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Beginner’s Guide to the Nutritarian Diet

eat to live diet graphics
Last Updated on July 27, 2022

The nutritarian plan, often referred to as the Eat to Live Diet, cuts out harmful products and takes on more natural choices to reset the body’s system and jumpstart a healthier way to eat. As a bonus, the diet claims to help fend off issues like heart disease and diabetes. 

Overview

Put simply, the Nutritarian Diet focuses on plant-based foods high in nutrients, while limiting processed foods and animal products. Users embark on a six-week plan to reset their cravings and eat healthier options, as well as create a sustainable framework for continuing a nutrient-rich lifestyle after the six weeks are up.  

Creation 

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is an American celebrity doctor who founded the nutritarian diet and Eat to Live program. He is a practicing family physician and president of the Nutritional Research Foundation. His website offers online events, retreats, supplements, weight-loss tools, a membership, and certificate tracks for people interested in his diet programs. 

Dr. Fuhrman has written two books on the nutritarian diet for those interested in giving it a try: 

  • Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss
  • Eat for Life: The Breakthrough Nutrient-Rich Program for Longevity, Disease Reversal, and Sustained Weight Loss
  • The Nutritarian Handbook and ANDI Food Scoring Guide: A Complete Food Scoring Guide And Diet Program Designed to Deliver Permanent Weight Loss and Superior Health
  • Other books on immunity, healthy dessert options, fast food, fighting heart disease, and a cookbook. 

Purpose 

The nutritarian diet’s primary goal is better health. Weight loss is an expected side effect for those who accurately follow its steps. Thirdly, a diet rich in whole foods and plants is supposed to protect the body from health issues in the heart, brain, and immune system. 

One result of the nutritarian diet is to reset your palate so that the body (and taste buds) crave more healthy foods. By the time a user completes the program, they should have the self-discipline as well as the chemical altering to sustain a healthy lifestyle due to their inclination towards specific foods. So, this diet has a physical as well as a psychological component. 

Accolades 

  • U.S. News awarded the Nutritarian Diet #17 in Best Diets Overall. 
  • Dr. Fuhrman’s books have found their way onto the New York Times Bestseller lists. 

How Does the Nutritarian Diet Work?

assorted mushroom

By reworking your daily diet and focusing on the nutritional value of what you put in your body, you can return your digestive system to a base level of health and retrain your cravings to want foods that are good for you. This diet focuses on eating mostly plants and whole foods, as well as adhering to the G-BOMBS acronym: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds. 

Some tips on the website include replacing one meal per day with a salad, cutting out snacks, and turning down salt and other meal additives. 

Four Core Principles

The nutritarian diet hinges on four tenets to drive its success:

  1. 1
    Nutrient density - Ranking foods on how nutritious they are per calorie. 
  2. 2
    Nutrient adequacy - Ensuring the body meets goals for vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. 
  3. 3
    Toxin avoidance - Avoid processed foods due to their high levels of chemicals, carcinogens, and other harmful elements. 
  4. 4
    Hormonal favorability - Choosing foods with the appropriate mix of macro and micronutrients. 

Eco-Friendly

By setting your sights on foods that come from the earth, nutritarians can be assured that their health choices are also sustainable for the environment. Processed foods, meats, and dairy put unnecessary strain on the ecosystem, vs. a healthy lifestyle that eats all-natural. 

An added bonus is that when you eat mostly plants, you can pick these up at your farmer’s market when they’re in season. Support local and do good for your body, all at once! 

What Foods Do Nutritarians Eat?

In essence, nutritarians seek out all-natural foods from as close to the earth’s bounty as possible, rather than processed or animal-based options. Here are some favorites from those who have undergone the diet program: 

  • Lots of leafy greens such as collard greens, Romaine lettuce, and spinach
  • Legumes such as black beans and lentils 
  • Fruit of various types
  • Avocados in guacamole or as a sandwich topper 
  • Onions  
  • Nuts, seeds, and whole grains  
  • Salads with multiple healthful ingredients  

What Foods Do Nutritarians Avoid?

Just as there is a list of preferable foods, there are also several options that Eat to Live participants should stay far away from. These include: 

  • Sugar and sweets, including sweetening agents like maple syrup and honey 
  • All cooking oils like olive, flaxseed, and even avocado 
  • Processed fruit including canned fruit, juices, and beverages
  • Commercial meats 
  • Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products  
  • Fish and eggs are allowed in small quantities.  
  • All alcohol is restricted.  
  • Caffeine is allowed in very small portions, but not that found in chocolate.  

What Are the Downsides to the Nutritarian Diet?

Of course, a diet like this takes an incredible amount of self-discipline to follow, especially in the early stages. For newbies whose bodies are adjusted to processed foods and other unhealthful ingredients, it can be difficult to go “cold turkey” into a restrictive diet. 

Some typical foods such as fish, eggs, olive oil, and cheese are discouraged on this diet, which may frustrate people who consider these healthy options. 

Eaters who are accustomed to drinking high amounts of soda, coffee, or other caffeinated beverages may find it difficult to adjust to the nutritarian diet, where these items are restricted or cut out entirely. 

Dieters who stick to the plan should see beneficial results to their health and possibly also weight loss (though success is never guaranteed, as everyone’s body reacts differently). However, the propensity to slip back into old habits at the end of the diet is strong. 

The nutritarian diet seeks to establish healthy habits for sustainable eating even after the diet plan has concluded, which should help those who want to keep up the results long-term. 

The nutritarian diet requires an overhaul of your pantry and fridge to stock items that complement the nutritional principles at play. Unless you’re already a healthy eater, you’ll probably need to throw out or donate much of what you have in your kitchen already, in favor of things like leafy greens, fruit, and nut milks. 

So, just be prepared to turn your kitchen upside down! Doing so will help you stick to the diet better and encourage better results. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that some elements of the eat to live diet are unsupported by science. Though we take for granted that eating whole foods means better health in general, there’s no particular evidence to back certain claims such as the elimination of chronic illness. 

Will I Lose Weight on the Nutritarian Diet?

The Eat to Live diet’s emphasis on healthy ingredients while eliminating harmful chemicals and processed foods in the diet is a recipe for better health as well as weight loss. While no diet is guaranteed to make anyone lose weight, if you follow the nutritarian diet correctly, there is a good chance you’ll see a slimmer waistline after an appropriate amount of time. 

As with any diet program, exercise and other lifestyle factors make a big difference in its success. Depending on how spartan you go with your dedication, you might see a little difference in a long time or drastic results. Just keep in mind that it’s very easy to rebound on any diet - so for long-term results, you need to make significant and sustainable changes. 

Are There Other Benefits?

The reset of healthy foods is good for your digestive system and potential weight loss, but there are other benefits to the nutritarian diet as well. 

Eating foods rich in fiber and low in sugar means that blood sugar levels stabilize. This is thought to help prevent diabetes and is part of a low-glycemic diet solution (where foods digest slowly and keep you full for longer). 

Nutrients from whole foods may also steer the body clear of chronic illness, as it has the foundational tools to fight disease on its own. Autoimmune disorders, heart disease, and other long-term maladies are harder to develop if all systems are balanced and the body receives the foods it needs to stay in check. 

The nutritarian diet may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure. With all of these benefits combined, it makes sense that those who adhere to the diet could enjoy a longer lifespan and be active and mentally sharp for longer. Of course, there are plenty of other factors that contribute to this situation - some of which, like genetics, are out of our control.

Is the Nutritarian Diet Expensive?

Like most diets, the greatest cost to the nutritarian program is the health food it incorporates. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and other natural ingredients are always a bigger hit to the wallet than processed or boxed foods. Choose organic options and your total will be even larger. However, the investment of money could be a small price to pay for eaters wanting to make a change. 

Going out to eat might be a slight boost to your budget, but the current availability of options like salad bars and whole foods on takeout menus will help. The Eat to Live diet is something you can take with you to restaurants and on the road, as long as you make a concerted effort to seek out the right nutrients. 

Dr. Fuhrman’s books, while not necessary to the diet, offer an added expense. If nutritarians attend workshops or undergo the certificate program, that will be an additional cost as well. If you decide to try the eat to live diet, it might be wise to set your goals and a financial structure at the beginning.  

On the website, there is a hefty price tag of $4,000 for a lifetime membership, which may look intimidating. However, it’s good to remember that this isn’t necessary to undergo the diet. There are also more inexpensive options, such as a $7.95 monthly gold plan, or a downloadable PDF that outlines the detox program and costs $15.95 for nonmembers. 

Of course, supplemental materials can be helpful to many people. If you find yourself getting very involved in the diet and want more support, you might find it worthwhile to spend the extra cash on the program to get better results. Everyone is different! 

Is Exercise Part of the Nutritarian Diet?

It’s not built into the program, no. This diet focuses on foods rather than other lifestyle choices. However, you’ll always see the best results when you combine a diet with the right level of activity and abstain from harmful substances like tobacco and alcohol. It’s up to you to determine how clean you want to get when embarking on this program.

Conclusion

It’s no secret that eating real food-based in plant matter is good for our bodies. We can assume that there will be other positive health benefits as well. Though the nutritarian diet isn’t for everyone, it’s widely accessible and encourages a lifestyle transformation to help eaters make good choices for themselves. Ideally, and when followed correctly, the change in behavior means an overhaul of the digestive system, and rewards eat to live dieters with a balanced program that will let them see sustainable results.

References

Dr. Joel Fuhrman biographical info, retrieved from https://www.drfuhrman.com/

U.S. News Diet Score, retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/nutritarian-diet. 

Five Tenets of the Nutritarian Diet, retrieved from https://vegnews.com/2017/4/5-tenets-of-the-nutritarian-diet

Glycemic Index and How It Affects Your Diet, retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/glycemic-index/

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