Categories: Nutrition

Nutritarian Diet: 6 Basic Guidelines for the Nutritarian Diet

Excerpted from The End of Dieting: How to Live for Life* by Joel Fuhrman, MD. © 2014 HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Everybody can do this, and here’s the plan. But remember: These are just general guidelines; you don’t have to follow them precisely. For example, you can go above or below the general serving recommendations depending on your height and degree of physical activity or exercise. A world-class athlete may need triple the calories of a sedentary office worker. To call yourself a nutritarian, follow these six basic guidelines:

1. Eat a large salad every day as your main dish.

This salad should include lettuce, tomatoes, shredded onion, and at least one shredded raw cruciferous vegetable, such as chopped kale, red cabbage, nappa cabbage, arugula, watercress, or baby bok choy.

Use a variety of greens, including romaine, mixed greens, mesclun mix, arugula, baby spinach, Boston lettuce, and watercress. For added veggies, choose from red and green bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts, shredded red or green cabbage, chopped white and red onions, lightly sautéed mushrooms, lightly steamed and sliced zucchini, raw and lightly steamed beets and carrots, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and radishes. I often add some frozen peas and beans to my salads too.

Add a healthy dressing (one that is nut and seed based). I usually make a huge salad, share it with family members, and have enough left over for later in the day or the next day. Remember, for superior health, the green salad is the main dish, not the side dish.


2. Eat at least a half cup, but preferably closer to 1 cup, of beans a day.

This means eating a bean burger, a bean loaf, or a veggie-bean soup or putting beans on your salad or in a stew or chili in the evening. In our household, we almost always make a giant pot of veggie bean soup once a week. After eating the soup that day, I portion it into eight containers and refrigerate or freeze it so I can take it to work with me or use it when I need it. Quick tip: Use some of the soup you made as a unique salad dressing base by adding some flavored vinegar and nuts. Blend in a high-powered blender until smooth.

3. Eat one large (double-size) serving of lightly steamed green vegetables a day.

This means a bowl of asparagus, chopped kale with a delicious mushroom/onion sauce, green beans, steamed zucchini, bok choy, artichokes, cabbage, or collard greens. Don’t overcook greens; thirteen minutes of steaming is plenty. The longer you cook them, the more micronutrients you burn off, which wastes the effects of phytochemicals. Green vegetables need to be fully chewed (to the consistency of nearly liquid in your mouth) for you to fully benefit from their anticancer phytonutrients.

4. Eat at least 1 ounce of nuts and seeds per day if you’re female and at least 1.5 ounces of nuts and seeds per day if you’re male.

Remember, don’t use nuts and seeds as snacks. They are the healthiest way to take in fat with meals and demonstrate a powerful effect on extending the human lifespan. The fat from nuts and seeds, when eaten with vegetables, increases the phytochemical absorption from those veggies. That’s why I typically recommend that nuts and seeds be part of your salad dressing, too. Also, at least half of this intake should be from walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds because they have unique protective properties, such as lignans and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eating 3 to 4 ounces of nuts and seeds a day isn’t too much if you’re active and slim. There’s no problem with eating even more than 4 ounces of nuts and seeds per day if you’re an avid exerciser or athlete who needs the calories. I have worked with professional football players and Olympic skiers who follow this diet style; obviously, they need lots more seeds and nuts, and other food too.

Eat nuts and seeds raw, or just lightly toasted, because the roasting process alters their beneficial fats. Commercially packaged nuts and seeds are also frequently cooked in oil and are heavily salted. If you want to add some flavor, lightly toast seeds and nuts in a toaster oven on one low toasting cycle. This doesn’t deplete their beneficial properties. Don’t toast to the point of dark browning, however, as this can cause carcinogenic compounds called acrylamides to be formed. You can also bake them in a 250˚F oven for about fifteen minutes, or until very lightly browned.

5. Eat mushrooms and onions every day.

Both mushrooms and onions have powerful anticancer benefits. Mushrooms are better eaten cooked because some mushrooms contain a mild carcinogen called agaritine. It is gassed off during cooking.

Only the Agaricus genus of mushrooms—which includes the common white, brown, button, cremini, and portobello mushrooms—contains agaritine. Shiitake, chanterelle, enoki, morel, oyster, and straw mushrooms belong to different genera that don’t contain agaritine. But they should also be cooked to reduce the risk of any potential contamination with microbes.

It’s still not entirely clear whether agaritine is a health risk, but play it safe and cook most of your mushrooms with your other vegetables, or water-sauté them in a wok or other pan. Keep a container of cooked mushrooms in your fridge to add to salads and vegetable dishes regularly.

6. Eat three fresh fruits a day.

Fresh fruits aren’t just nutritious and delicious, they also protect against disease. The phytochemicals in fruits have anticancer effects, and berries have even been shown to protect the brain from dementia in later life. Try to eat one serving of berries or pomegranate a day as part of your total fruit intake.

When eaten with a meal, vegetables dilute and slow your body’s absorption of glucose and fructose, so it’s best to eat fruit as part of your vegetable-based meal, either mixed in with your salad or as a dessert. If you’re physically active, you can certainly eat more than three fruits a day, but it’s still best to avoid fruit juice and too much dried fruit, such as dates, raisins, figs, and prunes, because they are calorically dense and could elevate your blood sugar if you eat them in large amounts.

When making a recipe or dessert that contains dried fruit for flavor and sweetness, limit the amount to 2 tablespoons per serving. That means one Medjool date or two Deglet Noor dates per dessert serving; otherwise, you could be consuming too much simple sugar.

That’s it. Six simple guidelines to follow. That’s not so difficult to do, is it? Can you imagine what would happen if everyone in the United States followed these guidelines?

  • We would stop the healthcare crisis in its tracks and save billions of dollars on medical expenses.
  • We would save millions of lives from premature death.
  • We would reduce rates of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer by more than 80 percent.
  • We would have less crime, and a more successful, intelligent, and productive workforce.
  • We would have many fewer people in nursing homes, fewer stroke victims, and fewer elderly people suffering from dementia and unable to enjoy life.

Nutritarian Daily Checklist (Make copies of this chart and check off each point each day.

  • Eat a large salad as the main dish for at least one meal.
  • Eat at least a half cup, but preferably closer to 1 cup, of beans.
  • Eat one large (double-size) serving of steamed green vegetables.
  • Eat at least 1 ounce of nuts and seeds if you’re female and at least 1.5 ounces of nuts and seeds if you’re male. Half of them should be walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, or sesame seeds.
  • Eat some cooked mushrooms and raw and cooked onions.
  • Eat at least three fresh fruits.

Visit Joel Fuhrman on the web at Dr. Fuhrman.

In addition to Dr. Fuhrman’s excellent books, another helpful guide to transitioning to a vegan diet and lifestyle is Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes* delivers a beautiful must-have guide with more than 150 delicious and versatile plant-based recipes for every day of the year. Eating vegan doesn’t have to be about sacrifice and substitutions. With Plant Power, Nava Atlas celebrates the bounty of natural foods and teaches everyone—from committed vegans to those who just want more plants in their diet—how to implement a plant-based approach to their lives—easily, practically, and joyfully, every day.


*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, VegKitchen receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

  • For more tips on plant-based nutrition, make sure to browse VegKitchen’s Nutrition page

Joel Fuhrman MD :

View Comments

  • My thoughts are leaning toward giving this life style a try. Many of the foods I eat anyway, but not in combinations as described by him. I'm not hearing when the 3 oz of fish/ chicken/ turkey fits in. I eat cauliflower rice with everything, since rice always causing me to gain weight. Is SOY ok? Edamame, burgers? Do I have to eat rice? I also don't like bananas,, how can I substitute? The onion substitution was helpful because, I tend be very gassy. Thanks for all the encouragement

  • Sounds wonderful! Here is the glitch...people with thyroid issues must stay away from goigitren veggies like peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower. These veggies impact thyroid production.
    Many of the veggies on this list are on my foods to avoid lists (for which I was
    tested)for food intolerance because of my
    DNA. That does not leave a lot for me to eat on a consistent basis. Many veggies create a LOT of gas because of intestinal flora. TAking probiotics to supposedly "correct" intestinal problems can create more problems like diarrhea.

  • I'm not an official expert but I've read a few of Dr. Fuhrman's books, so here is my 2 cents on a few of the questions above.

    1) Deborah - I haven't seen Dr. Fuhrman recommend soaking nuts or seeds. He tends to be science-based, so maybe there just haven't been enough studies about the benefits of soaking? Here is some more info from his site on nuts: https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/39/nuts-and-seeds-essential-for-good-health-and-weight-loss

    4) Daniel - Non-caffeinated herbal teas are OK. Oil is not recommended at all.

    5) Renauda - Microwaving is OK for reheating but not for cooking.

    18) Ray - The roasting process creates acrylamides (a carcinogenic compound) in peanuts. So it's better to substitute raw cashew or raw almond butter (see link above).

    27) MS GETHEALTHY - I think his guideline is one serving per day of low- or un-processed soy, like edamame, tofu, tempeh, or soy milk. Soy is a bean and it's good to eat a variety of beans, not just one. More info here: https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/104/dont-fall-for-the-myths-about-soy

    Thanks, Nava, for your great site and delicious cookbooks.

  • This is a great way to eat, but only IF one also consumes at least a few animal products each week (especially fish) or take supplements for Vit. B12, Vit. K2, EPA/DHA, and creatine. That's because its virtually impossible to get sufficient amounts of these vitamins and nutrients from plants alone. Multiple studies have shown this, and Fuhrman agrees in his books. If you are deficient in them, you more than defeat the purpose of the rest of the diet, since you will have a vastly increased chance of heat disease, dementia, and other serious conditions. Supplementing magnesium (either orally, or with topical Mg oils or Epsom Salt soaks) is also a good idea, because modern farming methods have largely depleted the soil of it, and Mg deficiency can foster heart arrythmias, cramps, and other ailments.
    Also, the author should stress not only what is good to eat, but what should be largely avoided or eliminated to maximize health and minimize risk of many diseases. That includes trans fats, added salt, sugars and other sweeteners and refined carbs (white bread, cake, donuts, chips, etc), and all processed foods, most of which are loaded with the above, as well as preservatives, dyes, and other harmful additives and chemicals.

  • I also meant to add dairy products to the list of foods to avoid, since as many studies have shown, and Fuhrman agrees, milk, cheese, and other dairy products (even low fat versions) increase risk of cancer and other diseases. Better alternatives (besides water) include unsweetened soy, almond, and coconut milk, widely available these days in most stores. And of course meat (by which I mean beef, pork, poultry, and other animal flesh foods) should be eaten only in small quantities, with the caveat that if they are largely or entirely eliminated, one needs to supplement B12 and K2, since these are critical vitamins that cannot be obtained in sufficient quantities from plants alone.

    • Hi Glen — thanks for your comments, but many practitioners of the vegan diet would respectfully disagree that any animal products are needed at all. Many studies have born this out. That said, making sure to get sufficient B12 is very important. I use nutritional yeast, not pills, and my yearly checkups show that my levels are just perfect. And all the junk foods you mention in your first post, of course, no one needs these no matter what their dietary inclination is! Americans, especially, consume way too much sugar and white starches.

  • Nava, I did not say one must eat animal products; I just cautioned that if one did not eat any, one was in danger of having a number of deficiencies in B12, K2, EPA/DHA and other nutrients unless supplements were taken. If you've been able to maintain good B12 levels from nutritional yeast, fine. Vegans still need to supplement or find ways to get enough K2 and EPA/DHA, since it's virtually impossible to get enough of those from plants alone (although algae can help with the latter). Some vegans think (based on old research) that they can get enough EPA and DHA from the ALA Omega-3s in foods like Flax and Chia seeds, but recent studies show that very little is converted into EPA and DHA. These specific fatty acids are vital for heart and brain health, and consequences of deficiencies in them (as well as B12 and K2) can be dire, even lethal, as Fuhrman and others document. For example, see pp 61-69 of his book _The End of Dieting_.

  • I should also add, in regards to Nara's use of nutritional yeast as a B12 source, that one has to be careful about the kind of nutritional yeast one uses, since (among other concerns) not all versions have much B12. Some also believe that seaweed (marine algae) is a good source of B12, but it's not. For more info see: http://veganhealth.org/b12/vegansources

  • Microwaves are perfectly fine to use and certainly do not deplete nutrients. That's just a silly superstition, microwaves simply create heat and nothing more. Dr Mcdougall addressed the microwave concern in one of his newsletters. Also, frozen vegetables actually have more nutrients than fresh vegetables do because they haven't aged as much, they're flash frozen at their most fresh state. The idea that something isn't healthy simply because it's newer technology is a common bias people have, but the truth is natural does not necessarily mean better or most optimal.

  • I would like to follow this eating plan, however, I would like to know how to gain weight on this eating plan. It may sound strange but my goal is to gain 8 pounds.Any suggestions would be appreciated. I do love beans, all veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds but how to gain weight is challenging. Yes, my doctor says nothing wrong with me. I am 65 inches and weight 118 and am 64 years old.