Vegetarians are defined by what they shun - meat. Vegans, who reject all food from animals, take it even further.
There are flexitarians, who eat a little bit of meat, and pescatarians, who skip meat but consume seafood. Raw
foodists don't believe in cooking.
And now come the nutritarians.
Central to nutritarianism is the understanding that fruits and vegetables contain thousands of vitamins, minerals and
phytochemicals - substances they believe are not found in any other food source.
So, how can you tell if a food is high in phytonutrients?
Eat the rainbow, says Jairam Vanamala, a professor in Colorado State University's department of food science and
human nutrition. Because phytochemicals and color are linked, eating fruits and vegetables representing a wide range
of colors provides a smorgasbord of phytochemicals.
Some mystery surrounds phytochemicals - researchers have discovered about 10,000 of them so far and believe there are
many more. And they haven't yet figured out all of phytochemicals' properties and benefits.
"Twentieth-century research focused on micronutrients and macronutrients," says Vanamala. "Twenty-first-century
research is going to be focused on phytonutrients."
Nutritarians think diets bereft of phytochemicals contribute to disease and frailty.
Vanamala says eating foods rich in phytonutrients is a step on the path toward good health. The compounds could be
important in the battle against chronic diseases such as cancer.
"The message of consuming fruits and vegetables keeps coming through loud and clear. The benefits keep stacking up,"
said Marisa Bunning, who also teaches food science and human nutrition at CSU. "They are low in calories, high in
nutrients, no cholesterol, no trans fats."
Leafy greens, in particular, boost health.
"Kale," she said, "is such a rock star."
The ideas behind nutritarianism are age-old and persistent - all of us, and all of our parents and grandparents, and
probably our relatives from the 14th century, have lived through our adolescent years being ordered to "eat your
fruits and vegetables!"
The problem is, most of us don't. We down pizza slices and chicken wings and bowls of Cheerios. We inhale platters of
spaghetti, plates of chile-drenched breakfast burritos, and burger after hot dog after rib.
"What you eat matters," said Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a Florida physician and author who coined the term nutritarian. "It
influences the quality of your life. They are predicting children growing up now will have the worst health in human
history. There is more mortality and morbidity caused by obesity and poor diets than there are people starving.
Overnutrition has now overwhelmed malnutrition."
Eating the nutritarian way, he said, "is not a religion. It's not forced. It's about improving the quality of
people's lives, a disease-free life. Everybody has a right to know this information."
The information remains relatively obscure - you're not going to find phytochemical concentrations on the back of a
sack of flour - but Whole Foods is working to make it more mainstream.
Dani Little gestures toward the produce section of a Boulder Whole Foods store.
"Now this," she says, "is my favorite room."
Little, the nutritionist for the Whole Foods on Pearl Street, appreciates the meat and seafood counters, too.
The bakery? She's a fan.
But the broad area packed with colorful displays of kale and carrots and apples is where she does most of her food
Scattered throughout some stores now, including the one on Pearl Street in Boulder, are "ANDI" scores displayed above
different foods. Little leads tours of her store, tutoring people in how to navigate the aisles based on ANDI scores.
ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Developed by Fuhran, it shows the nutrient-richness of different
foods. Nutrients include vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Mustard greens, kale, watercress, turnip greens and collard greens contain more phytochemicals than any other
vegetables, and achieve the highest score - 1,000. At a score of 554, radishes perform well, and at 420, so do red
Hot dogs? They get an 8. Cola? 0.5.
Nutritarians try to eat as much nutrient-dense food as possible and walk away from the poor-performing stuff.
Just six months ago, Robin Smith's diet wallowed among the foods scoring toward the bottom of the scale (like cream
cheese, which garners only 5 points).
The Colorado Springs employment consultant was obese - at least 70 pounds overweight, she said. Pork chops, 5-pound
blocks of cheddar cheese, and sacks of bagels filled her Costco shopping cart.
Vegetables? They swam around in the canned soup she would use to make chicken pot pie. They would sit in the
refrigerator and turn slimy. They would make appearances in small salads, and Smith, her husband and two children
would just pick at the little plates.
Immediately after Valentine's Day this year, she and her husband began eating the nutritarian way. So far she has
lost 35 pounds. Her cholesterol dropped 75 points and her blood pressure now is excellent.
She had tried many, many diets over the years, she said. None of them worked. This one seems different.
"I feel like a fog has lifted from my brain," she said. "I'm thinking more clearly. I'm accomplishing more. I have
more energy. I feel like I've gone back to the age of 25, back when anything seemed possible."
Before embarking on her new approach to eating, Smith had never bought a head of kale, or cleaned a leek. In general, she said she "turned up her nose" at vegetables. When friends would appear eating salads, she would scoff and say, "Oh, please. Have a rib."
Now she doesn't eat meat or dairy, but she is experimenting with fish. And for the first time in her life, vegetables
and fruits excite her. She cannot wait for the summer, when farmers markets burgeon. She even paid to become a member
of a farm that will deliver fresh vegetables and fruits to her home every week.
At first, shopping was confusing and more expensive. But now that the diet has become routine, she has streamlined
her shopping, and her weekly food bills are cheaper than before.
"I can see living like this for the rest of my life," she said. "I've never thought that way about any weight-loss
"I want to be 83 years old taking my grandkids on hikes."