My Notes from Super Immunity, by Joel Fuhrman


These are the notes I took, for my own use, from Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity. I just pasted them directly from my Evernote account, so they’re not well organized. I offer them with zero guarantee of accuracy or correct interpretation of the information in the book. 🙂

The focus of nutrition study and advice has been on macronutrients instead of micronutrients.

Plant foods are high in phytochemicals, which may be the most important element in protecting ourselves against disease.

Multivitamins oversimplify by packing lots of only known micronutrients — there are probably hundreds or thousands or others that we don’t know about yet.

Superfoods chapter

Cruciferous vegetables are the most powerful immune-boosting, health promoting foods. Twice as powerful as other plant foods. Arugula, bok choy, broccoli/rabe/ini, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, red cabbage, turnip greens, watercress.

Eat 3 servings of fresh fruit a day, 8 servings of vegetables, including 2 servings of cruciferous vegetables. Raw is best for cruciferous vegetables, and make sure they’re finely chopped, chewed, or blended.

Mushrooms drastically reduce breast cancer risk, and many others. Cooked mushrooms are just as powerful.

Onions and garlic are another great immunity food. Chopping them releases phyonutrients, so chop fine and let sit a bit before cooking.
1/2 cup onion daily has huge links to cancer reduction.

Best seeds — flax, sunflower, pumpkin, chia, sesame (most calcium of any food)

GOMBBS — Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Beans, Berries/Pomegranate, Seeds

Zinc is potentially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians who do not have adequate levels (most will not, except those eating lots of beans and seeds). Vitamin D is useful. Elderberry and berry flavanoids useful. Resveratrol possibly useful.


Health = Nutrients divided by calories (assuming adequate calories for energy). So the goal is to maximize nutrients while minimizing calories, assuming we meet caloric needs.

Macronutrient ratio is not important within wide, acceptable ranges — for example, although fat percentage of less than 10% is not healthful, there’s hasn’t been a difference shown in the health of a 15% fat diet versus one of 30% fat, assuming the same types of foods in the diets.

Instead, the single most important indicator of the healthfulness of a diet seems to be what percentage of the diet is vegetables.

Carbohydrate should be low glycemic and provide micronutrients, unlike processed grains and sugars and white potatoes. White refined grains and sugars promote disease, including cancer. No maple syrup or anything similar — he doesn’t recommend a sweetener, that I saw.

Whole wheat bread isn’t much better than white. He doesn’t mention wheat pasta much, but I’m guessing it’s the same story. Instead, get carbohydrate from beans, tomatoes, vegetables, seeds.

Fat — very important for absorption of nutrients, for example, salad nutrients are much better absorbed with a higher-fat dressing (nut based) than one without any fat. Nuts are so much better than oil. Oil, even cold-pressed olive oil is low in nutrients and is really only a calorie source. The nutrients are in the plant the oil was removed from — it’s hard to even consider it a plant food by itself. If you’re thin and exercise a lot, add a little oil to your diet, but not much.

Interesting to note that he says oil calories are more bioavailable than nut calories and will more easily be used for energy (or fat storage) than will the oil in nuts, much of which passes through the system without being absorbed. I wonder if, for athletes or those who have a reason to want more calories, that makes oil better than nuts for some situations.

Nuts should be raw, or very lightly toasted. Not roasted, which creates carcinogens and destroys amino acids.

Protein — The average American gets 100g protein per day, over 50% more than recommended. Athletes require more protein than is recommended for the average person, but the increase in total calories automatically increases protein if the percentages are constant.

A typical assortment of vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts would provide 50g protein per 1000 calories (and since there are 4 calories per gram of protein, that’s 20%).

Plant protein provides many additional micronutrients over animal protein when it’s in whole food form.

Fuhrman gives the acid/alkaline argument, which is surprising because I didn’t know that many serious doctors did. Too much protein, especially animal protein, creates an acidic environment and to neutralize it, minerals must come from bones, leading to osteoporosis.

Exercise, not extra protein, builds muscle.

The insulin growth factor hormone (IGF-1) is linked at elevated levels to cancer and other disease. Refined carbohydrates and certain proteins increase IGF-1 levels. I’m a little bit confused about the next point — Fuhrman says that complete proteins (those providing all 9 essential amino acids in significant amounts) increase IGF-1 levels more than others do, and uses this as an argument not to consume animal protein. My question is don’t we need all 9 essential amino acids? Does a combination of plant foods and proteins (even if not in the same meal) elevate IGF-1 levels?

He points out that soy protein is the closest of all plant proteins to a complete protein, and hence has the biggest effect on IGF-1 levels. It’s not so bad, though, because other parts of minimally processed soy help to bind IGF-1 (at least, that’s my simplified understanding). Tempeh and tofu are suggested as minimally processed versions, but isolates in general are bad.

I’m left wondering if my soy-free, mostly whole-food, complete protein blend is beneficial or harmful.


Nutrient density and variety are two keys to meeting nutrient needs.

Every day:

1. Large salad
2. Half-cup or more of beans
3. Three fruits
4. One ounce raw nuts and seeds
5. One double-size serving green veggies, raw, steamed, or in soup.

5 Deadliest Foods:

1. Processed, barbecued, commercial meats.
2. Fried food
3. Full-fat dairy and trans fats
4. Sugar and artificial sweeteners
5. White-flour

Get no more than 10 percent of your calories from animal products, refined carbohydrates, or oil.

Making the Right Choices

Unsure whether a vegan diet is better than one that has small amounts of animal products. Studies show that people who eat small amounts of fish are just as healthy as vegans, and the longest lived societies (Hunzas, Abkhazians, Vilcbamans, and the Okinawas) ate very little animal products but were not vegan.

Both sides of the dietary argument have egos and agenda to protect, but Fuhrman says his interest is in health alone and that he’s determined that a diet high in plant foods and low in animal foods (<10%) is best. “Whether some people can lose weight on such a [Paleo] diet is irrelevant, if the price they pay is a much earlier death. You could smoke cigarettes to lose weight too!”

But the vegan diet movement uses science in a selective way to demonstrate their points.

Totally vegan diet is deficient in B12, and potentially creates low levels of EPA and DHA. But today it is easy to supplement and do blood work, so “a vegan diet becomes not just a legitimate option, but maybe even the healthiest option of all dietary patterns.”

Some people’s bodies don’t naturally make idea amounts of long-chain omega-3’s found in fish, so those people may need/want to supplement if they’re vegan. Of more concern to older people.

Iodine and zinc are other nutrients of concern for vegans. Most vegans aren’t deficient, but it’s worth checking and possibly supplementing.

Zinc, iodine, B12, and vitamin D are the things to consider supplementing.

For up to two weeks after moving to a vegan diet, people may experience withdrawal symptoms, especially fatigue.

Certain people have increased need for protein and/or fat, and should adjust diet accordingly, adding more nuts and seeds. People who are thin need more calories and fat to sustain their weight, and can get it with raw nuts and nut butters and avocados. We want nutrient rich and high in fat in calories, which these foods offer.

To take a multivitamin? Only for the minerals and nutrients mentioned above, not most others. Too little or too much of a nutrient can cause problems or lead to cancer.

Salt: the human diet for millions of years had no added salt, only what was present in food naturally, which is about 600-800mg per day. Most people now get 3,500mg/day. Americans have 90% probability of developing high blood pressure, so even if it’s not a problem for you now, it will very likely become one if you continue eating excess salt. Salt is also the strongest factor relating to stomach cancer. Even if you can’t resist adding salt to food, at least do it only at the end, when you’ll most notice the flavor.

Coffee — a drug, not a food. Benefits reported and media are likely the result of people eating nutrient-devoid diets, so that coffee is their highest source of antioxidants. Coffee affects quality of sleep and masks true hunger signals.

Soy — the anti-soy talk has largely been fueled by the internet, not serious research. Many studies show that soy has protective affects against cancer, particularly breast cancer. Phytoestrogens actually block the effects of the body’s estrogen, not amplify it. Minimally processed is still most important — tofu and tempeh and unsweetened soy milk are fine. Don’t get disproportionate amount of calories from soy, just as you wouldn’t from other foods. Variety is important for maximizing types of phytonutrients you get.

Organic produce? Yes, when possible. There’s lots of argument but more recent studies are showing that there are negative affects of consuming inorganic. You can peel inorganic produce to help limit pesticides. Use Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Second half of book is entirely meal plans and recipes, glossary, and notes/index.



  1. […] 3pm — Along with the morning smoothie, an afternoon salad is pretty much a constant in my diet. I blend baby kale, spinach, spring mix, arugula or whatever else we have around and top with some combination of fresh tomato (when it’s in season), avocado, green onion, celery, carrot, hemp hearts, and sunflower seeds. Sometimes I add chickpeas or black beans, but not always. For dressing I used to always use a little bit of olive oil with apple cider or balsamic vinegar, but recently I tend toward oil-free dressings based on tahini or nuts (often using one of the recipes in Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity). […]