I adapted from one of the recipes in the book. The original recipe called for toasted pecans in place of the pine nuts and spinach instead of romaine, but if those ingredients are appealing you might like to try it that way as well.
Strawberry Romaine Salad with Pine Nuts and Strawberry Sesame Vinaigrette
For the Salad:
½ cup raw pine nuts
12 ounces romaine lettuce
1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
For the Dressing:
2 cups fresh strawberries
4 pitted dates
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Place salad ingredients in a bowl. Blend dressing ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth. Pour over salad.