Why would I, a lifestyle medicine physician, leave a job, be separated from my family for seven months, and move more than 2,000 miles away? Simple—because Joel Fuhrman, MD, asked me to, that’s why. Recently, the New York Times best-selling author asked me to join Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Oasis, a new healthcare clinic that uses behavioral modification and something he calls the “Nutritarian diet” to reverse chronic diseases and overcome food addictions. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet reduces refined and processed grains, simple sugars, meat, and dairy in favor of beans, whole grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables; is nutrient-dense; and is full of the vital micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) that allow the body to thrive. As a vegan doctor, I couldn’t say no. Still, many people aren’t quite sure what the Nutritarian diet entails. When they ask, here are five of the most important tenets I think best explain this new approach to eating.
1. The health equation
The first scientific principle of the Nutritarian diet is the health equation. Health is determined by the nutrient density of your food in relation to the number of calories that your food contains. For example, “health” is really just a way of looking at nutrients and calories, so to gain a higher health quotient, you need to consume foods high in nutrients and low in calories. Eating kale (which has a high nutrient/low calorie value) is much preferred when compared to a vegan chocolate cake (low nutrients and high calories).
2. Eat the rainbow
The next step in the Nutritarian diet is the comprehensive nutrient adequacy. In laymen’s terms, this is the equivalent of the saying “eat the rainbow.” However, even the most optimal diet might not provide all the micronutrients needed to optimize health. To remedy any potential deficiencies, incorporate supplements (such as vitamins B-12 and D, algae-derived EPA, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and iodine) to your diet to ensure excellent health.
3. Keep harmful hormones in check
Once your diet is full of colorful fruit and vegetables, the next step in the Nutritarian diet is to monitor potentially harmful hormones. The Nutritarian diet is hormonally favorable to other diets because it keeps insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) at the lowest necessary levels. When elevated, these hormones increase the risks of certain cancers. Therefore, avoiding foods that raise them—such as high-glycemic-index foods (sugar, processed grains, and processed foods)—is important.
4. Avoid toxins found in food
Lastly, avoidance of toxins is another key principle of the Nutritarian diet. Toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and mercury can be found in foods. Many of these substances are chemicals that can cause cancer and are found in contaminated animal products.
5. Behavioral modifications
In addition to the Nutritarian diet, the Health Oasis uses behavioral modification as a cornerstone to better living. By incorporating a safe, controlled environment, our therapists change behavior and support people who are plagued by chronic disease and food addiction by helping patients understand why they “eat their feelings,” stress eat, and yo-yo diet. Then, we teach them self-monitoring tools to combat these negative lifestyle traits. Whereas other medical models do not address the reasons that cause physical, mental, and emotional addiction, we teach practical skills (cooking demonstrations, shopping in a grocery store, dealing with social stresses, and how to survive a restaurant) as ways to help overcome chronic lifestyle diseases. So far, I have seen a 50-pound weight loss in five-and-a-half weeks, a patient’s cholesterol drop 60 points in three weeks, people stopping all hypertension medications in seven days, and the normalization of blood sugars in less than a few weeks. Depression, anxiety, and insomnia that previously plagued people completely resolves, even after decades of medications and other treatments.
Laurie Marbas, MD, MBA, is the medical director at Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Oasis in Boca Raton, FL.
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