Women’s Health – Benefits of a Healthy Diet

mid section view of a woman cutting vegetables

Courtesy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman


Women have the power to live their lives in excellent health. The conditions that most often rob women of precious life years and quality of life — heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis — are prevalent in our society, and women are concerned. However, women must be made aware that these conditions are largely preventable with healthy lifestyle measures.

The Bad News

  • Each year, almost 40,000 women die from breast cancer and mammograms are not helping much.
  • Obesity rates are climbing and most women have given up on the hope of ever reaching their ideal weight.
  • One-third of all women die of heart disease and strokes and we have an epidemic of diabetes in women never experienced in human history.
  • More women suffer with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and autoimmune conditions than ever before.
  • One in three women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture in her lifetime.

The Good News

1. Diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds and low in animal products have been demonstrated to dramatically lower cancer risk. 

Each year, over 230,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed, and these incidence rates are not decreasing. Almost 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year.

Women need to know that they can protect themselves. Diets that are higher in whole plant foods are associated with lower breast cancer rates, and animal products and processed foods are associated with increased risk. Nutritional science is now revealing the powerful protective effects of natural foods against breast cancer, such as mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables, flax and chia seeds, and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits overall. Women can earn a profound degree of protection from breast cancer by incorporating these foods daily, getting regular exercise, minimizing animal foods and avoiding processed foods, alcohol and smoking.  

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 40% of breast cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle measures, and I propose that we can prevent much more than 40%.



2. Women do not need to die of heart disease and strokes. We have scientific knowledge that has revealed the nutritional causes of these diseases.

Many people are not aware that heart disease can be more deadly for women than men. 39% of women who have heart attacks die within a year, compared to 31% of men. During the first four years after a heart attack, the rate for a second heart attack is 20% for women and 15% for men. Heart disease actually kills more women than men. Clearly, physicians are not doing enough to intervene in this disease process and are not giving heart patients the information needed to protect themselves. Once significant heart disease exists, we know that the likelihood of those patients having future cardiac problems is great. 

With the recent surge in sudden cardiac death in young women as a result of more high-protein dieting and with the high-protein diet craze flooding the internet, the media and the stores, it is more important than ever for women to be informed that popularity and media excitement is not a criteria for value. Sudden cardiac death, secondary to an irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia), has been skyrocketing in recent years as women are eating less high-nutrient produce and more foods of animal origin.

High-protein diets can generate ketosis, which predisposes one to electrolyte imbalances and cardiac arrhythmias. Women must be warned. We already have medical studies carefully discussing the mechanism via which the popular high-protein diets can lead to sudden death.  

The deaths from heart attacks continue unabated, in spite of an overwhelming amount of evidence and in spite of a clear message from all respected health authorities to eat more fruits, vegetables and beans and less saturated fat, especially cheese, butter and red meat. We now know that it is not merely the saturated fats in animal products that are risky, but that there are additional issues too. New research has associated carnitine and choline with cardiovascular disease via gut bacteria. We know that animal products promote weight gain and are nutrient-poor compared to whole plant foods. We now know that egg consumption, although not raising blood cholesterol levels much, may be dangerous for those at risk of cardiovascular events, such as those with diabetes, and is associated with greater atherosclerotic plaque area in healthy individuals. Animal protein also elevates IGF-1, which is not only associated with cancer, but cardiovascular disease as well. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have now been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. Choosing meats that are somewhat lower in saturated fat is simply not enough. A vegetable-based, Nutritarian diet-style is the answer for a meaningful level of protection against heart disease.

Heart disease is totally avoidable. There is no controversy in the science on this subject. A vegetable-based diet, not a meat-based diet, is more effective for weight loss, and it can preclude the possibility of heart attacks from occurring — ever.

Dr. Fuhrman states, “When you normalize risk factors (cholesterol, body weight, blood pressure and nutrient deficiencies) with nutritional intervention, rather than drugs, you accomplish significantly greater risk reduction.” 

There are other favorable bio-chemical changes that take place, as well, with a high-nutrient diet style. As the weight drops, the blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure and cholesterol all drop dramatically. The body is flooded with protective nutrients that protect the blood vessels from disease and rupture. Luckily, even those people who have advanced heart disease can avoid future heart attacks and reverse and remove atherosclerosis. It is never too late to make the lifesaving change to a Nutritarian eating style.


3. With a  Nutritarian diet style, most women can reach their ideal weight even if they have more than 100 pounds to lose.

Unlike most weight-loss diets, a Nutritarian eating style does not use portion control or calorie counting. Women can forget about counting calories or measuring portions, and instead consider only the nutrient density of the foods they eat. In fact, people usually eat more food than they did before. When you eat high-nutrient, low-calorie foods, you can eat a larger amount of food while taking in a smaller amount of calories, which helps you to feel satisfied by your meals. Whole plant foods, because of their high micronutrient and fiber content, help to blunt your appetite and suppress food cravings. You never feel deprived, and it becomes almost impossible to overeat. 

High-calorie, low-nutrient foods (the predominant foods in typical modern diets, like processed foods, sugars, and animal products) activate pleasure pathways in the brain, similar to addictive drugs and produce toxic withdrawal symptoms often misinterpreted as hunger, leading to an addictive drive to eat more. These withdrawal symptoms, which are the result of the body attempting to detoxify, is also known as “toxic hunger.”

Portion-controlled diets do not work because they consist of trying to eat smaller portions of the same low nutrient, addictive foods. A body deprived of vital micronutrients will continue to seek food, as will a body driven by addictive cravings. 

Your perceptions of hunger changes as your diet improves. Read more here; “Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet”) in Nutrition Journal.

Healthful foods do not produce withdrawal symptoms; when the body is given vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, addictive drives are not activated, and there is nothing to detoxify.


4. Women can recover from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and autoimmune conditions.  

Chronic disability, fatigue and painful bodily symptoms affect over 5 million American women. Tender spots most commonly occur in the neck, spine, shoulders and hips. Headaches, widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue are epidemic. These complaints have a combination of causes, but they are primarily caused by decreased oxygenation of tissue, excess deposits of waste products in the tissues with resultant inflammation and nutritional deficiencies.

A Nutritarian program as described in the book Eat for Health is an effective remedy for these common complaints. Dr. Fuhrman has  treated hundreds of patients with chronic migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and have seen rewarding and predictable results. It is the rare exception that a complete recovery cannot be achieved.

Autoimmune diseases affect 23.5 million Americans, primarily women. Autoimmune diseases are one of the top ten leading causes of death for women under the age of 64. Conventional treatments for autoimmune diseases suppress the immune system to halt the body’s immune attack on itself. However, this makes the body more susceptible to infections and even cancers — one study found that autoimmune patients with the greatest exposure to immunosuppressive drugs had an almost 5-fold increase in cancer risk. In contrast, nutrition is a powerful and safe tool for preventing and treating autoimmune diseases. A high-nutrient diet combined with selected supplements, episodic fasting can help the body to calm inflammation and remove cellular toxins. (Learn more in Newsletter #16, Nutritional Care of Autoimmune Diseases, and in my books Super Immunity and Eat for Health.

Health is the product of healthful living. You do not have to be sick and suffer with pain, weakness, fatigue, disability and disease the rest of your life. The miraculous self-healing body that we have can restore you to normalcy. If the optimal environment for healing is established, then the body does the fixing. It may take some time. You may feel ill adjusting to high-nutrient eating, but in time spectacular recoveries are the norm.



5. Women can maintain strong, healthy bones even after menopause.


Bone fractures are a serious threat to quality of life, contributing to pain and disability. After menopause, hormonal changes cause an imbalance in bone growth and bone breakdown, leading to accelerated bone loss, high rates of osteoporosis, and increased risk of bone fractures among postmenopausal women. However, women can take advantage of the bone-building properties of excellent nutrition, exercise and intelligent supplementation to prevent this imbalance and keep their bones strong. The most effective way to strengthen bone and protect against osteoporosis-related fractures is by increasing muscle strength. Weight-bearing exercises are ideal for improving balance and building bone strength. Natural plant foods contain the minerals and other phytochemicals needed to maintain bone strength. Many studies have shown that those with the highest consumption of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds have the strongest bones. In contrast, there is convincing evidence that too much animal protein, salt, caffeine and soft drinks compromise bone health and increase the risk of fractures.

 Eat Healthy & Thrive



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