nutrition title image nutrition information site logo


top url strip

Pritikin Diet

The Pritikin Diet was created by Nathan Pritikin and enhanced by his son Robert Pritikin. It is a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. The theory is that we have an instinct to eat fat that was developed in the early days of man. The instinct was useful then because opportunities to eat fat were rare, and the fat helped to store calories to make it through the lean times. Now that fat is readily available, though, the instinct causes us to eat too much of it, adding unneeded weight and causing other bad side effects. The goal is that by learning to live on carbohydrates with a small amount of fat and exercising regularly a person can achieve the lean and healthy body of our remote ancestors rather than the overweight and unhealthy body of today.

This diet is grounded on a very simple theory: in order to feel satisfied (and hence want to stop eating), a human being needs to consume enough food, of any sort, until he or she has ingested a certain amount of bulk - physical weight. Fat, as a substance, is not per se bad; it is necessary, but obviously it poses the risk of heart disease when consumed in excess. Moreover, fat contains more calories per pound of its physical weight than do carbohydrates. (The Nutritional Facts labels do acknowledge this.) It's something like the opposite of the old riddle, "Which weighs more - a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks?" In this case, a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of carbohydrates or a pound of protein but contains more calories. That is the reason one pound of steak contains more calories than one pound of broccoli. It is not because the broccoli is per se more healthful: both foods contain nutrients we need that the other does not. The result: a given quantity of fat will tack on more calories than the same quantity of other nutrients.

The stomach and the body, according to Dr. Pritikin's theory, do not "know" whether the bulk ingested consists of fat or anything else. We need to know that before we eat it. The body knows only whether it has obtained sufficient bulk to feel sated or satisfied. Hence the Pritikin principle advocates a low-density, high-bulk diet. This means the trusty standbys: fruit, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and plenty of nonsoluble fiber, all of which generally promote good health. Processed, overly fatty and dried foods, on the other hand, should be avoided - not only because they have additives and artificial ingredients, or have less nutritional value--but rather because they are low-bulk and high-calorie. Eating a fat-drenched muffin will cause a person ingest a lot of calories without getting much overall satisfaction. The result: the person will want to eat more.

The principal advantage of the Pritikin diet over others is that it is less radical and hence less risky. It requires balanced meals with foods whose nutritional value is indisputable: fresh vegetables, fruit, and above all fiber -which reduces the risks of colon cancer and helps the body remove cholesterol. The Pritikin diet, however, saw its heyday in the 1970 s and is distinctly less popular today, perhaps because it does not offer immediately perceptible results.

Go to home page of nutrition | Sources and Attributions


bottom copyright strip