Some of you may have already heard about Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He is an active participant in multiple sports, and is a health and fitness enthusiast. In addition to being a board-certified family physician, New York Times best-selling author and nutritional researcher, he is dedicated to sports medicine, injury prevention, as well as human performance and longevity. Along with his nutritional expertise, Dr. Fuhrman has been involved professionally with sports medical committees, advised professional and Olympic athletes, and has lectured to athletic trainers and world-class athletes for maximizing performance and preventing injury.
He has become renowned for his revolutionary research, but among them three important findings:
- His Health Equation: Health = Nutrients / Calories
- Theory on toxic hunger
He has coined the phrase, “Nutritarian,” which is a way of eating by basing food choices on maximizing the micronutrients per calorie. He believes it is not sufficient to merely avoid fats, consume foods with a low glycemic index, lower the intake of animal products, or eat a diet of mostly raw foods. A truly healthful Nutritarian diet must be micronutrient rich, and should be adjusted to meet individual needs. The foods with the highest micronutrient per calorie scores are green and colorful vegetables, and fresh fruits. For optimal health and to combat disease, it is necessary to consume enough of these foods that deliver the highest concentration of nutrients.
According to Dr. Fuhrman, the quality of a diet can be based on three simple criteria:
- Levels of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) per calorie
- Amounts of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) to meet individual needs, without excessive calories that may lead to weight gain or health compromise
- Avoidance of potentially toxic substances (such as trans fats) and limited amounts of other potentially harmful substances (such as sodium)
His Nutritarian Food Pyramid recommends that at least 90% of the daily diet should be comprised of whole plant foods that naturally contain health-promoting phytochemicals. It promotes foods that are richest in micronutrients and benefit health and longevity.
If you would like to compare Dr. Fuhrman’s pyramid with the USDA pyramid, click here.
Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian food pyramid is based on the principles of high nutrient eating as illustrated by his Health Equation: Health = Nutrients / Calories. The equation means your future health can be predicted by the micronutrient per calorie density of your diet. Micronutrient per calorie density is important in devising and recommending menu plans and dietary suggestions that are the most effective for tackling weight loss and for preventing and reversing disease.
He also represents his recommendations in a “Food Plate” graphic:
Eating mostly low nutrient foods, as found on top of the pyramid, fuels overeating behavior and toxic hunger. Dr. Fuhrman’s website explains, “Eating low nutrient foods (and toxic eating) leads to increased cellular toxicity with undesirable levels of free radicals and advanced glycation end products (AGE’s), lipofuscin, lipid A2E and other toxins that contribute to the development of chronic disease.” His findings are that these toxic substances lead to addictive withdrawal symptoms (toxic hunger), and lead to the desire to eat more frequently and overeat. Low nutrient eating, therefore, establishes a mechanism that leads to food addictions and cravings. This is the reason why calorie counting diets fail. Without addressing dietary quality, excess food cravings are almost impossible to ignore.
Fortunately, Dr. Fuhrman has found that the drive to over-consume calories is blunted by high micronutrient, high food antioxidant, consumption. The symptoms that people thought were hypoglycemia or even hunger, disappear after following his dietary recommendations. Not only do people lose the symptoms of fatigue, headaches, irritability and stomach cramping, but they get back in touch with true hunger felt in the throat, which makes eating more pleasurable and directs them to an appropriate amount of calories for their body’s biological needs.
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What is Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Diet? Dr. Fuhrman. Retrieved Jan. 9, 2015 from http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/what-is-a-nutritarian-diet.aspx.
Fuhrman, Dr. Joel. (2014.) Interview by John Robbins [recording]. Why be a Nutritarian. Six Weeks to a Healthy Kitchen course.