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Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian food pyramid is based on the principles of high nutrient eating as illustrated by his Health Equation: Health = Nutrients / Calories (H = N / C). Low-calorie, nutrient dense foods are at the base of the pyramid, and high-calorie, nutrient poor foods are at the top. As nutrient density decreases, the quantity of room in the diet decreases.
Nutritional science in the last twenty years has demonstrated that colorful plant foods contain a huge assortment of protective compounds, mostly of which still remain unnamed. Only by eating an assortment of nutrient-rich natural foods can we access these protective compounds and prevent the common diseases that afflict Americans. Our modern, low-nutrient eating style has led to an overweight population, the majority of whom develop diseases of nutritional ignorance, causing our medical costs to spiral out of control.
The base of the pyramid – the foundation of the diet, foods consumed in the highest quantity – should be the foods with the highest ratios of nutrients to calories – these are vegetables. Ninety percent of the daily diet should be made up of nutrient rich plant foods, whose calories are accompanied by health-promoting phytochemicals: green and other non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; beans and legumes; raw nuts, seeds, and avocados; starchy vegetables; and whole grains.
If desired, the remaining 10% of the diet can contain small amounts of foods with lower nutrient to calorie ratios, such as animal products, sweets, and processed foods, as shown toward the top of the pyramid. By keeping these low nutrient foods to a minimum and striving to eat at least 90% of calories from the unrefined plant foods that comprise the base of the pyramid each day, you construct a health-promoting, disease-preventing diet. This high nutrient eating style is considered a Nutritarian™ diet.
Dr. Fuhrman's Food Pyramid vs. USDA Pyramid
The USDA’s pyramid bases the diet around grains, dairy, and meat, rather than vegetables – only 2-3 servings each of vegetables and fruits are recommended. Their pyramid reflects the American diet as it is – centered on animal products and processed foods rather than whole plant foods.
Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Pyramid is based on the foods that are the richest in micronutrients and have shown consistent benefits to health and longevity in scientific studies. The USDA pyramid treats these protective foods as “side dishes,” and allows the vast majority of calories to be obtained from nutrient poor foods.