The nutrivore diet values nutrient-dense, high quality and in-season whole foods while avoiding the processed, inflammatory, and refined foods that drive chronic disease. It’s a word that is getting more hype in recent months and describes someone who eats nutritious food and provides micronutrients to their body for optimal health. Sounds pretty good right?
We often ask ourselves the question, “What is a healthy diet?” and for many, this question often confines the answer to a specific type of diet. We need to look past many dietary one-size-fits-all claims and look at a more holistic approach to diet, or health to be more realistic. The main characteristics of healthy food consumption include being nutrient-dense, nourishing, wholefoods, not refined and not processed but it also needs to work with the needs of the individual. And guess what…the nutrivore diet ticks all the boxes.
What does a nutrivore diet generally consist of?
- Vegetables (including sea vegetables)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Starchy plants
- Meat (including organ meat)
- Shellfish and fish
- Bone Broth
A large portion of nutrivore eating is removing inflammatory foods from the diet. This can include industrial seed oils, refined flour and excess sugar. In conjunction with food intake, the word nutrivore also encompasses a healthy lifestyle. When we say healthy, we’re referring to exercise, getting plenty of sleep, being able to manage stress levels and not smoking nor drinking excessively.
One of the characteristics however, is that the nutrivore diet isn’t meant to be restrictive like other one-size diets. It’s just about nutritious foods for nourishment. So don’t worry, there isn’t any calorie counting or macronutrient ratios you need to aim for. It might mean something more along the lines of consuming grains, legumes and dairy if your body can tolerate them, or cut these things out if you are intolerant. Thriving on this diet can be successful with meal times too. No restrictions means finding what works for you, from the regular three-meals-a-day to intermittent fasting.
Diet evolution: what about it? The human diet really fundamentally changed with the Agricultural Revolution. This meant grain cultivation and farming was the norm and the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was left behind. Recent human history has seen our diets change once again with the invention of advanced food processing and manufacture. With this we lost many nutrient-dense, whole foods we had evolved to eat and were replaced with a huge dietary shift of processed foods that research has started showing detrimental effects on our health. By this we mean chronic illness. From anaemia and obesity to diabetes and heart disease, the average life expectancy is dropping.
Nutrivores remove inflammatory foods from their diet such as refined flours, industrial seed oils and excess sugars. These three groups of foods can raise blood sugar and cause metabolic dysfunction, increase systemic inflammation and potentially impair immune function, all of which can lead to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, gut dysbiosis and other chronic diseases. Instead nutrivores opt for a more ancestral eating pattern in effort to correct the genetic mismatch that’s responsible for the rise in chronic disease.
We’ve spoken about what consists in a healthy diet, but when breaking it down it also comes down to what is nutrient dense? Defining nutrient dense food comes down to the quality, not the types of food. Nutrient-dense foods include a high concentration of micronutrients and amino acids that our bodies need to thrive. When you think about our body functioning, we need approximately 40 different micronutrients to function normally. The best way to get these is through food! Rather than focusing on different percentages of fats or carbs, perhaps try paying attention to the overall quality of your diet. We might speak about this if you’ve seen us in clinic. An example might be if you eat a ham and salad sandwich. Yes ham is a protein, but it’s of low quality compared to a piece of fatty fish.
High nutrient dense foods include:
- Organ meats
- Fish and seafood
- Herbs and spices, including cacao
- Nuts and seeds
- Beef, lamb, veal, pork, wild game meat
- Eggs and dairy
Intrigued? If you are considering a switch from your current diet, whether you are on a specific diet or just grabbing whatever food you can in a busy life, here are some general tips to get you started on a nutrivore diet.
- Include food from plants and animals
- Check the portions of your plant to animal ratio to ensure you have a higher ratio of plants. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 6 servings of vegetables per day. This is just the minimum recommended amount! We encourage a variety of vegetables and if you can eat 2-3 servings of plant-based food per meal this is a great place to start.
- Try a variety of foods. Pay attention to your body and see if any are causing reactions. This may mean speaking to a Naturopath or your local practitioner to investigate further whether you need to eliminate certain food.
- Visit your local farmer’s market. One of the best ways to try a variety of foods is to see what’s locally grown and in season. Often there vegetables sold that you cannot find in commercial supermarkets, or discover grass-fed organ meats at great prices and the farmers often have great suggestions on how to cook or what to do with their produce.
The moral of the story though is regardless of which type of diet you follow, the end goal should be to eat a variety of food that is nutrient dense to ensure you are getting a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals for optimal health.