4 Benefits of the Nutritarian Diet — and 4 Big Drawbacks

The Nutritarian Diet emphasizes whole, nutrient-dense foods, but it also restricts several foods that have proven health benefits.
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From keto to intermittent fasting to the GOLO diet, you'd think there couldn't possibly be room for yet another diet, but alas, it appears there is. The Nutritarian Diet is ranked fifth among the best commercial diet plans for 2021, according to U.S. News & World Report, sitting alongside the likes of WW (Weight Watchers) and Jenny Craig.

But what is this new-ish diet, and what does it entail? And will it actually help you move the number on the scale?


What Is the Nutritarian Diet?

The diet was created by Joel Fuhrman, MD, a family doctor who has published a number of books on diet and health over the past 17 years. And according to U.S. News' reporting, the diet itself is based on four core principles:

  1. Nutrition density:​ Paying attention to the concentration of nutrients per calorie of food
  2. Nutrition adequacy:​ Getting all of the nutrients your body requires
  3. Toxin avoidance:​ Limiting chemicals, toxins and other harmful substances that can be found in certain foods
  4. Hormonal balance:​ Opting for low-glycemic-index foods and limiting animal proteins to promote favorable hormone levels


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What You Can (and Can’t) Eat on the Nutritarian Diet

The dos and don'ts of the diet are pretty clear: The Nutritarian "Eat to Live" program has its own food pyramid, along with four steps to get you started if you're new to the diet.

  • Step One:​ Eat your G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds)
  • Step Two:​ No snacking. Eat only at mealtimes, leaving at least 13 hours between your last meal of the day and your first meal of the following day
  • Step Three:​ Just say no to sugar, oil, processed baked goods and foods made with white flour
  • Step Four:​ Replace one meal a day with a salad


Foods Allowed

  • Vegetables:​ These make up the base of the food pyramid. Half should be cooked and half should be raw and in total, vegetables should make up 30 to 60 percent of your total calories for the day
  • Fresh fruits:​ Should make up 10 to 40 percent of your total calories each day
  • Beans/legumes:​ Should make up 10 to 40 percent of your total calories each day
  • Seeds, nuts, avocados:​ These "healthy fat" foods should make up 10 to 40 percent or less of your total calories for the day
  • Whole grains and potatoes:​ These should account for 20 percent or less of total daily calories


If there are calories remaining in your day, the diet states you can eat (if desired), "minimally processed foods such as tortillas, coarsely-ground or sprouted whole-grain breads or cereals, tofu, tempeh and a limited amount of animal products, preferably not more than 5 percent of total caloric intake."

Foods to Limit

The following foods should be limited to less than 10 percent of your total calories:

  • Eggs
  • Oil (even olive oil)
  • Dairy
  • Wild or naturally raised animal protein, including fish

Foods to Avoid

  • Sugar and other sweeteners
  • Commercial and processed meats
  • Cheese
  • Processed foods
  • Added salt
You may lose weight on the Nutritarian Diet, but it's not the healthiest plan out there.
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Will You Lose Weight?

There is a more restrictive version of the Nutritarian Diet called the 10 in 20: Dr. Furhman's Lose 10 Pounds in 20 Days Detox Program, but it's likely you'd lose weight on the Nutritarian Diet itself, albeit not 10 pounds in 20 days.

Because the diet is focused on whole, fiber-filled, minimally processed foods and limits oils, sugars and animal proteins, you will likely lose weight by following the diet plan.

The Nutritarian Diet ranked #15 in best overall diet plans in 2020 by the same U.S. News & World Report.

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The Pros and Cons of Going Nutritarian

The Pros:

  • Emphasizes whole, minimally processed and nutrient-dense foods
  • Focuses on eating more plant-based sources of food, which has been linked to better health and is better for the environment
  • Encourages eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are filled with fiber and other phytochemicals and micronutrients
  • Favors beans, legumes and whole grains, all of which support a healthy heart, as outlined by the American Heart Association

The Cons:

  • Includes eating a salad every day, which can get old, especially when it isn't topped with an oil or dressing
  • Limits many healthy foods like fish and olive oil, staples of the Mediterranean diet, which experts and research have been deemed one of the healthiest diets
  • Limits foods rich in healthy omega-3s and recommends taking a supplement instead
  • Makes some aggressive claims not backed by research, including that the diet will "unleash the body's power to heal itself and slow the aging process" and that you should omit certain foods because they are "disease-causing, addicting and they lead to depression."

The Bottom Line

You may lose weight on the Nutritarian Diet, but you'll also leave yourself open to nutritional deficiencies and run the risk of overspending on expensive supplements. For a healthier approach to weight loss that's also backed by scientific research, try the Mediterranean diet.