The Optimal Nutrient Intakes

While the Recommended Dietary Intakes define the minimum amount of nutrients to prevent acute diseases due to the deficiency of essential nutrients, you’re probably more interested in the nutrient intakes that will maximise your health. This article summarises the Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONI) that you can use as a stretch target to optimise your health.  

This second-last article in the series summarises the optimal macro and micronutrient intakes that will maximise satiety and optimise your health.

While our modern food environment is awash with excess energy from refined grains and oils, the amount of nutrients is diminishing due to food processing and modern agricultural practices that use the same land to grow crops year after year with little added but synthetic fertilisers.   

But, in addition to energy, your body craves nutrition.   Your appetite will drive you to consume more food until you get the nutrients you need.  Unfortunately, this often results in us eating more than we would like in order to achieve optimal health and body composition. 

Eventually, this leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and all the modern metabolic diseases that are literally and financially killing more and more of us.

Fortunately, you can engineer your food choices to provide your body with the nutrients it needs without having to consume excess energy.  If you have already gained more body fat than you want, prioritising nutrient-dense foods and meals (that contain more nutrients per calorie) will help increase your satiety and you will enable you to eat less without excessive hunger.   

Reliance on supplements often does little other than provide you with a false sense of security and often, an excuse to continue to eat poorly.  By contrast, nutrient-dense foods provide the micronutrients you need in the forms and ratios that your body can process.  Whole food also contains other beneficial elements that we don’t yet define as essential or pack into a pill.  

The Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONI) are based on our analysis of forty thousand days of food logging from more than a thousand people.  Rather than providing the minimum to prevent the diseases caused by deficiencies in the short term, these intake levels correspond to the intakes that align with optimal satiety and overall benefit.  

While these intakes are designed to be a challenge (i.e. a stretch target), they are still achievable with food. 

We have also considered key nutrient ratios, nutrient interactions and the Tolerable Upper Limit (i.e. the level of nutrients from supplementation that is thought to cause harm).   

Macronutrients

The first place to start your journey into nutritional optimisation is to dial in your macronutrients.   Macronutrients are nutrients the body needs (or can use) in large amounts.  They are protein, lipids, and carbohydrates. The chart below shows a summary of our analysis of macronutrient data.

People who consume a higher percentage of protein tend to consume fewer calories overall across the day. To be clear, this is not a matter of simply eating more protein, but as we consume less energy from fat and/or carbohydrates the percentage of energy from protein increases. The chart below shows the satiety response to protein percentage. Most people are consuming around 16% which aligns with the lowest satiety response. AS you are able to increase the percentage of protein in your diet it is likely that your overall energy intake will decrease due to increased satiety.

The combination of fat and carbohydrates together with low protein is rare in nature and is basically the formula for hyperpalatable processed junk food. The chart below that the popular average of around 75% of energy from fat+non fibre carbohydrates aligns with the lowest satiety outcome. As we move away from fat+carb combo foods we are able to regain control of our appetite and consume less across the day.

The table below shows the macronutrient stretch target (in percentage terms) that align with the greatest satiety.  Progressively moving towards these stretch targets will give you the best chance of losing body fat without excessive hunger.

To see what this means for you, you can get your Nutrient Optimiser Free Report to calculate tour get your macronutrient targets (in grams per day) that align with your goals.   

You can then enter these limits into Cronometer to manage your dietary goals (note:  if you are keeping an eye on your blood sugars, Nutrient Optimiser will help you dial in your carbohydrate intake until your blood sugars stabilise).  

Minerals 

Adequate mineral intake is critical.  But minerals are bulky, so they are rarely used in adequate quantities in supplements or food fortification.  You need to get your minerals from nutrient-dense food!    

The stretch targets shown in the table below that align with better satiety outcomes are around two and a half times the Recommended Daily Intake and three and a half times the average population intake.    

Note:  The ONIs for men assume an intake of 2000 calories per day while the ONI for women assumes 1600 calories per day.   If you are eating less, you should still aim for the same level of nutrient intake. 

Once you start to get the hang of focusing on nutrient-dense foods and are able to meet the default targets, you can level up and enter these stretch targets into Cronometer (as shown in the example below for men). The ONIs are set as the minimum intake in Cronometer. Any relevant upper limit nutrient intake are set as the maximum intake level.

The table below shows the mineral ONIs for women.

Vitamins

Foods that contain more vitamins tend to be more satiating but to a point.  There appears to be a level for many of the vitamins (beyond what can be provided by nutrient-dense whole foods) where they do not provide additional benefit.  Adding more vitamins into the system beyond the ONIs means you’re just creating expensive, brightly coloured pee! 

While the ONI for vitamins is typically around six times the minimum Recommended Dietary Allowance. However, higher levels (that can only be achieved with supplementation) don’t provide additional benefit.  The table below shows our ONI stretch targets for men and women.

Once you start to get the hang of focusing on nutrient-dense foods, you can level up and enter these stretch targets into Cronometer (as per the example below for men).  

The table below shows how you would enter the ONIs for women in Cronometer.

Fatty acids 

As a general rule, higher intakes of fat do not tend to be satiating.  However, our analysis also identified that:

  • Your ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is important.  Most people should work to increase their intake of seafood and avoid foods that have refined seed oils as an ingredient if they want to improve satiety.
  • If you want to lose weight, focusing on reducing your intake of monounsaturated fat from added oils and seed oils added as ingredients to processed foods will give you the biggest bang for your buck.  
  • You don’t need to worry as much about nutritious, naturally occurring foods that contain cholesterol, saturated fat or even trans fats.

The table below shows the ONI stretch targets for men (2000 calories) and women (1600 calories). 

nutrient ONI (men)ONI (women)
monounsaturated < 16 g< 12g
polyunsaturated< 7.0 g< 5.5 g
fat < 76 g< 60 g
omega 3 > 6.0 g> 4.8 g
omega 6< 7.6 g< 6.0 g
trans fat < 2.2 g< 1.8 g
saturated < 30 g< 24 g

You can enter these targets into Cronometer to guide your dietary choices to help you optimise satiety (example for men is shown below).  

The table below shows how the ONIs for fatty acids will look in Cronometer.

Amino acids 

Each of the amino acids has a unique biological function.  Different protein sources (e.g. fish, eggs, meat, offal, beans, legumes, etc.) have their own amino acid profile.  

While you’ll probably be doing fine if you hit your protein target with whole protein sources, the table below shows recommended stretch targets for each amino acid.

amino acidONI (male) (g)ONI (female) (g)g/kg BW% DRI
phenylalanine7.15.70.10
tyrosine5.94.70.08
tryptophan1.91.50.03690%
methionine4.33.50.06
isoleucine8.06.40.11569%
threonine7.25.80.10689%
cystine2.31.90.03
leucine13.610.90.19497%
lysine13.510.80.19645%
histidine4.93.90.07701%
valine8.87.10.13486%
glycine4 g3 g

You can also enter these targets into Cronometer and use them to guide your nutritional choices (example for men shown below). 

The table below shows how you would enter your ONI targets in Cronometer if you are female.

Summary 

Rather than simply targeting minimum nutrient intake levels to prevent disease, these Optimal Nutrient Intakes for macronutrients and micronutrients from your food (not necessarily supplements) provide a stretch target that will lead to greater satiety and optimised health. 

Where do I start?

After four years of digging into the theory, we’ve created some exciting tools to help you optimise your nutrition:

Up next…

In our next article in this series, we’ll look at how we can use the Optimal Nutrient Intakes to quantify our diet quality with the Optimal Nutrient Score.


To kickstart your journey towards optimal get your free program and one of 70+ food lists personalised just for you!  

Marty Kendall
 

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