Some diets have been popular for decades and are still widely used nowadays. Nutritional approaches such as the Pritikin Diet, which Nathan Pritikin developed in the 1970s, are among them.
The Pritikin Diet is a nutritional approach that stresses the importance of eating low-fat foods loaded with fiber. In addition, this diet encourages you to consider food quality rather than the number of calories, allowing you to be more in tune with your body when it comes to hunger and fullness signals. Nathan Pritikin and his followers claim that this diet aids in weight loss, heart health improvement, cholesterol levels decrease, and reducing inflammation.
The Pritikin Diet is one of the three components of the Pritikin Program that also includes an Exercise Plan and a Healthy Mind and Body parts. This nutritional approach encourages you to base your diet on whole, unprocessed, low-fat, fiber-rich foods. To help guide you about food choices, the Pritikin Diet lists foods you should base your meals on, those that are better to consume in limited amounts, and foods to avoid. These are “Go,” “Caution,” and “Stop” foods, respectively.
- Go foods: vegetables (these also include starchy ones), fruits, whole grains (including whole grain bread and pasta), pulses, lean protein (from plant and animal sources), fish, calcium-rich foods (choose dairy options that are lower in fat);
- Caution foods: salt, oils, refined sweeteners (including sugar, honey, corn syrup, etc.), refined grains (white rice, white bread, white pasta);
- Stop foods: organ meats, fatty meats, processed meats, egg yolks and other cholesterol-rich foods, tropical and refined oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, margarine), coconuts, animal fats (lard, chicken fat), whole-fat dairy products, whole and low-fat milk, partially hydrogenated oils;
While following the Pritikin Diet, you also have a few beverage options, including water, herbal teas, coffee substitutes, and cocoa (no more than two tsp per day). If you prefer to keep caffeinated beverages in your diet, choose green or black tea instead of coffee and try not to overcome 400 mg of caffeine in a day. In addition, it is recommended to either avoid alcohol or drink it in moderation (up to four drinks per week for women and seven drinks for men).
Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, physically active individuals, and the elderly should avoid the Pritikin Diet because it may be unsustainable for these people.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
As Pritikin Diet restricts certain food groups, you may develop deficiencies in some essential nutrients while following it. Nutrients at risk include vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K), minerals (iron), and protein. To prevent such deficiencies, add some of the listed below foods into your diet:
- vitamin A: leafy greens, red sweet peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, cantaloupes, eggs, cod liver oil, and some fish options (tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout);
- vitamin B-12: fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, trout), clams, milk, dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals, nutritional yeast;
- vitamin D: fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, swordfish, herring), cod liver oil, egg yolk, mushrooms, fortified foods;
- vitamin E: leafy greens, red bell pepper, asparagus, pumpkin, avocado, mango, kiwifruit, sunflower seeds;
- vitamin K: leafy greens, parsley, cabbage, avocado, kiwifruit, prunes, natto, string beans, green peas, chicken;
- iron: dark chocolate, spinach, broccoli, beans, lentils, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, tofu, turkey, red meat, fish;
- protein: fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa;
Unfortunately, it may be hard to fulfill the body’s requirements for mentioned nutrients with only food sources. In such a case, you can bring up a discussion with your doctor to decide on possible supplements you may need.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
A Pritikin Diet emphasizes the importance of consuming enough fiber. In fact, as specified by the American Heart Association Eating Plan, a daily norm of dietary fiber for a typical adult comprises 25 to 30 grams. Yet unfortunately, the average fiber intake among Americans is significantly lower.
Fiber is essential for digestion, normalizing blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and supporting bowel health. In addition, eating more fiber is correlated with weight reduction, a lower risk of heart diseases, certain cancers and diabetes (type 2), and longer life expectancy.
So, what can you do to increase your fiber intake? Here we provide a few tips you can try:
- Fill your meals with various fruits and vegetables. Besides being an excellent source of dietary fibers, vitamins, and minerals, they enrich your diet with color, variety, and deliciousness.
- Give preference to whole grains. For instance, make whole oats, brown rice, buckwheat, whole-grain rye, barley, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread and pasta a part of your meals. In addition, you can replace white flour (either half of it or completely) with whole wheat flour while baking.
- Take legumes into account when planning your meals. These are packed with fiber and plant protein. Employ soaking, boiling, and sprouting to boost digestion and absorption of nutrients from legumes.
- Make your to-go snack high in fiber. You can add fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole-grain crackers or bread, and seeds.
It is worth mentioning that although fiber-rich food beneficially impacts your health, suddenly adding too much fiber to your diet can lead to problems with digestion. Therefore, gradually increasing your fiber intake and drinking enough water is a better option.
The Pritikin Diet promotes eating whole, minimally processed foods rich in fiber. Such food can be a part of a healthy balanced diet, boosting digestion and overall health. In addition, the Pritikin Program involves daily physical activity and stress management, which can aid health improvement and weight loss.
However, this nutritional approach also encourages you to focus on low-fat foods, restricting numerous healthy food options. Such limitations make the Pritikin Diet hard to follow and unsustainable.
It is always advisable to consult a doctor before starting any diet, especially one that restricts many foods.