The Nutritarian Diet, also referred to as a nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet (NDPR diet), promises impressive weight loss and several other health benefits.
For instance, its promoters claim that it slows aging, increases your life span, and helps prevent or even reverse chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
This article tells you everything you need to know about the Nutritarian Diet.
DIET REVIEW SCORECARD
- Overall score: 3.17
- Weight loss: 4
- Healthy eating: 4
- Sustainability: 2.5
- Whole body health: 2.5
- Nutrition quality: 3
- Evidence based: 3
BOTTOM LINE: The Nutritarian Diet promotes nutrient-rich plant foods and could aid weight loss by limiting processed and high calorie foods. However, it bans snacking and may be hard to follow, and some of its guidelines aren’t supported by science.
The Nutritarian Diet was created in 2003 by family physician Joel Fuhrman in his book “Eat to Live.” It’s largely plant-based, gluten-free, low salt, and low fat. It limits processed foods, instead promoting nutrient-dense, minimally processed ones (
Fuhrman developed several meal plans and products for his diet, each promising its own set of results.
For instance, the original “Eat to Live” book vows to help readers lose 20 pounds (9.5 kg) in 6 weeks, while the newer “10 in 20” detox program advertises 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of weight loss over 20 days — both without counting calories or measuring portions.
Advocates claim that the Nutritarian Diet also slows aging, boosts longevity, and prevents or reverses various chronic ailments.
The Nutritarian Diet is a mainly plant-based, gluten-free, low salt, low fat diet. In addition to promoting weight loss, it promises to slow aging, prevent and reverse various chronic diseases, and help you live longer.
The Nutritarian Diet’s central premise is that the amount of nutrients you consume per calorie predicts your weight and influences your long-term health.
Therefore, it’s designed to be nutrient-dense by promoting whole or minimally processed foods and limiting processed ones.
Although the Nutritarian Diet doesn’t restrict your calorie intake, it sets a percentage range of your total calories that each food group should provide per day (2):
- Vegetables (30–60%). You can eat unlimited quantities of vegetables, though raw veggies should make up at least half your total vegetable intake each day. This category excludes potatoes.
- Fruits (10–40%). You’re meant to have at least 3–5 servings of fresh fruit daily.
- Beans and other legumes (10–40%). This equals at least 1/2 cup (85 grams) daily.
- Nuts, seeds, and avocados (10–40%). You should eat at least 1 ounce (28 grams) per day, but no more if aiming for optimal weight loss.
- Whole grains and potatoes (20% maximum). If you’re following this diet for weight loss, limit cooked starches to 1 cup (150–325 grams) daily until you reach your ideal body mass index (BMI).
- Non-factory-farmed animal products (less than 10%). This category includes meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and seafood. You’re advised to eat less than 8 ounces (225 grams) per week.
- Minimally processed foods (less than 10%). This category includes tofu, tempeh, and coarsely ground or sprouted whole grain breads and cereals.
- Sweets, processed foods, and factory-farmed meat and dairy (minimal). You should eat these foods rarely or not at all.
The Nutritarian Diet also discourages snacking and encourages you to replace one meal per day with a vegetable salad topped with a nut- or seed-based dressing. Additionally, it limits salt intake to less than 1,000 mg per day.
Processed foods, refined carbs, oils, sugar, soda, fruit drinks or juices, white flour, and all factory-farmed animal products are largely banned.
To cover any potential nutrient deficiencies, you’re meant to take a multivitamin containing B12, iodine, zinc, and vitamin D, in addition to an algae oil supplement (
The Nutritarian Diet categorizes foods based on their nutrient density, promoting minimally processed, whole foods while limiting snacking and processed foods.
The Nutritarian Diet is likely to aid weight loss for several reasons.
First, it naturally restricts your calorie intake by limiting calorie-rich foods such as eggs, meat, dairy, oil, and high-sugar processed foods.
By discouraging snacking, the diet may also lead some people to naturally eat fewer calories throughout the day (
What’s more, it emphasizes plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Such foods tend to be high in fiber, which can reduce hunger and cravings (
Foods high in viscous fibers such as pectins, beta glucans, and guar gum, which occur in most of the plant foods promoted by this diet, are especially filling (
In one 6-week study, overweight people who followed the Nutritarian Diet lost an average of 10.8 pounds (4.9 kg) and 1.9 inches (4.8 cm) of waist circumference (
In a long-term study, adults with a history of high blood pressure, cholesterol, or obesity who followed a Nutritarian Diet lost 14–49 pounds (6–22 kg) in their first year and maintained it over the following 2 years (
Moreover, plenty of evidence suggests that plant-based diets generally aid weight loss, even when you’re allowed to eat as much as you like — as is the case with the Nutritarian Diet (
The Nutritarian Diet is naturally rich in fiber and restricts the amount of calorie-rich foods you consume, both attributes that can promote weight loss.
Other than weight loss, the Nutritarian Diet may offer several additional benefits.
May boost heart health
The Nutritarian Diet may reduce heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels.
In a 6-week study, 35 people following the Nutritarian Diet cut their total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 11% and 13%, respectively (
In one study, 328 people with untreated high cholesterol experienced a 25% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol after following the Nutritarian Diet for 3 years (
Furthermore, in a 7-month trial, 10 adults with diabetes on the Nutritarian Diet saw their blood pressure drop from an average high of 148/87 mm Hg to a normal 121/74 mm Hg, on average (16).
May stabilize blood sugar levels
The Nutritarian Diet is rich in fiber, low in added sugar, and designed to promote low glycemic foods. Low glycemic foods are more slowly digested and less likely to spike blood sugar levels (
Generally speaking, nutrient-dense diets primarily consisting of whole, minimally processed foods have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes (
In one small study, adults with diabetes experienced an average 2.4% drop in levels of hemoglobin A1C, a marker of long-term blood sugar control, after following the Nutritarian Diet for a median of 7 months.
By the end of the study, 62% of participants had normal, pre-diabetes hemoglobin A1C levels (16).
May boost longevity and fight disease
Plant-based diets that are rich in minimally processed foods and healthy fats, such as the Nutritarian Diet, may increase your life span and improve your overall health.
For instance, a recent review linked vegetarian diets to a 25% lower risk of fatal heart attacks. Vegetarian and vegan diets were also linked to an 8% and 15% lower risk of cancer, respectively (
Many other studies reveal that diets emphasizing fruits, vegetables, nuts, minimally processed foods, and healthy fats may lower your risk of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, and help you live longer (
The Nutritarian Diet may lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. It may also increase your life span and help fight chronic diseases.
Although the Nutritarian Diet’s emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods is in line with healthy eating recommendations, other aspects of the diet may have downsides.
May be unsustainable
The strict guidelines of this diet can make it difficult to stick to long-term. Furthermore, its rules are likely unnecessary and generally not supported by strong research.
For example, while plenty of evidence supports the benefits of eating more plant foods, including plant-based protein sources, no studies undergird this diet’s arbitrary rule to limit meat, eggs, and dairy to less than 10% of daily calories (
Similarly, no scientific data maintains that you should eat 50% of your vegetables raw or get less than 20% of your total daily calories from whole grains and potatoes.
Moreover, although some people do well without snacks, others may find that snacking promotes weight loss.
Finally, the diet’s strict guidelines may be especially unsuitable for people with a history of disordered eating (
Cuts out some nutrient-rich foods
The Nutritarian Diet restricts your whole grain and potato intake to less than 20% of daily calories while also limiting your intake of minimally processed foods to less than 10% of calories.
Foods considered minimally processed include tofu, tempeh, and coarsely ground or sprouted whole grain breads and cereals. Yet, these foods can offer many beneficial nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, protein, and even calcium (
Such restrictions can make it unnecessarily difficult to meet your daily needs for certain nutrients.
May increase your risk of weight regain
This diet promises that you’ll lose large amounts of weight in very short periods of time — usually an average of 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg) each week.
To achieve such a dramatic drop in weight, you would need to eat substantially fewer calories than your body requires each day.
Research shows that such severe calorie restriction can slow your metabolism and trigger muscle loss. It may also promote hunger and increase the risk that you’ll regain all your lost weight, if not more (
The Nutritarian Diet’s strict rules are not all based on science and can hamper your ability to maintain this diet, or any weight loss, in the long term. What’s more, it cuts out some nutrient-rich foods.
The Nutritarian Diet encourages eating whole or minimally processed foods, including:
- Vegetables. This category includes all vegetables, whether raw or cooked, as well as small amounts of starchy veggies like potatoes.
- Fresh or dried fruit. All fruits are included, but any dried fruit should be free of added sugars or oils.
- Nuts and seeds. All nuts and seeds are appropriate but should be eaten raw or dry-roasted and without any added salt.
- Legumes. This category includes beans, peas, and lentils. Minimally processed foods made from legumes, such as tofu and tempeh, are also allowed in small quantities.
- Whole grains and potatoes. Small amounts of whole grains and potatoes are allowed.
- Wild and non-factory-farmed animal foods. This includes meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. These foods should be consumed in only small amounts.
The Nutritarian Diet particularly encourages followers to eat plenty of greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds for their health-promoting properties. These foods are collectively referred to as “G-Bombs” by the Nutritarian community.
Wild or sustainably raised animal foods, including meat, dairy, fish, and eggs, are also allowed, as long as they don’t exceed 10% of your daily calories (or about 2 servings per week).
The Nutritarian Diet promotes whole, minimally processed foods, especially fresh veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
The Nutritarian Diet eliminates or severely restricts the following foods:
- Factory-farmed animal products. This category includes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy.
- Processed foods. Chips, pastries, crackers, and other packaged foods high in calories and sugar are disallowed.
- Sweets. This category includes not only candy but also sweeteners like table sugar, maple syrup, and honey.
- Processed fruit. Fruit juices, fruit-based beverages, and canned fruit are all banned.
- Oils. Cooking and culinary oils, such as olive, avocado, and flaxseed oils, are not allowed.
- Added salt. This includes table salt and foods rich in salt, such as store-bought sauces and salad dressings.
- Alcohol. Beer, wine, liquor, and other alcoholic beverages are restricted.
- Caffeine. Everything from coffee to caffeine-containing foods like chocolate should be avoided or consumed in limited amounts.
In addition, the diet discourages snacking, restricts nuts and seeds for those who desire optimal weight loss, and limits minimally processed foods like tortillas, whole grain breads, tofu, and tempeh to less than 10% of your daily calories.
The Nutritarian Diet eliminates processed foods, sweets, oils, alcohol, caffeine, and added salt and sugar. It also limits some minimally processed foods, snacking, and — in some cases — nuts and seeds.
Here’s a sample 3-day menu tailored for the Nutritarian Diet.
- Breakfast: oatmeal made with rolled oats, almond milk, chia seeds, and berries
- Lunch: mixed-green salad with cucumber, bell pepper, mushrooms, chickpeas, carrots, cherry tomatoes, avocado, peaches, and dry-roasted, unsalted pistachios
- Dinner: scrambled tofu, sauteed kale, and onions on a whole grain tortilla with a side of radish and spiralized zucchini salad
- Breakfast: frozen bananas blended with peanut butter and topped with fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of hemp seeds
- Lunch: baby spinach salad topped with cherry tomatoes, red kidney beans, roasted eggplant, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds
- Dinner: red lentil dahl and a mixed-green salad with apple slices, raisins, celery, red onion, and balsamic vinegar
- Breakfast: tropical fruit bowl with fresh pineapple, mangoes, and papaya topped with shredded coconut and ground flaxseed
- Lunch: arugula salad topped with a black bean burger, radishes, red onion, tomatoes, avocado, balsamic vinegar, and a handful of raw pine nuts
- Dinner: white bean and broccoli soup, whole wheat crackers, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds
You can find more recipe ideas on the diet’s website.
The Nutritarian Diet provides a versatile array of fresh foods. Many sample menus and recipes are available online.
The Nutritarian Diet promotes nutrient-rich plant foods while discouraging processed ones. It aids weight loss, may boost longevity, and helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
That said, some of this diet’s rigid guidelines are not supported by science and could impair long-term commitment to this eating pattern. This may ultimately cause weight regain when you go off the diet. What’s more, it unnecessarily restricts some nutritious foods.
If you’re simply interested in boosting your health or quality of life, you may prefer to make some easier lifestyle adjustments that don’t involve strict dieting.