What is the Nutritarian Diet? Establishing a New Way of Eating and Living
Have you ever heard about the Nutritarian diet? Most people don't know what it is or have never even heard about it for that matter. However, it warrants a serious look if you are desirous of changing your lifestyle for the better, reducing your risk of chronic disease, and achieving optimum health.
And contrary to common belief, it might not be as difficult to implement as you think. It might just be the easiest way to get more healthy foods into your diet without feeling like you're on a diet.
Interested? Read on below to learn more.
What is The Nutritarian Diet?
The Nutritarian diet, otherwise known as the nutrient-dense plant-based diet, was coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman back in 2003. It is a diet that focuses on consuming nutrient-dense foods while eliminating the majority of processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar.
The emphasis is placed on plant-based foods because they are typically more nutrient dense than animal-based foods. They also contain phytochemicals that have been shown to protect against chronic disease.
However, the eating style is by no means vegetarian or veggie only. Ultimately, it is geared at allowing you to eat until you are satisfied, but emphasizing healthier foods that will do the most justice to you.
That being said, there are a few core principles that the Nutritarian diet is based on:
This is the primary focus of the diet. It is based on the idea that we should be consuming foods that have the highest nutrient-to-calorie ratio. This means eating more foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals while being relatively low in calories. Likewise, sugary beverages and candy would rank at the bottom of this rating scale, since they are high in calories and low in nutrient density.
Avoidance of Processed Foods
Processed foods are generally not as nutrient-dense as whole foods and often contain unhealthy additives. They should be avoided as much as possible. These types of foods also significantly increase the risk of cancers and other chronic non-communicable diseases.
This includes consuming primarily low glycemic foods and animal-based products that do not have a significant adverse effect on cholesterol levels and cancer risk. Fiber rich foods also play a large part in attaining a favorable hormonal profile as they themselves help to clear phyto and xenoestrogens and other hormones we might be inadvertently consuming.
What Are The Benefits of The Nutritarian Diet?
No diet without its fair share of benefits would be attractive for long, and thankfully the Nutritarian diet has plenty to offer.
Reduces the Risk of Chronic Disease
The Nutritarian diet can help to reduce the risk of chronic disease by providing the body with nutrient-dense foods that are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals. These nutrients work to protect cells from damage, reduce inflammation, and promote optimum health.
May Help with Weight Loss
The Nutritarian diet may also help with weight loss by promoting satiety and preventing overeating. This is because nutrient dense foods are typically more filling than processed foods, and do not spike blood sugar levels as much. In addition, keep in mind as we previously mentioned, these foods are still lower in calories while being extremely filling, which helps explain their potential weight loss benefits.
Improves Gut Health
The Nutritarian diet can improve gut health by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Unbeknownst to many people is the critical role probiotic bacteria play in gut health, where they help improve digestion, decrease inflammatory processes, and even bolster the immune system. The abundance of natural fiber creates an optimal environment for the bacteria to thrive, rich with nourishment for them.
Provides an Abundance of Nutrients
Since the diet is based on nutrient-dense foods, it provides an abundance of nutrients that are essential for health. This includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. And yet- keep in mind that the diet does not shun animal-based products. Thus, the nutritional deficiencies that are common in plant-based diets, such as iron and B12 do not occur as often.
May Increase Energy Levels
The increased intake of nutrients tends to generally correspond with increased energy levels. This is likely due to the fact that nutrient-dense foods help to support all the biochemical processes going on in the body, many of which are responsible for producing energy. And yet- the diet isn't high in processes sugars, that are known to negatively affect insulin and blood glucose control. This is why you won't feel that mid-afternoon crash on the diet.
Excellent For The Heart
Many people that opt to start the Nutritarian diet, tend to do so in a reactionary manner. This is very true when it comes to people recently diagnosed with some sort of cardiovascular malady, including hypercholesterolemia, chest pain, or many other heart-related issues. The truth is, the diet can be an excellent way to help improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Not only can it bring about a significant reduction in cholesterol, but it has also been shown to lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation. These are all important factors in reducing the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Shh! could this be the secret to everlasting life? Well...not exactly. However, it does a darn good job of helping you live a longer and healthier life.
The science is pretty clear on the matter. Studies have shown that people who eat a (primarily) plant-based diet tend to live longer, and are at a lower risk for developing chronic diseases. This includes heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
What Are The Downsides Of The Diet?
Even though the benefits abound, that's not to say that it doesn't face some challenges too. It would be remiss of us to not bring them to your attention as well. A few trouble spots include:
Once you've gotten the hang of the diet, it's all smooth sailing. But what about while you're in the acclimation phase? It's not so simple. In fact, dietary compliance and adherence is tough on the Nutritarian diet, as it is for almost any type of diet.
Just what makes it so difficult? For many people, it relates to the consumption of vegables in their raw form. It is recommended that you consume around 50% of the total veggies consumed in raw form, which for some people is a deal breaker.
Plus, the fairly strict nature of the plan may put people with a history of eating disorders at risk of recurrence, since the diet could potentially trigger old behaviors and thoughts.
Lack Of Variety
Since the diet is based around plants, there are only so many ways to mix them up. This can quickly lead to feelings of boredom and a lack of variety. Additionally, the lack of processed foods may make it difficult to find convenient snacks or meals while on the go. Thus, it is important to plan well ahead, or you can derail your best intentions quite easily.
For some people, this may not be an issue. But for others, it can be a real challenge that makes it difficult to stick to the diet in the long term.
Possible Nutrient Deficiency
The problem with many plant-based diets and derivatives is that nutrient deficiency is still a real risk. Yes, you aren't banishing all animal-based products from your diet, but with foods of that origin limited to about 10% of total dietary intake, you can see how deficiency is still possible.
Especially the fat soluble vitamins, and micronutrients that are often obtained by grazing animals.
For this very reason, it is critical to back up your diet with a high-quality whole-food Multivitamin supplement, such as Fortify.
What Foods Can You Eat on The Nutritarian Diet?
Now here comes the important part- what would the diet typically look like? Here's a simple breakdown:
Vegetables comprise the lion's share of your total food intake on the diet. You are allowed to eat as much of them as you want to be satisfied, but starchy vegetables are not included (such as potatoes). You should also aim to have 50% or more of the vegetables you eat be consumed in their raw form.
Fruit is the second largest category, making up a significant portion of your diet. You are encouraged to eat a wide variety of fruits, but unlike veggies, you need to exercise restraint when eating fruit, as they are not calorie-free.
Nuts, Seeds, Beans, Avocadoes 10-20%
One-half, to a single serving daily maximum for foods from the above group.
Meat, Dairy, Slightly Processed Foods 10% Or Less
These include fish, eggs, and foods such as tofu which require minimal processing. You are allowed up to 10% of your total dietary intake from these foods. Be careful, as a protein deficiency can easily open up from limiting protein too much. If you are worried about this, opt for collagen protein.
What Can't You Eat?
Anything that does not fall into one of the above food groups is off limits, including:
Processed foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, and partially hydrogenated oils.
Nutritarian Vs Flexitarian Diet
The flexitarian diet is a type of semi-vegetarianism that allows for small amounts of meat and animal products, whereas the Nutritarian diet actively discourages it. Both diets are based around plant foods, but the Nutritarian diet is much stricter in its guidelines.
Additionally, the Flexitarian diet does not eliminate processed foods, grains, dairy, or legumes, whereas the Nutritarian diet does.
How Can You Transition To The Nutritarian Diet?
Taking a step in a new direction is always going to be daunting. This isn't any different when it comes to the Nutritarian diet.
Here are some key tips to make the transition as smooth as possible:
- Eliminate processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol from your diet first. This will help get rid of cravings and set you up for success. Plus, they are mostly empty calories anyway, so the kickstart to weight loss will help motivate you.
- Start slowly by adding more vegetables to your meals. Remember, leafy, and low-carb veggies are excellent as they don't add a lot of calories and are still very filling by virtue of their fiber content. This sets the tone for successful transition to a primarily plant-based diet.
- Think of your health too. Consistency is ultimately what leads to success, and this is no different when it comes to diet. Creating healthy habits is essential for long-term success.
- Make sure you are getting enough protein. This is vital for maintaining muscle mass, and there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein to choose from.
- Supplements are your friend. As we mentioned before, a high-quality multivitamin supplement will help to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need. If you workout, now is also a good time to introduce a supplement that supports energy, strength, and endurance such as Foundation, since the change can leave you feeling less than stellar.
The Bottom Line
The Nutritarian diet is a positive step in the right direction, but the restrictive nature might not be ideal for everyone. We also advocate for greater balance when it comes to diet, as overly restrictive diets can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
But, if you think the Nutritarian diet is right for you, use these tips as a guide to help make the transition as smooth as possible!