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Nutritarian – A High Nutrient Way Of Eating

{image inspired by Dr. Joel Furhman’s Food Pyrimad}
I have been on a journey of health since my cancer diagnosis in 2010.  I big part of pursing health has been in what I choose to eat.  I strongly believe what we choose to put into our bodies can play a big part in our overall health.  After much reading and many small changes in my diet, I have embraced Nutritarianism.
What is a Nutritarian?
nutritarian is a person who has a preference for foods that are high in micronutrients.
The term “nutritarian” was coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. In his book, Eat to Live, he offers this health equation while describing the nutritarian approach to health:
Health = Nutrients/Calories (or H= N/C for short).
In other words: the more nutrients you consume per calorie, the healthier you will be.
Nutrients in the numerator (top part of the equation) include vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Since these are found in small quantities in food, they are considered to be micronutrients. Caloric sources in the denominator include the macronutrients: fat, carbohydrate, and protein. We need to meet our caloric needs without consuming excessive calories.
A high N/C diet is also called “nutrient-dense” or “nutrient-rich.”
In the Standard American Diet (SAD), about 6% of the total caloric intake comes from nutrient-rich foods.
Nutritarians eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, onions, mushrooms, whole grains, beans, and berries, and particularly consume leafy greens, which are the most nutrient-dense foods. A nutritarian strives to consume at least 90% of their diet from these foods.
A nutritarian diet will lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and even such conditions as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Nutritarians do not necessarily exclude animal products. Many nutritarians do choose to be vegan (excluding all animal products). Many vegetarians, however, are not nutritarian, if they frequently consume products containing processed grains, oils, sugars, or salt.
It takes a bit of education to become a nutritarian. One must learn the relative nutrient density of various foods. For instance, many people are surprised to learn that bok choy has more calcium per calorie than whole milk, and even than “2% fat” milk. The same is true for many other leaf greens.


{Dr. Fuhrman’s Website}

I love the idea of getting “more nutrient bang for caloric buck.”  I love thinking about food in terms of nutrients, and it feels good to know I am doing something positibe for my health by simply being mindful of the nutrients my food contains.

I have been eating this way for almost 3 years now.  It was a gradual change, but especially over the last 2 years, I have been pretty close to being a vegetarian/vegan.  I never knew what to call myself until reading Dr. Fuhrman’s Book– Eat To Live.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.  Dr. Fuhrman has so much knowledge and his words are easy to read and absorb.

Most of the recipes I now feature at the blog reflect the change in our eating habits.  My whole family is now eating this way, which happened slowly and over time.  With my kids, it truly was educating them as to why I eat the way I do, and they have slowly adapted the changes themselves.  When we are home, we eat Nutritarian.  When we go to others homes or out to eat as a family we eat more “normal.”  When Todd and I go out on dates, we prefer places that allow us to eat Nutritarian.  It it crazy how tastes buds change– we have found that we prefer whole, natural, high-nutrient foods.

Other resources that have highly influenced my way of eating:

Forks Over Knives by Gene Stone
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn
The Engine2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn

So…again…what is a Nutritarian?
~They eat lots of high-nutrient, natural plan foods.  Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts & seeds.
~They eat fewer animal products and choose healthier versions of these foods.
~They eat much less or almost no foods that are empty of nutrients: sugar, sweeteners, white flour, processed foods & greasy fast foods.


Got questions for me regarding the Nutritarian lifestyle?  Ask away!  It may spur on more posts in this series.

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  • upnorth
    May 10, 2013 at 12:02 am

    can you describe what you eat during the day?? I’m trying not to eat so much meat, but the hub is wanting meat at every meal. So, I push more fruit for desserts, more veggies on the plate, but I’m stuck on what to eat for breakfast, some help, please???

  • CurlyGirlMom
    May 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I was recently out of work for just over a week when my daughter was recovering from having her tonsils and adneoids removed. I watched a few documentaries (Hungry for Change, Food Matters and Forks Over Knives)and my life changed within a few days. I was obssessed with talking about what I’d learned through these movies. A book might have bored me too much to get the info across, but I REALLY got into these documentaries! I tried to talk with EVERYONE about it, but most conversations ended unsatisfactorily. The people that I encountered don’t want to know because knowing leads to having a responsibility and change. It’s sad…

    I haven’t let it stop me though. I am so excited about my endeavor that I began a blog of my own! 🙂 Feel free to come visit:

    Thank you for defining a nutritarian for me. I hadn’t heard the term before. While I’m currently following Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s food plan described in his book for now, I can see that we’ll be more closely be considered nutritarian. (We don’t want to completely give up meat and fish, but don’t want it to be an everyday part of our lives either.) It opens a whole new world of possibilities for me. Again, thanks for sharing this post!

    • Amy Bowman
      May 9, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      oh if only the whole world could see those 3 documentaries! everyone I know who watches them is changed. yes, much more powerful than a book. i will try to post about the specific videos soon…thanks for the inspiration!

      yes, i don’t try to hard to change those around me…only if they ask. and I share what I do through this blog, but people can choose whether to read or not.

      the Nutritarian way of eating is so free for me. it makes it less about being perfect and more about focusing in on nutrients. I love it!

      I will check your blog out!

    • CurlyGirlMom
      May 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      I went to bed grinning like a fool last night. Thank you SO much for sending your readers over via your FB page. It meant so much that you liked what you read on my blog. 🙂

      Also, I agree, it’s so freeing to eat in this manner. I love that I don’t have to obsess about anything. It’s just so… NATURAL!

      I hope you will post about the documentaries. I look forward to seeing what you write.

  • olesea
    May 9, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Hi Amy!
    This is smth i want to ask you: how were you eating before you got cancer? Was your diet full of processed foods, animal products etc.?

    • Amy Bowman
      May 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      I would not say full of it, I tried to eat in a healthy way, but I didn’t understand what was healthy. I did do fast food at least once a week. I for sure was not getting enough veggies and fruits…and yes, I ate lots of animal products.

  • Marianne
    May 9, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Because I have been reading your Blog I too am moving in this direction with my eating. I know you drink tea because I have read about that but what about coffee? I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and I just can’t find anything to sweeten it with. I don’t need a lot of sweet but I can’t do plain black either. What do you think? Do I just need to give it up? It really is one of my few “splurges” when it comes to eating.

    • Amy Bowman
      May 9, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      I have not given up coffee and don’t know if I will. I have taught myself to drink it black, by investing in a local brand of coffee that is organic and super smooth. It costs more but worth it to me. When I want a more dessert type drink, I will add So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer. It adds a touch of sweet and is yummy! No coconut flavor.

      Great job on all your positive changes. Remember, it is not about perfection, so I’m ok with keeping coffee around!

      • Lauren Bourque
        July 20, 2014 at 10:03 am

        Hello Amy,
        Can you drink coffee with hemp milk??? Also can you put the coconut Creamer you spoke of and the hemp milk in the coffee together? Lastly, what brand of organic coffee do you buy and what is it called. Thank You!

        • AmyNewNostalgia
          July 20, 2014 at 11:45 am

          I’ve read that hemp doesn’t taste as good as almond milk in coffee. I have never tired it. I say try it and see if your taste buds like it.

          I use Cultiva coffee, bought here from a local roaster. Here is the website. I LOVE Sumatra.

    • Marianne
      May 9, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement about not worrying about perfectionism. :). I will definitely try So Delicious. I saw it at Fresh Market the other day and wondered if it was any good. Thanks again for all your blogs and posts. You have made a positive impact in my life and I know many others.