low nutrient density foods

foods to avoid… the most processed, insulinogenic, energy dense low nutrient density foods

What are the most insulinogenic, low nutrient density and energy dense processed foods that everyone should avoid for heath and weight loss?

Generally I think it can be more useful to tell people what they should focus on rather than what they shouldn’t do.  It’s like the proverbial hot plate or ‘wet paint’ sign.  You can’t unsee it and you just want to touch it!

If you are busy focusing on the good stuff then you just won’t have any space left for the low nutrient density foods, especially once you start feeling  the benefits.

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Many people are coming to see sugar as universally bad news.  But why sugar?  Are there other foods that we should avoid for the same reasons?

what’s so bad about sugar anyway?

For the past four decades mainstream food recommendations have been dominated by a fear of fat, particularly saturated fat and cholesterol, which if, taken to the extreme can lead us towards more processed, insulinogenic, nutrient poor, low fat foods.

More recently, a growing number of people are advising that we should eat less sugar… from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar, to Robert Lustig’s Sugar: The Bitter Truth and Damon Gameau’s That Sugar Film.  Even Gary Taubes seems to be softening his stance against carbohydrates and turning his attention to sugar as the bad guy in his new book The Case against Sugar.

The World Health Organisation are imploring people to reduce their sugar intake to less than 10% of energy, and ideally less than 5%.[1]

Image result for world health organisation

Investment bank Credit Suisse is predicting a turn away from sugar and and back towards fat, effectively advising people to ‘short sugar’.[2]

But what is it about sugar that makes it uniquely bad?  It just the ‘evaporated cane juice’ that we should avoid?

What about whole foods that contain some sugar?  Should we avoid them too?

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While added sugars are not good, they’re also an easy target that everyone can get behind.  It’s easy to swing from demonising one thing to another, from fat to carbs, to sugar.

But perhaps this paradigm is overly simplistic?

I think we need to avoid are foods that quickly boost insulin and blood glucose levels without providing any substantial nutrition in return.

Foods that should be considered universally bad are foods that are:

If you want to maximise the nutritional value of your food, give your pancreas a break so it can keep up, you should AVOID THESE FOODS.  Most diet recommendations succeed largely because they eliminate these foods which are typically processed foods.

The chart below (click to enlarge) shows the weightings used in the multi criteria analysis for the various dietary approaches.  The avoid list turns the system on its head to identify foods that have poor nutrient density as well as also being energy dense and insulinogenic.

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The charts below shows that, compared to the other approaches, the foods on the avoid list are energy dense…

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…highly insulinogenic…

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…as well as being nutrient poor, all at the same time!

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Considering any of these factors by themselves can be problematic.  But when we combine all these parameters them they  can be much more useful to identify the foods we should avoid, as well as the ones we should prioritise.

As you can see from this chart, the difference between the nutrients provided by the most nutrient dense foods and the avoid list  is vast!  You can see how you would be much more satiated with the more nutrient dense food and your cravings turned off.

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Also included in the table are the nutrient density score, percentage of insulinogenic calories, insulin load, energy density and the multicriteria analysis score score (MCA) that combines all these factors.

So without further ado, here is the avoid list.

drinks

Soft drinks provide very little nutritional value, are very insulinogenic and have no fibre so will raise your blood sugar and insulin levels quickly.

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food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
cream soda -20 100% 13 51 1.02
root beer -20 100% 11 41 1.00
grape soda -19 100% 11 43 1.00
cola -20 99% 10 37 1.00
cranberry-apple juice -19 98% 16 63 0.98
orange and apricot juice -17 97% 13 51 0.86

sweets

Sweets provide minimal nutrition while being very energy dense and highly insulinogenic.  Sugar tops the list of badness, however there are a bunch of other sweets not far behind.

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food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
candies -20 100% 99 394 1.34
sugar -20 100% 100 389 1.33
jellybeans -20 100% 93 375 1.31
fructose -20 100% 100 368 1.31
brown sugar -19 99% 97 380 1.29
sucralose -20 100% 91 336 1.29
fruit syrup -20 100% 85 341 1.28
skittles -20 90% 91 405 1.28
aspartame -19 99% 91 365 1.24
twizzlers -20 93% 81 348 1.24
marshmallows -19 99% 83 318 1.24
high fructose corn syrup -20 100% 76 281 1.23
maple sugar -18 99% 91 354 1.21
jams and preserves -19 98% 68 278 1.17
orange marmalade -19 99% 66 246 1.17
chocolate frosting. -18 86% 91 389 1.16
chocolate pudding -18 91% 86 378 1.16
Candies, butterscotch -17 92% 90 391 1.15
M&Ms -20 61% 73 475 1.14
tootsie roll -17 91% 89 387 1.13
Milky Way -20 61% 70 463 1.13
chocolate syrup -18 100% 67 269 1.12
butterscotch topping -18 99% 58 216 1.08
Kit Kat -19 49% 65 520 1.08
frosting -18 65% 68 418 1.04
fudge -15 87% 83 383 1.01
honey -19 63% 52 304 0.99
caramels -15 81% 80 382 0.98
tapioca pudding (fat free) -18 94% 22 94 0.91
chocolate frosting -16 61% 63 397 0.90
Twix -16 41% 57 550 0.88

fruits and fruit juices

Fruit in its natural state provides fibre, nutrients with a lower energy density.  However fruit juice and dried fruit has a much lower nutritional value and are much more insulinogenic.

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food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
candied fruit -20 98% 81 322 1.25
dried apples -17 85% 82 346 1.04
raisins -17 89% 73 296 1.03
dried pears -16 87% 64 262 0.96
dried currants -16 88% 70 283 0.95
apple juice -17 97% 12 47 0.88
litchis -14 89% 69 277 0.87
dried pears -17 83% 32 140 0.86

cereals and baked products

Processed grains are cheap and have a long shelf life, however the processing removes most of the fibre and most of the nutrients which means they are highly insulinogenic and energy dense.

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
corn-starch -20 99% 91 381 1.31
rice puffs -17 93% 90 383 1.13
instant oatmeal -19 70% 68 353 1.06
fudge filled cookies -19 47% 63 533 1.06
girl scout cookies -19 51% 66 520 1.06
Grahams Crackers -17 73% 77 424 1.05
choc chip cookies -18 55% 69 498 1.04
cheesecake -19 49% 63 506 1.04
white flour -15 92% 82 367 1.04
white rice -15 95% 84 365 1.02
water biscuits -17 73% 70 384 1.01
rice flour -15 92% 82 366 1.00
wheat flour -14 91% 81 363 0.96
ice cream cones -13 88% 89 402 0.94
pound cake (fat free) -14 93% 64 283 0.90
Cookies -15 76% 69 348 0.90
cornmeal -13 89% 81 370 0.90
fruitcake -16 71% 60 324 0.88
white flour -12 92% 82 366 0.88
English muffins -16 83% 51 245 0.87

other approaches

The table below contains links to separate blog posts and printable .pdfs detailing optimal foods for a range of dietary approaches (sorted from most to least nutrient dense) that may be of interest depending on your situation and goals.   You can print them out to stick to your fridge or take on your next shopping expedition for some inspiration.

dietary approach printable .pdf
weight loss (insulin sensitive) download
autoimmune (nutrient dense) download
alkaline foods download
nutrient dense bulking download
nutrient dense (maintenance) download
weight loss (insulin resistant) download
autoimmune (diabetes friendly) download
zero carb download
diabetes and nutritional ketosis download
vegan (nutrient dense) download
vegan (diabetic friendly) download
therapeutic ketosis download
avoid download

If you’re not sure which approach is right for you and whether you are insulin resistant, this survey may help identify the optimal dietary approach for you.

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post updated May 2017

references

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

[2] https://www.credit-suisse.com/us/en/articles/articles/news-and-expertise/2013/09/en/is-sugar-turning-the-economy-sour.html

31 thoughts on “foods to avoid… the most processed, insulinogenic, energy dense low nutrient density foods”

  1. Thank you so much for your blog. Excellent!

    The link to the new post on “the most insulinogenic . . .” Does not work. Nor can I find the post on your website.

    Jane

    >

    1. Fair point. I really enjoy your blog by the way. Your explanation of the metabolic theory of cancer helped me understand a complex topic a little more.
      I think it’s interesting to see what the extremes look like. If we can agree that the system identifies bad foods then we can agree that the opposite extreme is good foods.
      3000 views so far in six hours since publishing it seems that there is a bit of interest.

      1. Thanks Marty. I like your blog too. We are both physical scientists interested in optimal health, and that seems to be a very rare thing. And yes, 3000 views is a ton! But keep in mind that I also read it out of curiosity even though I haven’t touched any of these things for 10 years for the carbs, and 30 for the junk food. I would like to think that this is also the case for most of your readers. At the same time, I don’t think I’ll ever get 3000 views on my posts about cancer, for example 😉

  2. Hi Marty mainly to say thanks for the great info over the years and only one question regarding a nut native to Northern Australia and all the island up to the Philippines as far as I know called Pilli Nut

    It is sold in some areas outside Philippines the only exporter and producer than I know

    Our friend Google mention it is composed of approximately 8% carbohydrate, 11.5 to 13.9% protein, and 70% fat.

    I have been searching in very good nut markets here in Melbourne but without any luck, do you know if they can be purchase here in OZ?
    Here it is a good summary
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pijp7W6Rs_s

    Are you coming to Melb 11 of Set, Low Carb Down Under reunion?

    Thanks you Camilo

  3. Marty, what can I say, this page is wonderful mate. It will become a long term resource for me. I really enjoyed your presentation at the LCHF seminar in Brisbane and I took a lot away from your discussion and the answers you provided me afterwards. I have applied similar statistical analyses to nutritional data over the past 12 months, but not to this extent, this is exceptional. Thanks again and keep up the inspiring work.

  4. Pingback: Nutrient Optimiser

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