Amidst the crowd of keto, Whole30, paleo and carb cycling, you may have missed the Nutritarian diet. But if you’re looking for an eating plan that specializes in disease prevention (who isn’t?), this is the one to put on your list.
What is the Nutritarian diet?
The Nutritarian diet was founded and created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Eat to Live and The Eat to Live Cookbook, The End of Dieting, The End of Heart Disease, The End of Diabetes and Super Immunity, most all of which were New York Times Bestsellers.
Dr. Fuhrman has appeared on the Dr. Oz show, among others. He has become a leader among physicians helping people eat a whole-food, plant-based diet to achieve optimal health and reverse many types of disease, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and various autoimmune diseases.
What foods are allowed and not allowed on the Nutritarian diet?
The Nutritarian diet includes low-glycemic fruits, nutrient-dense vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), avocados, nuts and seeds. It excludes nearly all sources of animal protein, all added and artificial sugars or sweeteners, all oils as well as processed, artificial and refined foods.
How does it differ from similar plant-based diets?
In essence, the Nutritarian diet is a plant-based diet that was created to show people how to maximize their intake of healthy, whole foods that are considered to have cancer-fighting properties.
While similar diets also have this potential, the Nutritarian diet does stand out. For instance, many plant-based dieters consume very little fat. But that’s not the case with the Nutritarian diet, which includes a high amount of nuts, seeds and avocados.
The Nutritarian diet is also not 100% vegan, as it relies on wild fish and fish oil for their essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA. The Nutritarian Diet does, however, eliminate as many animal proteins as possible. Only a small amount of wild seafood and naturally-raised foul – if any at all – are encouraged when following the Nutritarian diet.
Unlike typical plant-based diets, this one features very specific fruits and vegetables. The major focus of the Nutritarian diet is greens (and salads), beans, nuts, berries, cruciferous veggies, orange and yellow veggies, onions, tomatoes and low-glycemic fruits like berries and apples.
The 4 principles of the Nutritarian diet
- Maximize Nutrient Density
Dr. Fuhrman developed the Aggregated Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) to rank foods based on their nutrient density per calorie. Cruciferous veggies that are highly nutritious, such as kale and broccoli, rank high on the scale at a score of 1,000. Whereas, a soda or candy bar ranks at a 1. These scores have been seen on produce and other food tags at grocery stores and can be found in Dr. Fuhrman’s books to help others understand how to achieve nutrient density. The Nutritarian diet does not focus on calorie count but the quality of those calories.
- Achieve Nutritional Adequacy
Dr. Fuhrman also emphasizes how important it is to cover your nutritional bases – not just with regards to the foods you eat. The Nutritarian diet emphasizes the importance of getting enough zinc, iodine, omega-3s, B12 and vitamin D.
- Maintain Hormonal Balance
Another important principle in the Nutritarian diet is maintaining hormonal balance. Dr. Fuhrman teaches that two hormones should be monitored very closely to prevent and/or treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes. These include the hormones insulin and IGF-1 (insulin growth factor that triggers cancer cells to proliferate). Insulin should be monitored closely, which is why the diet is so high in fibrous foods like berries, beans, whole grains and greens. According to drfuhrman.com, these same fibrous foods also help reduce insulin-like growth factor from being too high; meanwhile, dairy and meat can raise IGF-1 levels. This is why the diet eliminates animal products as much as possible (or completely if you choose to do so).
- Avoid Dietary Toxins
Finally, Dr. Fuhrman’s diet aims to significantly reduce toxin exposure. This is another reason he advises to remove all processed foods and most animal products from the diet, even seafood. Instead, the Nutritarian diet is full of whole, plant foods targeted to help the body eliminate dietary toxins, thereby achieving greater health.
What does a day on the Nutriatarian diet look like?
Dr. Fuhrman includes a number of recipes and other resources on his website, DrFuhrman.com, as well as in his books. Here’s a snapshot of what you might eat in a day on the Nutritarian diet:
Breakfast: ¼ cup steel cut oats cooked in unsweetened non-dairy milk with ½ cup of berries or chopped apple with flax seeds on top. If desired, add spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger – just remember to skip the sweeteners.
Lunch: Choose a large salad (or soup) with veggies, such as carrots, tomatoes, onions and beans. The dressing should be made from nuts, seeds and/or avocados. Vinegar is another smart choice. Dressings made with apple cider vinegar can help lower blood sugar levels. Low-glycemic fruits, such as strawberries or blueberries, can also be enjoyed at lunch time. For the most part, avoid animal proteins for your midday meal.
Dinner: Soup, stew or chili made with vegetables and legumes, veggies are a go. If you’d like some wild-caught turkey, chicken or fish, keep it to 3 ounces or less.
Dessert (optional): Indulge a little with one cup of strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, topped with an ounce of cashew cream.
Snacks: Lean on fresh-cut veggies and raw fruits. Other convenient options include fruit-and-vegetable smoothies and ready-to-go whole-food bars.
The Nutritarian diet in a nutshell
The Nutritarian diet emphasizes the importance of plant-based foods over animal proteins and processed foods. Low-glycemic fruits, greens, beans and cancer-fighting foods should be your main focus. Avoid added sugar at all cost; and always choose healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados) over saturated fats (butter, cheese, beef).
Is the Nutritarian diet right for you?
The Nutritarian diet may not be easy at first. But it’s a nutritious eating plan that’s worth exploring. You can start small with a Meatless Monday plan, and then gradually build up to eating plant-based foods every other day. Eventually, you’ll be filling up on fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes all the time. And if your dietary needs allow, add nuts, seeds and avocados for those healthy fats that will keep you full.
It’s also important to note that you may find the high intake of beans, onions, greens and vegetables hard on your digestive system. Digestive enzymes may help ease the process. Regardless, be mindful of your body’s response and always speak to your doctor before starting a new diet.