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March 21, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 2

The Nutrient-Rich Weight Loss Diet

By Christina Pasternak More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the FOOD-A-MINS Blog Series

"Hi, my name is Christina, and I’m a nutritarian."

A what?

"I’m here to tell you that the more food you eat, the more weight you’ll lose."


"Even better, the more food you eat, the less calories you’ll count, and the more unhealthy extra weight you’ll shed."

Cut. It. Out.

"I’m not lying to you, but I am going to introduce you to an old concept with a new meaning. New because we’ve gotten so far away from it that many of us have never eaten this way in our lives. Old because it’s getting back to the way we (as in, "we," the human civilization) used to eat."

The Paleo diet?!

"No, you wild caveman, put down your spear. Hunting is not required. Besides, if we really want to get behind the Paleo diet, this would mean eating wild game, or, at the very least, organic, grass-fed meat. Factory farmed animal protein would not be on the menu, and, unfortunately, that’s what most people have access to, or can afford. More about the dangers of this diet fad another time, though."

What I’m really talking about is the idea of trading in calorie-dense foods for nutrient-rich foods - the secret to sustained weight loss, better health, anti-aging, preventing disease, beautiful skin, hair, and nails, more energy, better sex, less controlling food cravings, regular bowel movements, and improved sleep.

Full Stomach, Starving Body

The basis of the average American’s diet is, unfortunately, meat, refined grains, dairy, sugar, and oils. These foods are so dense in calories, and so sparse in nutrients, it’s practically impossible for us to get the nutrition we need without consuming way too many calories. So what happens? We eat calorie-rich foods to fill our stomachs and satisfy our hunger, while gaining weight and depleting our nutrient reserves. Studies have shown that people who eat calorie-dense foods end up eating twice as many calories just to satisfy their hunger. Even if we remove “emotional eating” and “food addiction” from the equation, most of us are over-eating simply because we’re hungry!
Let’s put this into perspective: Our stomach can hold about a liter (4.2 cups) of food. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a physician who specializes in treating and reversing disease with nutritive foods, calculated the caloric ratio of common foods relative to the amount our stomach can hold. He found that, if we filled our stomach with each type of the following foods, the amount of calories you’d be consuming might be pretty shocking.

You might be thinking, “C’mon who would eat a liter of oil?!” Remember, though, that the  average American’s diet consists of dairy, meat, refined grains, sugar, and oil - the most calorie-dense choices!

On the other hand, one can clearly see which foods will make us feel full with the least amount of calories. The shining stars. The show-offs. The overachieving beans, fruits, and veggies. In fact, these foods, particularly the green ones, are so special for one very specific reason: The more you eat, the more weight you’ll lose. Why? Because they are so incredibly low in calories, while being rich in nutrients and fiber, they will fill you up, while helping you lose weight. More importantly, they contain phytonutrients, substances found only in plants that provide specific health benefits the body requires to promote longevity, prevent illness, and even heal disease.

Nutrient Density

Because Dr. Fuhrman just can’t get helpful enough, he’s provided another guide to eating called the Nutrient-Density Line. The food scores below outline the nutritive content of our food, primarily focusing on phytonutrients and antioxidants, as well as vitamin and mineral content. The highest nutrient density gets a score of 100, with the lowest nutrient density being scored 0.

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Green Leafy Vegetables = 100 (kale, mustard greens, collards, chard, watercress, spinach, arugula) Other Green Vegetables = 95 (cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, string beans, snow peas, green peas, romaine lettuce) Non-green Vegetables = 50 (beets, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, radishes, bean sprouts, red and yellow peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots) Fresh Fruits = 45 Beans = 40 Raw Nuts and Seeds = 30 Colorful Starchy Vegetables = 25 (squash, sweet potatoes, corn, turnips) Whole Grains/White Potatoes = 20 (oats, barley, brown/wild rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, bulgur, whole grain bread) Fish = 18 Fat-free Dairy = 15 Eggs = 15 Wild Meat = 15 Full-fat Dairy = 8 Red Meat = 6 Refined Grains = 6 Cheese = 3 Refined Oils = 1 Refined Sweet Foods = 0 (cookies, cakes, candy, soda)

Balanced Diet = Balanced Body

So does this mean you’re all set with just eating green food for the rest of your life? Not so fast, Slim Betty! If a person ate only the most nutrient-dense foods, such as leafy greens, they would not be getting enough calories and fat. But wait? That’s the goal, right? No, the goal is not to be calorie and fat deficient. We need calories and fat for optimal health and functioning. The idea is to eat more nutrient-dense foods and less calorie-dense foods. Think veggies, fruits, beans, seeds, and whole grains with some of the other stuff in small quantities -- no more than 10% of your diet.

The Way Nature Designed Us to Eat

While some people may feel eating a diet rich in whole foods, particularly green vegetables, is far from the norm, one cannot deny the fact that humans cannot survive, healthfully anyway, without them. Eating this way requires no label. Though I eat closely to what many people would call a vegan, I recognize, and partake in, foods that would not align with this ideology.

My way of eating fits more appropriately within nutritarian principles, but this does not mean I only eat plant foods. When choosing the food I eat, I ask myself, “What is this going to do for me?” The more I have learned about the connection between food and health, the closer I have leaned towards nutritive foods and have certainly reaped the benefits. I’ve overcome a painful, chronic disease, have achieved a balanced weight, and no longer struggle with anxiety, which I now associate with toxic food withdrawal.

The transition didn’t occur overnight, nor was it easy. I still have a long journey ahead of me, but one that doesn’t leave me with a dreadful feeling like other “diets” do. In fact, it’s the opposite. I have never felt so excited about food, because I know it’s only going to get better from here. So join me, fellow veggie lovers and wellness warriors, on this nutritarian food journey. Your best self is waiting for you!


Fuhrman, J. (2011). Eat to live: The amazing nutrient-rich program for fast and sustained weight loss. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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  • Great advice, Christina! Much of this is demonstrated visually in Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate, have you seen this?

  • I love the visual aid. "Potatoes and french fries don't count." Amen! I am going to print this and put it on my fridge. Thanks Jessica!

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