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Book Review (AND GIVEAWAY): “Super Immunity” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

By Visiting Animal — January 02, 2012

Suddenly, it’s 2012! Are we the only people who feel like we’re now existing in the future? Twenty-twelve… weird! Speaking of futures, this is the time of year when many of us focus on ours — reclaiming our health, making promises to ourselves that we will detox from all crap we inevitably ate during the holidays, and start fresh. For activists especially, taking care of ourselves is so hugely important. We need to eat right, get the proper amount of sleep and exercise, and foster healthy social circles — so that we can be well-positioned to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, the animals. There are only so many of us who are speaking up for animals (though certainly this futuristic year will bring even more allies and advocates). We need to stay in it for the long run so that we can truly change the world for animals. 

With that in mind, we felt that the appropriate way to start 2012 is with a review of Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Sharing her wisdom once again with us is guest reviewer, Carrie Forrest. This is Carrie’s second book review for Our Hen House. When she is not studying for her graduate degree in public health nutrition, and finishing the coursework to become a registered dietitian, Carrie loves to visit farmers’ markets around California’s central coast, and post healthy, plant-based recipes on her popular blog, Carrie on Vegan (which is one of our absolute favorite go-to places for healthy vegan recipes). 

In addition to taking care of ourselves, gifting books that focus on plant-based foods can be just the ticket to get our Aunt Ida to try on vegan for size. Even though the gift-giving season is officially over, the season of sharing scrumptious, nutritious vegan food is year-round. Super Immunity is yet another resource for us in terms of making headway with the health argument for veganism. Hook ’em with health, and while they are enjoying the benefits that come from eating this way, slip them a copy of, say, Eating Animals, and you have your very own activist in the making.

And don’t miss your very own opportunity to win a copy of Super Immunity. Read on for details (and for a healthy cake recipe that you absolutely must try). 


Eating Your Way to Super Immunity

Review by Carrie Forrest

For a multitude of reasons, I was one of those kids who was often sick. Starting every year in late fall, I found myself battling cold after cold, missing school and going to the doctor  — only to be prescribed another round of antibiotics. Up until my early 30’s, a plane ride inevitably meant the onset of a virus upon reaching my destination.

Finally, a few years ago, I started making the connections between diet and health. The turning point in taking charge of my health destiny was discovering the Eat to Live program (and the book by the same title by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D). As many of you may already know, Dr. Fuhrman — who has been featured on Our Hen House’s podcast — is a family-practice physician who advocates a diet based on the scientific evidence that shows eating a diet rich in micronutrients from whole, plant-based foods is optimal for human health.

In late 2011, Dr. Fuhrman released a new book, Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free, which offers more evidence showing how we can transform our immune system from weak or damaged (thanks to the Standard American Diet), to one that is of a “superhero” quality, and can ward off dangerous bacteria, viruses, and — in some cases — even cancer.

In fact, the bulk of Dr. Fuhrman’s advice in this book is about fighting cancer and building the strongest defenses possible against that risk. In Super Immunity, he cites research that “the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with an invasive cancer is 44 percent for men and 37 percent for women. However, because of the earlier median age of diagnosis for breast cancer compared with other major cancers, women have a slightly higher probability of developing cancer before the age of sixty. Currently, one in four deaths in the United States is due to cancer.”

While these statistics are scary, Dr. Fuhrman counters them with recommendations that can significantly reduce the risk of cancer development, along with reducing the risk for many of the other diet-related diseases that commonly kill Americans. In short, his immune-building advice centers around consuming a diet that is plant-based, consisting of primarily vegetables (especially green ones), fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

My favorite section of this book is the one entitled “Super Foods for Super Immunity” because it describes the research and mechanisms that give certain foods properties to fight both cancer and infections. The most immune-enhancing foods are cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, onions, garlic, pomegranates, berries and seeds. The point is to consume generous amounts of these foods because “phytochemicals are the fuel that run our body’s anticancer defenses.”

In the chapter regarding how to fight colds and flu, Dr. Fuhrman reviews the evidence regarding some common remedies, some of which he shows have not been proven to be effective. One example — the traditional “chicken soup” remedy has no scientific basis and, in fact, could slow the recovery process because the body has to work harder to digest animal protein. Other unproven strategies include taking vitamin C, using a humidifier, irrigating the nose, and taking echinacea. Dr. Fuhrman’s advice for when you are ill is to avoid unnecessary medications and supplements and to simply rest, reduce food intake, and let your body heal naturally.

Dr. Fuhrman’s comments on the flu vaccine are thought-provoking, too. As a future health professional, I’ve always advocated on behalf of vaccines. His point is that “the flu is not a dangerous disease in healthy individuals,” and that the evidence that the vaccine actually reduces the number of people hospitalized or missing work is shaky. Also, besides the fact that there are known risks to any vaccination — including the flu shot — the vaccine usually covers less than 10 percent of the viruses circulating. Other controversial topics he tackles include folic acid intake for pregnant women, the health benefits (or lack thereof) of coffee, pesticides in our food supply, and the safety of soy products.

In the chapter “Healthy Carbs, Fats and Proteins,” Dr. Fuhrman explains how a nutrient-rich diet contributes overall to a superior immune system. He addresses common nutritional myths that a very low-fat diet is healthiest (it’s not!), and that sea salt is not as dangerous as regular salt (it is!). As a vegan and future registered dietitian, I was fascinated by the research he presented on protein, including how animal protein increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the body, which has associations with increased rates of cancer.

Overall, Super Immunity offers a wealth of information for anyone wanting to reduce his or her risk against disease. Dr. Fuhrman distills the complex, scientific research into clear suggestions for the healthiest way to proceed. He concludes the book with a section devoted to recipes, using many of the superfoods he describes.

One of my favorite all-time recipes by Dr. Fuhrman is the one for a “Healthy Chocolate Cake,” which you’ll find below. While it is intended to be consumed on special occasions, it is indeed made from health-promoting ingredients and, in fact, is absolutely delicious. I have found Dr. Fuhrman’s recipes in general to be outstanding. If you are new to this way of cooking and eating, it takes a little while to adjust to the lack of salt and oil. However, I encourage you to read his books, check out his website, and discover for yourself how what you eat can drastically change your health for the better.

And keep scrolling for your chance to win your own copy of Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.


Healthy Chocolate Cake (re-printed with permission from the publisher)

Serves: 12

For the Cake:

1 ¾ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons baking soda

3 ½ cups pitted dates, divided

1 cup pineapple chunks in own juice, drained

1 banana

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup shredded raw beets

¾ cup shredded raw carrots

½ cup shredded raw zucchini

3 tablespoons natural, nonalkalized cocoa powder

½ cup currants

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 ½ cups water

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Nut Icing:

1 cup raw macadamia nuts and/or raw cashews

1 cup vanilla soy, hemp or almond milk

2/3 cup pitted dates

1/3 cup brazil nuts or hazelnuts

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Unbaked cake…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside. In blender or food processor, puree 3 cups of the dates, pineapple, banana and applesauce. Slice remaining ½ cup dates into ¼-inch pieces. In large bowl, mix sliced dates, beets, carrots, zucchini, cocoa powder, currants, walnuts, water, vanilla and flour mixture. Add the blended mixture and mix well. Spread in a 9 x 13-inch nonstick baking pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For the icing, use a high-powered blender and combine all icing ingredients until smooth and creamy. Spread on cooled cake.

Final cake with icing. YUM!


The publisher has kindly agreed to send a copy to one lucky reader! To enter to win a copy, simply make a comment on this post telling us why, as an animal advocate, it is important to you to stay healthy — and what techniques you use to do so. This can also include healthy resolutions or hopes you have for the New Year. A random winner will be chosen after Monday, January 9, 2012, at midnight, EST — which is when the contest ends.

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(24) Readers Comments

  1. January 2, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Staying healthy is important so that you can be a good example for others. You are living proof that this is the healthiest and best diet for people, animals and the planet. Lots and lots and lots of greens and green tea are my two go-to items for staying healthy!

  2. January 2, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Wow! Great giveaway! It is important for me to stay healthy because I work as a third-grade teacher. Students constantly come up to me to whisper in my ear, "Ms. Fleming, I think I'm going to throw up." or "My throat really hurts." By the end of each day, I feel like I'm wearing a cape of germs. I start every morning with a green smoothie that has LOTS of ginger in it, and that seems to help, but I still get the occasional cold, which make it really hard to be an effective teacher. (Particularly as I'm apt to get laryngitis.) So this book could be a real boon to my fighting off the multitude of colds and flus floating about my room. :) As well, being super immune to all the things floating around might make my friends and family think twice about "that crazy diet." They all think it's a fad and that I'll be over it after a year or two. Thanks for having this giveaway!

  3. Stephanie in NC
    January 2, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I'm a vegan and a nurse. Being healthy and vibrant shows people how wonderful this lifestyle can be. Not to mention I don't get the colds and flu going around the hospital!!

  4. January 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I am trying to influence as many people around me as I can to become vegan. If I'm not health, what's the point?

  5. Question
    January 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I'm curious how much the author stresses organic food. I would love to buy all organic fruits and vegetables, but often can't afford to do so. I have seen the list of foods that are safest and most dangerous, and the greens (kale, spinach, collard, chard) and almost all berries are heavily sprayed. SO, it is better to just not eat them? What's worse: Not eating those superfoods, or eating them when they are grown conventionally?

  6. January 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    It is important for me to stay healthy and energized-by getting enough sleep, eating a whole-foods vegan diet, exercising regularly, and de-stressing by socializing with friends- so that I can keep juggling all my responsibilities and still make time to advocate for animals. My hope for the New Year is that I'm able to achieve balance between my family, academic, advocacy, personal, and social commitments and keep all the balls I juggle in the air while expressing mercy, compassion and kindness to those around me. I realize this is an ambitious goal, so it is also my hope that I can practice self kindness and forgive myself if I drop a ball -I plan to pick it up, reevaluate my approach, and keep on making my best effort for those who have no voice. Finally, as mention in your last podcast, I hope to let myself fully feel happiness rather than work off a baseline of anxiety. Great review Carrie! I am also a graduate student in public health with a focus on nutrition. :) Keep up the good work, ladies!!

  7. Angela W.
    January 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    As a vegan who does the majority of my activism by being a positive example of veganism and helping people who want to transition to veganism, it's super important for me to take care of myself and stay healthy! I achieve this by following the advice of people like Dr. Fuhrman and Ginny Messina and Jack Norris (also yoga and trying to stay active). I'm also in school to become a registered dietitian and I'm so happy there are more vegans getting into this field because it's vastly needed. I'm looking forward to checking out your blog, Carrie! I would LOVE to win this book to add to my library of materials I loan people looking to get healthy on a plant-based diet.

  8. Kimberly Roemer
    January 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I am a vegan because I want to promote peace not violence. I eat well and exercise and thrive. My mind and my body are an example of how embracing peace does not mean deprivation but joy. I strive to be an example of what's possible when you say no to violence and sickness and yes to peace and health.

  9. January 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I ADORE Dr. Fuhrman and would love to win a copy of this book! Without our health, we have nothing. Our activism, our voice, our effectiveness at everything we do is no good unless we fuel our bodies and brains properly.

  10. January 2, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    there's so many people with the idea that vegans are unhealthy, malnourished and frail.. so it's important to eat well and take care of yourself to prove to them that a vegan diet based in whole foods, not junk foods, is the healthiest way you could possibly eat, and you get all you need nutritionally to be the picture of wellness! for myself in the new year I will try to watch my sugar intake.. I do eat well when I have my main meals, but I've probably been overdoing the sweets a bit.. all vegan of course, but not the healthiest things I could be eating :)

  11. January 3, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Dr. Fuhrman is one of my favorites and does an excellent job at explaining the connection between nutrition and health. He's inspired me to adopt more of a vegetable-based diet and made me step it up a notch while following a 100% plant-based diet. By achieving optimal health we all benefit both individually and socially because we not only feel better but are more productive in whatever we do (our career, our passions and hobbies, our advocacy efforts, etc.). If everyone in world adopted this approach it would have such a huge positive impact on the world we live in in more ways than one. Great review of Super Immunity! Hopefully it inspires many to get healthy.

  12. Tyler Evans
    January 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    It is important to me to stay healthy for the benefit of being around for my family for as long as possible. I am currently on the unhealthy side of things and am making strides to make big changes this year to become healthier in my eating habits. I would also like to stay healthy to stick around to spread the word of veganism and animal rights for longer, and to see the exciting progress that gets made as time moves on. Right now I am pinching pennies to be able to afford a juicer and a bunch of healthier cookbooks to transform our habits in the kitchen to be healthier ones, and to make a better me before too long. I'm excited to make progress this year!

  13. January 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Definitely right up my alley. I definitely think it's important to stay healthy so that I can be a voice for the animals! Can't be that if I lose my voice :) I plan on doing so by sticking to whole, nourishing plant foods this year (and every year).

  14. January 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I stay healthy by living in an area of relatively clean air, using filtered water, and eating organically as much as possible. I've been vegan MANY years. Every time I see something unhealthy to eat that I want, I simply remind myself - the illness/cavities ain't worth it.

  15. January 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I just discovered Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He seems to know the plan to live longer!!!!! I think it is very important to eat healthy in order for us to live longer and be an example to our children. Starting 2012 off right....with lots of veggies!!!!! ;)

  16. January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I love Dr. Furhman! How can we effectively advocate for others if we are not responsible to ourselves first. By choosing a healthy lifestyle you are showing that you care about yourself as well as others.

  17. January 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    it's important to stay healthy because it's one of those things that let you get the most out of life and keeping the body healthy helps keep the mind healthy too goal for 2012 is to try and do the most good and least harm... this includes staying vegan!

  18. January 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    it's important to stay healthy because it's one of those things that lets you get the most out of life. also, keeping the body healthy helps keep the mind healthy as well.

  19. January 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    This book looks great! I recently became vegan after being vegetarian for about a year and a half. I finally couldn't take the disconnect between my beliefs/values and what I was supporting through my diet. Now, surrounded by skeptics, I want to be the most vibrant, most healthy person I can be in order to show others that a compassionate lifestyle is not restrictive or some sort of fad, but a viable, healthy way of living.

  20. Sally Tamarkin
    January 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Our winner has been randomly selected: congratulations, Amber Shea! Thank you to everyone who participated.

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