A Nutritarian diet optimizes micronutrients and their quality and adequacy to prioritize health, longevity and reversing chronic diseases.
What Is a Nutritarian Diet?
The Nutritarian diet was the brainchild of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a family doctor, in 2003 when he published his book on it entitled Eat to Live. It is also known as a nutrient-dense plant-rich diet that focuses on what micronutrients a person consumes and its benefits, rather than calories and macronutrients.
How the Nutritarian Diet Works
The driver for Dr. Fuhrman’s work was the prevalence of moderate micronutrient deficiency, and from these deficiencies, we can expect to see increased markers of cellular damage. These effects are decreased overall health parameters, shorter life expectancies, and increased chronic disease.
Therefore, Dr. Fuhrman proposes that longevity (implied by better health allowing for a longer lifespan) can be thought of as the product of the number of micronutrients per calorie consumed. After analyzing foods for the micronutrient content per calorie, he places green vegetables and fruits of all colors at the top of the list. In contrast, processed and animal-derived foods present further down.
The general guidelines of the Nutritarian diet are to eat foods that are:
- High in micronutrients per calorie by consuming more nutrient-dense, plant-rich foods
- Hormonally favorable by avoiding excess hormones through the overconsumption of foods containing IGF-1 (such as animal proteins)
- Nutritionally adequate and supplementing as required so that the body has sufficient micronutrient quantities of vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine, zinc, EPA, and DHA
- Not contaminated and do not contain toxins or pathogens.
The Diet Plan
The general diet plan that can be useful to follow includes the following:
- Large green salads that are consumed with nut or seed-based dressings
- Bean soups with added carrot or tomato juices and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower
- At least 0.5lb of steamed green vegetables daily
- Three to five servings of fresh fruit per day
- No more than three servings per week of animal products
- Abstain from dairy, white flour, and white rice
- Avoid all processed foods, cereals (processed, cold cereals), and sweet treats
- Consume carbohydrates high in nutritional value, such as peas, squash, lentils, and whole grains
- Consume “protective foods” such as walnuts, mushrooms, onions, berries, and seeds
- Eat at least one ounce of raw nuts or seeds daily with meals
- Avoid processed foods and drinks with low nutrient density, like fruit juice and dried fruit.
This diet can be costly and completely free, depending on how rigidly you stick to it. You can create your meal plans from the prohibited and allowed foods and pay only what you spend on groceries and produce. Nuts, seeds, and fresh produce often cost more than processed food. The lack of animal products in your weekly grocery haul will let you breathe.
One of the tenets of the diet is to supplement with nutrients not consumed in food. This can, of course, add a considerable cost.
And finally, if you want to commit wholeheartedly to this plan, Dr. Fuhrman’s website boasts supplements and Nutritarian-approved foods for purchase, as well as tiered memberships and even retreats (some of which come with a significant price tag).
Dos and Don’ts
To follow this diet, here are some simple dos and don’ts.
- Read Dr. Fuhrman’s book “Eat to Live.”
- Consider your nutrient status (perhaps through blood work) and supplement accordingly.
- Cut out refined and processed foods for their added fat, salt, and sugar content.
- Get to know the produce aisle of your supermarket intricately.
- Eat whole foods wherever possible.
- Consume calorie-empty foods and drinks while also avoiding calorie-dense options.
- Eat recreationally or if you’re not hungry.
- Use SOS (salt, oil, sugar).
Sample Diet Plan
This sample diet plan is adapted from The Beginner’s Guide to the Nutritarian Diet.
Chia seed pudding
Red lentil chili and an orange
Avocado chocolate pudding
Health Benefits and Drawbacks
Some notable benefits of the Nutritarian diet include:
Weight loss. The diet offers increased weight loss potential through consuming more plant-based foods and avoiding fast, fried, salty, and sugary foods.
Nutrient awareness. The focus on nutrients may facilitate being more aware of natural deficiencies and supplementing for them when you wouldn’t ordinarily do that.
High fiber. Nutrient-dense foods are often high in fiber, which will promote good digestion and bowel movements.
Improved heart health. Heart health could be enhanced when on this diet as noted by specific parameters such as lowered blood pressure, reduced LDL cholesterol, and lowered inflammatory markers to prevent heart disease.
Foods excluded. The diet excludes foods common to other well-known and well-supported diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, with a focus on olive oil and fish. These foods possess omega-3 fatty acids, pivotal to optimal heart and brain health.
Not sustainable. Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, it may not be sustainable long-term, compromising long-term weight loss and overall health.
Costly. It can be an expensive diet if you’re considering membership for ongoing support and advice. These are available and cost $8-$60 monthly, or you can get a lifetime membership for $4000.
Conflicting. Conflict in families and social circles derived from social stigmas against food choices such as veganism and vegetarianism (including Nutritarism).
The Bottom Line: Is the Nutritarian Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?
The Nutritarian diet is an eating plan that will improve overall health. It focuses on nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fresh fruits, raw nuts, and seeds to meet your micronutrient requirements for optimal wellbeing. Although not specifically a weight loss diet, it can achieve that objective, Dr. Joel Fuhrman believes, through its restrictions on unhealthy foods.
Dietary and lifestyle factors are a predominant cause of chronic diseases, which comes at a $2.8 trillion annual healthcare cost in the United States. With the evidence suggesting a plant-based diet can improve hypertension, lower HbA1c (a marker of diabetes), and reduce total cholesterol in just three months, it would seem that adopting a diet like this is a healthy step forward to avoid or treat these issues.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.