After working intensely over the last six months working with Saskia Lesser to create a series of twenty-two recipe books tailored for different goals, I thought it would be interesting to see how they compare in terms of various parameters, including:
- nutrient density,
- energy density, and
- the protein: energy ratio.
Why did we create twenty-two recipe books?
While nutrient density is the central theme of the recipe books, we understand that people have different preferences and goals when it comes to food.
Regardless of whether you believe in a plant-based diet or a carnivorous diet (or anything in between), you still need enough nutrients.
We wanted to demonstrate how nutritional optimisation could create the most nutrient dense recipes within any framework.
We may have got a bit carried away, but we ended up with twenty-two books tailored to different goals and preferences!
- Fat loss
- Maximum nutrient density
- Low carb & blood sugar
- Blood sugar & fat loss
- High protein:energy ratio
- Nutritional keto
- Therapeutic keto
- Low carb vegetarian
- Healthy maintenance
- Egg & dairy-free
- Athletes & bulking
- Cancer (weight loss & maximum nutrient density)
- Cancer (weight maintenance)
- Cancer (weight gain)
This article will help you understand how each of these books is different and enable you to choose the one that suits you the best.
How did we do this?
The glaring problem that we saw with the recipe book genre is that no one quantifies micronutrient content.
How do you know if the recipes contain enough nutrients (let alone optimal amounts)?
Sadly, of the thousands of recipes we have analysed, some of the most popular “named diets” had the poorest nutrient profile.
Following the latest popular named diet (e.g. plant-based, carnivore, vegan, keto, etc.) is no guarantee that you will be improving your food quality.
We knew we had to create something to fill this gap to satisfy the needs of the people who are starting to realise the central role of nutrients in nutrition and optimising their health, weight, blood sugars and immunity.
First, we scoured the internet and Facebook to compile a database of recipes that would help Optimisers get more nutrients. We ended up with a database of about 3000 recipes that we refined down to 500 recipes that were of a high enough quality (with great directions, photos, etc.) that we could include in our database.
Then Saskia Lesser (pictured below) started creating new meals! Using the optimised food lists for each goal and the Nutrient Optimiser, she created recipes that would provide more of the micronutrients that each of the recipes were lacking.
Not only did Saskia create nutrient-dense recipes, but she also beautifully photographed them for the books. We included a brief discussion of the nutrients that each recipe contains in the books and then hyperlinks to a page for each recipe on the website that provides a full graphical breakdown of the macronutrients and micronutrients for each recipe.
After many months working together, we have more than 140 recipes spread across 22 books!
But to make sure you are getting your money’s worth, each of the books contains a secret index of links to 150 recipes optimised for your chosen goal.
Our goal was to create the most nutritious recipes possible for a wide range of goals.
I think we did pretty well! The analysis below will help you understand how each book is different and why we wanted to create so many books.
Which recipe book is right for you?
The table below outlines who each approach is suitable for.
- Fat loss – Rapid fat loss with less hunger and cravings due to nutrient deficiencies and adequate protein to prevent muscle loss.
- Maximum nutrient density – The most nutrient-dense recipes available!
- Low carb & blood sugar – Stable blood sugars and weight maintenance on a nutritious low carb diet.
- Blood sugar & fat loss – Ideal for anyone with elevated blood sugars and body fat to lose.
- Bodybuilders – Designed for muscle gain without excess body fat.
- High protein:energy ratio – High protein:energy ratio for aggressive fat loss.
- Nutritional keto – Designed for someone who enjoys a ketogenic way of eating (without therapeutic ketone levels).
- Therapeutic keto – Designed to achieve therapeutic ketone levels (e.g. for epilepsy, dementia, or Parkinson’s).
- Plant-based – The most nutrient-dense plant-based recipes available.
- Vegetarian – The most nutrient-dense vegetarian recipes (i.e. plant-based with eggs and dairy).
- Low carb vegetarian – Nutrient-dense low carb vegetarian meals for stable blood sugars.
- Maintenance – Designed to maintain body weight while providing plenty of nutrients to live a healthy and energised life.
- Pescitarian – The most nutrient-dense pescatarian recipes (i.e. vegetarian plus seafood).
- Egg-free – Maximum nutrient-density (without eggs).
- Dairy-free – Maximum nutrient density (without dairy).
- Egg & dairy-free – Maximum nutrient density (without eggs or dairy).
- Athletes & bulking – Support activity or growth with an eye on nutrient density.
- Meat – The most nutrient-dense meals that contain meat (e.g. beef, pork & chicken).
- Immunity – Focus on the nutrients that support robust immune function.
- Cancer (weight loss & nutrient density) – For someone with cancer (less glutamic acid and methionine) while maximising nutrient density and satiety to promote fat loss.
- Cancer (weight maintenance) – For someone with cancer (less glutamic acid and methionine) while providing enough energy to maintain a healthy weight.
- Cancer (weight gain) – For someone with cancer (less glutamic acid and methionine) while providing plenty of energy to support weight gain during and after cancer treatment.
The numbers in the analysis in the rest of this article are based on the average of the top 60 recipes sorted for each approach to show you how each approach is different.
This first chart shows the macronutrient breakdown for each recipe sorted by percentage protein. The high protein:energy book (inspired by our friend Dr Ted Naiman) has the highest percentage of protein.
Optimal nutrition score (micronutrients)
While most people are familiar with macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein, fibre and alcohol), we’re more excited about micronutrients. The Optimal Nutrient Score is a single number that gives us an indication of how much of each of the essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids the recipes provide.
Previously, we defined the Optimal Nutrient Intakes that align with greater satiety and was achievable with whole food. If a recipe provides 100% of all the Optimal Nutrient Intakes with 2000 calories, then it would get an ONI score of 100%.
The chart below shows an average of the highest-ranking 60 recipes for each approach.
Targeting nutrient-dense recipes means you will get plenty of all of the essential micronutrients without needing to consume excess calories. Our analysis of 60,000 days of micronutrient data from Optimisers shows that as people increase their ONI score, they tend to experience greater satiety and eat less. Dialling up the nutrient density of your diet is a great way to increase satiety and eat less without relying on calorie tracking, self-restraint and battling against your appetite.
If your goal is weight loss, then focusing on a higher ONI score which tends to align with eating fewer calories is a great strategy.
Thinking in terms of nutrient density allows us to turn the focus from restriction and deprivation to on giving your body what it needs. Improvements in diet quality lead to greater satiety and weight loss.
It is possible to get an ONI score above 90% if you’re really committed. The chart below shows Camilla’s micronutrient fingerprint chart, which gave her an ONI score of 95.3% that she achieved using the Nutrient Optimiser to dial in all her micronutrients. This was the highest in our recent Nutritional Optimisation Masterclass.
You can read more about Camilla’s amazing journey in Camilla goes from strength to strength with the Nutritional Optimisation Masterclass.
Next, we thought it would be interesting to look at each recipe in terms of the Optimal Nutrient Score for each approach vs other parameters. The chart below shows protein vs optimal nutrient score. The trend line shows that we tend to get a maximum nutrient density at around 50% protein.
The chart below shows the relationship between non-fibre carbohydrates and nutrient density. While none of the dense approaches are particularly high in refined carbohydrates, there seems to be a sweet spot between 15 to 20% non-fibre carbohydrates that aligns with higher nutrient density score.
While it’s smart to reduce carbs to stabilise your blood sugars, pushing carbohydrates super-low can limit foods that can provide us with harder to find nutrients.
This next chart shows the % fat for each approach vs nutrient density. While fat is a great source of energy, and there is no need to fear nutrient-dense foods that contain more fat, higher fat intake does not typically align with higher nutrient density.
Energy density is the amount of energy per weight of the food you eat. As we can see below, the vegetarian and plant-based approaches (with less fat from animal products) have a lower energy density. In the bottom left, we see that therapeutic keto and cancer (weight gain) have a much higher energy density but suffer when it comes to nutrient density.
Next, we come to the protein:energy ratio which has been made popular recently by our friend Ted Naiman.
As you can see from the chart below, up to a P:E ratio of about 3.0, a higher protein:energy ratio definitely aligns with greater nutrient density. The extreme high P:E approach will be useful for an aggressive weight cut (i.e. if you have a LOT Of weight to lose or are preparing for a bodybuilding competition).
Fat + net carbs
Finally, we can see that nutrient density (in terms of essential nutrients per calorie) is also very closely correlated with the energy from fat and/or carbohydrates in our diet. If you have body fat that you want to lose, you need to optimise your diet to move to the left on this chart.
If you want to start your journey towards Nutritional Optimisation, we’d love you to grab one of our recipe books using the links below. We hope you’ll love it!
|Fat loss||Fat loss with greater satiety and less hunger and cravings due to nutrient deficiencies and adequate protein to prevent muscle loss.||W:H > 0.5||DRI||ONI|
|Maximum nutrient density||Maximum nutrients per calorie.||NA||DRI||ONI|
|High protein:energy||High protein:energy ratio for aggressive fat loss (i.e. PSMF or high P:E).||W:H > 0.5||DRI||ONI|
|Blood sugar & fat loss||Designed for anyone with elevated blood sugars and body fat to lose.||W:H > 0.5 |
BG rise after meals > 30 mg/dL or 1.6 mmol/L
|Low carb & blood sugar||Designed for stable blood sugars and weight maintenance on a nutritious low carb diet. Ideal for someone with diabetes or anyone who enjoys a low carb way of eating.||W:H < 0.5 |
BG rise after meals > 30 mg/dL or 1.6 mmol/L
|Maintenance||Designed to help you maintain your body weight providing plenty of nutrients to live a healthy and energised life.||W:H < 0.5||DRI||ONI|
|Bodybuilders||Gain muscle without excess body fat.||W:H < 0.5||DRI||ONI|
|Athletes & bulking||Designed to support activity or growth with an eye on nutrient density.||W:H < 0.5||DRI||ONI|
|Nutritional keto||Ideal for someone who enjoys a ketogenic way of eating but does not require therapeutic ketone levels.||DRI||ONI|
|Therapeutic keto||Designed for people who require therapeutic ketone levels (e.g. for epilepsy, dementia, or Parkinson’s).||DRI||ONI|
|Plant-based||These are the most nutrient-dense plant-based recipes available.||DRI||ONI|
|Vegetarian||These are the most nutrient-dense vegetarian meals.||DRI||ONI|
|Low carb vegetarian||Nutrient-dense low carb vegetarian meals to help stabilise blood sugars.||DRI||ONI|
|Pescatarian||These are the most nutrient-dense pescatarian recipes (i.e. vegetarian plus seafood).||DRI||ONI|
|Egg-free||The most nutrient-dense meals without eggs.||DRI||ONI|
|Dairy-free||The most nutrient-dense meals without dairy.||DRI||ONI|
|Egg & dairy-free||The most nutrient-dense meals without eggs or dairy.||DRI||ONI|
|Meat||These are the most nutrient-dense meals that contain meat (i.e. beef, pork, chicken, etc., without seafood).||DRI||ONI|
|Immunity||These recipes prioritise the nutrients that support healthy immune function (i.e. vitamins A, C and D, iron, selenium, zinc and potassium).||DRI||ONI|
|Cancer (weight loss & nutrient density)||Designed for someone with cancer (i.e. less glutamic acid and methionine) while maximising nutrient density and satiety to promote fat loss.||DRI||ONI|
|Cancer (weight maintenance)||Designed for someone with cancer (i.e. less glutamic acid and methionine) while providing enough energy to maintain a healthy weight.||DRI||ONI|
|Cancer (weight gain)||Designed for someone with cancer (i.e. less glutamic acid and methionine) while providing plenty of energy to support weight gain after cancer treatment.||DRI||ONI|