The Nutritarian Diet: Does It Live Up to the Hype?

The Nutritarian Diet touts impressive health benefits like weight loss, reversing disease, slowing aging, and increasing life expectancy. There aren’t many people who don’t find claims like that pretty appealing. This eating plan wasn’t one that I was too familiar with, so I was eager to dive into the information and see what the diet was all about.

What Is a Nutritarian Diet?

The nutritarian diet is an eating pattern created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman initially published in his top-selling 2003 diet book Eat to Live. The diet is vegan, gluten-free, low in sodium, and low in fat. The diet also avoids or minimizes processed foods, and focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Dr. Fuhrman suggests that following the diet not only prevents, but reverses, chronic diseases, and “maximally slows aging and promotes lifespan.” Nutrient-density in the book is based on a formula and index Dr. Fuhrman created called the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). This index scores food based on nutrient-density to help people identify healthier food options. The six-week diet promises an approximate 20-lb weight loss and improved energy and health—so much so that the book says most people opt to continue following a nutritarian diet after the initial six weeks.

What Do You Eat on a Nutritarian Diet?

On the Nutritarian Diet, there are food you can eat in unlimited amounts, and those you can eat in limited or small amounts. Non-starchy vegetables can be consumed in unlimited quantities; beans and legumes should be limited to 1 cup per day; fresh fruit can be eaten 4 times per day, but dried fruit shouldn’t exceed 2 tablespoons; starchy vegetables or cooked whole grains are limited to 1 cup per day; nuts and seeds shouldn’t exceed 1 ounce daily; avocado should not exceed 2 ounces daily; and you may have up to 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed daily.

Animal-based foods (meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy); fruit juice or canned fruit; processed foods; oils; snacking between meals; added salt; and alcohol should all be avoided on the Nutritarian Diet. After following the Nutritarian Diet for six weeks, some lean meat, fish, refined carbohydrate foods, dairy, and olive oil can be added back to the diet in minimal amounts.

Cost of the Nutritarian Diet

Since oil, added salt, added sugar, and animal products are off-limits, this virtually eliminates all prepared foods—even healthier ones that can save time. Initially, I thought dieters’ grocery bills would skyrocket due to the cost of whole foods and fresh produce. But one of the diet’s claims is that grocery bills should not increase since the increased amount of fresh produce bought is offset by not buying more expensive meat and dairy products—a pretty good point (although I haven’t had a have a chance to test the theory out to see how true it holds).

Though the cost of groceries may remain the same, I can’t help but think that time in the kitchen would increase—particularly for those who ordinarily rely on a lot of convenience products.  Also, the diet can be completed without buying anything other than groceries, but Dr. Fuhrman’s website offers lots of supplemental products including vitamins and dietary supplements, food products, kitchen utensils and appliances, cookbooks, t-shirts, and even skin moisturizers.

Lifetime membership plans ($400, $2,000, or $3,000) are available for purchase which give an individual access to recipes, menus, position papers, and more on his website, depending on the level chosen. He also hosts nutritarian retreats on topics such as a 3-week detox with a juice fast.

Does It Live Up to the Hype?

Continue following the original article as published in Cooking Light here : Does the Nutritarian Diet Really Live Up to Its Hype? where I examine the potential health benefit claims including weight loss, anti-inflammatory effects, and research-based concepts.  I also address some more negative aspects and potential health concerns.  Find out if the nutritarian diet lives up to the hype.