“Super Immunity” is a book reading which one is forced to raise her eyebrows in admiration, astonishment and apprehension – all in equal measure. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a well renowned nutritionist and bestselling author, in his thought provoking work, argues as to why and how a combination of Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds (“GBOMBS”) not only bestow Super Immunity, but also ward off diseases from niggling infections to deadly cancers. Dr. Furhman also treads into contested and controversial territory by advocating for keeping vaccines at bay and non-consumption of folic acid during pregnancy. Lest I be accused of getting ahead of myself, let me first begin setting out the theme that forms the cornerstone of Dr. Fuhrman’s book.
Dr. Fuhrman exhorts us to make Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds an indispensable part of our everyday diet. Banking on empirical research, he states, “a review of more than 206 epidemiological studies shows that the consumption of green vegetables has the most consistent and powerful association with the reduction of cancer of all types, including stomach, pancreas, colon and breast.” Among the greens, Dr. Fuhrman places high emphasis on Cruciferous vegetables. Some of the vegetables coming under this category and getting a distinguished mention in Dr. Fuhrman’s work are:
- Bok Choi;
- Brussels sprout;
- Kale; and
Dr. Fuhrman urges us to blend, chop and chew these vegetables with a view to freeing Sulphur compounds from the cell walls and thereby boosting immunity and keeping colon, stomach and other cancers at bay.
Waxing eloquent on the power of mushrooms, Dr. Fuhrman informs his readers that mushrooms are a repository of “lectins”, proteins that bind only to abnormal cells, before destroying such cells thereby making dangerous replications an impossibility. Again, banking on empirical research, he says, “in one recent study, women who ate at least 10 grams of mushrooms a day (equivalent to one small mushroom) had a 64 percent decrease in breast cancer.”
Dr. Fuhrman also waxes eloquent on the allium family of vegetables consisting of onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and scallions. According to him, these add more than just flavour to one’s diet. They add anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant compounds. Again research comes to the rescue. “Onion intake scrutinized in a case-control multi country study, the highest consumers of onions had less than half as many cancers compared to people who rarely consumed onions.”
- A database of Research
Dr. Fuhrman does not pull evidence and statistics out of thin air or try to pull rabbits out of a magic hat. He derives his findings as a result of painstaking statistics from various credible and reputed sources. One prominent go to source for Dr. Fuhrman seems to be the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR), a leading journal and database for systematic reviews in health care. CDSR includes Cochrane Reviews (systematic reviews) and protocols for Cochrane Reviews as well as editorials and supplements.
- Patient Testimony
Dr. Fuhrman’s book is interspersed with glowing testimonies from various patients who seemingly have come back from the brink of perdition to a life of miraculous recovery and contentment. These list of ailments from the clutch of which these patients have been liberated from includes autoimmune disorders of the likes of lupus and infections such as influenza etc.
The last sixty pages of Dr. Fuhrman’s book is devoted to a plethora of recipes using the various ingredients that are extolled throughout the book. Categorised into Breakfast recipes; Smoothies, Blended Salads and Other Drinks; Salads and Salad Dressings; Dips, Snacks and Condiments; Soups; Main Dishes; Pita/Wrap Stuffers; Desserts; and Recipes with Nonvegan Options, these recipes obtain a special mention from Dr. Fuhrman in so far as their nutritional virtues are concerned.
- Fuhrman’s Food Pyramid
The entire book can be encapsulated in an interesting food pyramid where unlike in a conventional pyramid the foods of importance are placed along the base, while the ones to be avoided at all costs are positioned at the apex. The idea behind this unconventional thinking, as expressed by Dr. Fuhrman being, “instead of considering adding protective fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and nuts to our disease causing diet, we must make these foods the main focus of the diet itself.”
“Super Immunity” is not with its fair share of controversial proclamations. Dr. Fuhrman rails against the administration of commonly used medication for the treatment of cold and flu. Targeted for their supposed lack of efficacy are cough suppressants such as Dextromethorphan and Codeine; antihistamines and decongestants; medications such as Ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) and Aspirin; and Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Even traditional remedies such as Chicken soup, Steam inhalation, increased intake of fluids, Nasal Saline Irrigation and Vitamin C are not spared.
If this sounds a tad bit radical, be prepared for what comes next. Going against the grain of popular convention and received wisdom, Dr. Fuhrman astonishingly rallied against the use of folic acid by pregnant women. “Getting enough folate from natural foods can keep cancers from starting, by repairing errors in DNA, but folic acid appears to feed tumor development and promote carcinogenesis. In light of this research, I do not include folic acid in my multivitamin or prenatal vitamin. I do not recommend that pregnant women take a prenatal that contains folic acid.”
While pressing hard for the liberal use of cruciferous vegetables and seeds in abundance is one thing, a sensational call for abdicating flu vaccines and abhorring antibiotics even when one’s sputum is greenish yellow in colour is a totally different thing altogether. Such discomfiting philosophy, to me personally at least, seems akin to throwing the baby out along with the bath water.
“Super Immunity”, on the whole is a thought provoking book that while providing most answers, throws up an equal number of questions as well. But one thing is clear. In a world swamped by processed edibles, junk foods, carbonated drinks and unhealthy eating, Dr. Fuhrman’s book plays a key role in both acting as a wake-up call and pointing the right way forward in setting this dangerous imbalance right.