The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1122: Can You Keep Fast Food from Killing You?

Fast food deprives the body and the mind of nutrition and sets us up for unhealthy behavioral patterns as well. How can we choose nutritional excellence instead?
Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Fast Food Genocide
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Can You Keep Fast Food from Killing You?

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Fast food is taking over the American diet, and the effects are deadly. Processed meats, such as pepperoni or bologna, could be considered carcinogenic. Moreover, highly processed foods and fried foods set us up for heart disease and dementia. All the foods in bags and boxes with white flour and synthetic ingredients are a major source of calories but provide very little in the way of crucial micronutrients. What can we do about this problem?

Is Junk Food Addictive?

People who eat highly processed treats with lots of sugar, salt and industrial fats may find it challenging to give them up. Yet the food industry may be aware that these foods affect the reward center of the brain in much the same way as certain drugs. Calories that hit the bloodstream quickly may stimulate the dopamine-fueled reward centers of the brain. How can we avoid junk food addiction and adopt healthier eating habits?

Feeding Our Children:

Kids may like fast food and sweets, but such a diet is terrible for their developing brains. What should we be feeding our children to promote their lifelong health? Can we learn to retrain our taste buds so that we prefer foods that are good for us? Dr. Fuhrman believes that unhealthy eating has a negative impact on emotional health and that nutritional excellence is therapeutically powerful.

What Should We Eat Instead of Fast Food?

Dr. Fuhrman recommends we focus on the quality of what we are eating. He offers the memnomic GBOMBS: greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds. All of these foods are rich in nutrients and absorbed slowly. Recipes such as fudgy black bean brownies use no white flour or sugar and fit well into a whole-food plant-based diet. The recipe can be found on Dr. Fuhrman’s website, as well as below.

This Week’s Guest:

Joel Fuhrman MD is a board-certified family physician, nutritional researcher, six-time New York Times bestselling author, and President of the Nutritional Research Foundation. Dr. Fuhrman is on a mission to wipe out heart disease, diabetes and cancer with his best-selling books and PBS television shows which detail how you can reverse chronic illnesses nutritionally and naturally. His newest book, (with Robert Phillips) is Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.
His website is The photo of Dr. Fuhrman is by Sandra Nissen.

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Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Makes 16 Squares


2 cups cooked black beans or canned, no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained
1 1/4 cups dates, pitted
2 tablespoons raw almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground chia seeds


Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Combine the black beans, dates, almond butter, and vanilla in a food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again. Pour into a very lightly oiled 8×8-inch baking pan. Bake for 90 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into small squares.

NOTE: These brownies can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week. For an added treat, serve with a dollop of Avocado Chocolate Pudding (page 296) on top.


From EAT TO LIVE COOKBOOK: 200 Delicious Nutrient-Rich Recipes for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Reversing Disease, and Lifelong Health. Copyright © 2013 by Joel Fuhrman, MD. Reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    I have diverticulosis and found that beans cause me pain that I fear can turn into a full-blown case of diverticulitis. I definitely can’t eat nuts (those have caused diverticulitis). What are people who can’t eat nuts and beans supposed to eat?

    Thanks for Dr. Furham’s talk. I went to the public library his book!

    I live in California and can always get frozen organic fruits and vegetables at my regular grocery stores as well as bulk nuts and seeds. A big chain discount store also offers many frozen organic items and beef and butter as well for reasonable prices. I hope that helps someone!

    This recipe sounds yummy; can’t wait to try it!

    Not everyone can be a vegetarian.

    I grew up eating meat each night at dinner, canned vegetables, tuna, occasionally fish. Homemade bread only but yes, it was white. Parents are alive at 90, sliding but alive. We just ate balanced meals..rarely anything in between. It’s all a matter of portion to me. I see when I eat out that the portions they give one person are for 3. But we are gluttons and want to eat it. We had pizza with pepperoni, and my mom made sandwiches with processed lunch meat for everyone as we headed out the door. I just don’t see what the fuss is about with food except for portions and snacking. Oh, and we had either cornflakes for breakfast or a pop tart. Probably a 1700 calorie day with walking everywhere and being fairly active without having to go to a gym. lol

    I never eat processed foods. When I shop for food and pick up an item I ask myself, “Did God make it or did man make it?”

    I grew up eating out of the garden. Fresh in the summer, canned by grandmom over the rest of the year. Granted sometimes cooked with fatback.. it is sad food I buy from the market more often than not does not taste like those fresh out of the garden. It would be wonderful to see the return of the village butcher, fish monger, farmers market with local sustainable food. But I wonder what the economics of that would be? And who has the time to prepare all that anymore? And maybe we should not be so busy?

    A lot of what Dr. Fuhrman is saying makes sense. Processed food drives glucose and spikes insulin. It’s convenient and it’s everywhere and it’s making us sick. However, his conclusion that we should cut fat and eat more carbs doesn’t make sense. That’s the diet we’ve been on since 1980 and that’s when the obesity epidemic began. The plant based diet that he recommends is certainly better than processed food but it’s not really doable. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are great, but our stomachs aren’t large enough to get our daily caloric requirements from them. The foods he mentioned that are dense in calories, such as walnuts, are too expensive to incorporate. So really what he’s talking about is adopting a bean based diet. Nobody is going to make that switch.

    Very interesting. The problem with recipes which call for various ingredients not used in most recipes is they sit on the shelf for too long.
    Better to come up with recipes with more commonly used basic ingredients, so the left overs don’t go stale and wasted.
    A software application built in conjunction with the health recipes – which will allow one to re-use the uncommon ingredients (sitting on the shelf after one use) would be ideal and good for the budget.
    P.S I have been eating nothing but a variety of beans prepared as curry for the last 10 years for lunch! Time will tell……

    I suppose it is sort of an “elite’s diet” but the information I found helpful to know.
    I can modify his recipes/ingredients to suit my life situation.
    Every little improvement helps.

    Bravo Dr. Joel & Joe & Terry! I appreciate your continued emphasis on improving our lives by healthy eating! As a health professional (Optometrist) I council my patients that everything they put in their mouth is either making them healthier or sicker. I love Dr. Kim Williams statement “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want it to be my fault.” Thanks for another great show!

    Congratulations on finding the Donald Trump of doctors. Obviously the premise is sound but as pseudo journalists don’t you have a minimum level of responsibility not to let him just make things up? Maybe not, but I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell can I get an hour to say whatever I want too?

    I guess I’ve never seen long term evidence that eating this kind of diet helps longevity. In fact with the people I’ve known on both sides of this debate the opposite is true. While we hear all about the bad additives in processed meats manufacturers of these products say that is history and not true in today’s world. Same message from the Beef Association. So what is the problem with these products today?

    As for myself, I never feel good when I go on more of a vegetarian than a normal diet. Never feel energetic and always feel unsatisfied food-wise. To me if the body craves something it probably needs it, in moderation of course, and that may be the real issue here. Personally, I feel the key to a healthy life is staying in shape with daily exercise, be it working around the house, running, walking, or using a piece of gym equipment and eating and drinking normally.

    I think the cost of these recipes is prohibitive for most families and retirees.

    Please cut me a break. I do not personally ever eat fast foods unless it is out of absolute necessity. However, my budget cannot afford the fresh organic fruits and vegetables you suggest. All these products are very pricey. I avoid canned foods and use frozen. In addition, most of these ingredients that are suggested for health are not easy to pronounce, and they are difficult to find in an ordinary grocery store.

    Sorry, Joel, but the thought of eating black beans and chia seeds in my brownies is repulsive. I don’t eat sweets anyway.

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