Category Archives: cheat sheets

zero carb

For most people the optimal dietary approach seems to include a balance of plant and animal based foods.  Some people prefer more (or all) plants due to ethical or religious reasons, while others prefer to avoid vegetables and grains.

Some people just don’t like veggies, while others struggle to digest plant fibres and find relief from debilitating digestive, mental health[1] or other symptoms when they avoid plant based foods and even dairy.[2] [3] [4]

Others feel that the nutrients in plant based foods are less bioavailable and that the nutrients in animal based foods will be more easily absorbed.[5]

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The chart below shows a comparison of the nutrients provided by:

  • the most nutrient dense zero carb foods,
  • the most nutrient dense plant based foods, and
  • the most nutrient dense foods available.

As you might expect, the zero carb foods (red bars) do well in the proteins and fatty acids while the plant based foods (blue bars) generally contain more vitamins and minerals.

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The chart below is a comparison of the average amount of nutrients (as a percentage of the daily recommended intake) for a range of dietary approaches.  A zero carb approach can provide you with a solid amount of nutrients, and likely more than a plant only based approach, though not as much as dietary approaches that incorporates both plant and animal based foods.[6]

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Going zero carb will reduce the insulin load compared to most dietary approaches, although the higher levels of protein may mean that you won’t necessarily be ‘ketogenic’ or showing high levels of blood ketones.

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While the recommended daily intake values for various nutrients is debatable, it appears that it is more difficult to obtain the recommended quantity of Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamin E and Vitamin C on a zero carb approach compared to others that contain plant based foods and hence it may be useful to supplement these nutrients.

You’ll notice the most nutrient dense zero carb foods listed below contain a solid amount of organ meats which are very nutrient dense.  The chart below shows the nutrient density of the highest ranking zero carb foods with and without organ meats (cutting out all carbohydrate containing foods narrows the list of available foods from 8000 to 2887 and removing offal narrows the list to 2784 available foods).

You can see from this comparison that organ meats makes a significant difference to the levels of copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin B-12.  So if you are going to go with a zero carb approach it makes sense to maximise your organ meats.

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The zero carb foods below are sorted using both nutrient density and insulin load (to make sure you’re not just eating lean protein).

Also included in the table are the nutrient density scores, percentage of insulinogenic calories, insulin load, energy density and the multicriteria analysis score (MCA) that combines all these factors (see the building a better nutrient density index article for more details on the MCA process).

offal

food ND insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
lamb liver 18 20 168 1.9
lamb kidney 19 15 112 1.9
chicken liver 15 13 119 1.7
veal liver 16 26 192 1.5
turkey liver 14 21 189 1.5
beef brains 8 8 151 1.5
chicken liver 14 20 172 1.5
beef liver 16 25 175 1.5
beef kidney 13 20 157 1.4
chicken liver pate 7 17 201 1.2
lamb brains 5 10 154 1.1
turkey heart 8 20 174 1.0
lamb heart 8 19 161 1.0
pork liver 10 23 165 1.0
liver sausage 0 10 331 0.9
beef heart 8 23 179 0.9
beef heart 5 16 165 0.9
lamb sweetbread 4 15 144 0.8
sweetbread -3 9 318 0.7
beef tripe 6 14 103 0.7
liver pate -4 13 319 0.5

animal products

food ND insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
ground turkey 4 19 258 1.0
ham 11 17 113 1.0
salami 1 17 378 1.0
pepperoni -1 16 504 0.9
lamb chop 5 25 234 0.9
rib eye steak 5 21 210 0.9
roast pork 5 20 199 0.9
roast beef 4 21 219 0.9
meatballs 0 14 286 0.9
T-bone steak 2 19 294 0.8
turkey bacon 0 11 226 0.8
lean beef 9 23 149 0.8
park sausage 1 13 217 0.8
turkey 0 21 414 0.8
kielbasa -1 12 325 0.8
pork sausage -0 16 325 0.8
pork ribs -1 16 361 0.8
bacon -2 11 417 0.8
turkey meat 6 21 158 0.8
turkey drumstick 6 21 158 0.8
roast ham 4 18 178 0.8
chicken 7 22 148 0.7
veal 8 24 151 0.7
pork chop 6 23 172 0.7
ground pork 6 25 185 0.7
bratwurst -2 13 333 0.7

seafood

food ND insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
caviar 14 23 264 1.8
fish roe 16 18 143 1.7
salmon 17 20 156 1.7
oyster 18 14 102 1.6
trout 14 18 168 1.6
mackerel 7 10 305 1.6
anchovy 13 22 210 1.5
cisco 7 13 177 1.3
sturgeon 11 16 135 1.2
sardines 8 16 185 1.2
crab 15 14 83 1.2
sardine 8 19 208 1.2
herring 7 19 217 1.2
flounder 11 12 86 1.1
halibut 12 17 111 1.0
tuna 9 23 184 1.0
shrimp 12 19 119 0.9
lobster 12 15 89 0.9
rockfish 11 17 109 0.9
crayfish 11 13 82 0.9
pollock 11 18 111 0.9
cod 11 48 290 0.8
perch 8 14 96 0.7
octopus 9 28 164 0.7
haddock 9 19 116 0.6
whiting 8 18 116 0.6
white fish 8 18 108 0.5

dairy and egg

food ND insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
egg yolk 8 12 275 1.6
cream 4 5 340 1.4
butter 3 3 718 1.4
cheddar cheese 7 20 410 1.4
Swiss cheese 7 22 393 1.4
cream cheese 4 10 350 1.3
sour cream 4 6 198 1.3
whole egg 7 10 143 1.3
feta cheese 5 15 264 1.2
mozzarella 8 26 304 1.2
parmesan cheese 6 35 420 1.1
limburger cheese 2 15 327 1.1
camembert 2 16 300 1.0
Greek yogurt 6 9 97 1.0
goat cheese 2 14 264 1.0
gouda cheese 3 21 356 1.0
gruyere cheese 2 23 413 1.0
blue cheese 2 19 353 1.0
edam cheese 2 21 357 0.9
brie 1 16 334 0.9
Monterey cheese 1 19 373 0.9
muenster cheese 1 19 368 0.8
kefir 10 7 41 0.8
Colby 0 20 394 0.8
ricotta -0 12 174 0.7
sour cream (light) -1 9 136 0.6
cottage cheese (low fat) 6 13 81 0.6
Greek yogurt (low fat) 6 11 73 0.6

other dietary approaches

The table below contains links to separate blog posts and printable .pdfs 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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notes

[1] https://zerocarbzen.com/2016/10/04/zero-carb-interview-amber-ohearn/

[2] https://www.gutsense.org/fiber-menace/about-fiber-menace-book.html

[3] https://optimisingnutrition.com/2015/10/05/ketogenic-fibre/

[4] https://zerocarbzen.com/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153292/

[6] However, keep in mind that this analysis is based on the USDA database that includes all the nutrients in the food rather than what will be absorbed.  Species specific nutrient bioavailability is still an emerging area.  While we can measure the nutrient in a food, it is hard to quantify how much of those nutrients are digested and absorbed into the body.

energy density, food hyper-palatability and reverse engineering optimal foraging theory

I’m looking forward to Robb Wolf’s new book Wired to Eat in which he talks about the dilemma of optimal foraging theory (OFT) and how it’s a miracle in our modern environment that even more of us aren’t fat, sick and nearly dead.[1]

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[yes, I may be a Robb Wolf fan boy.]

But what is  optimal foraging theory[2]?   In essence it is the concept that we’re programmed to hunt and gather and ingest as much energy us we can with the least amount of energy expenditure or order to maximise survival of the species.

In engineering or economics this is akin to a cost : benefit analysis.  Essentially we want maximum benefit for minimum investment.

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In a hunter gatherer / paleo / evolutionary context this would mean that we would make an investment (i.e. effort / time / hassle that we could have otherwise spent having fun, procreating or looking after our family) to travel to new places where food was plentiful and easier to obtain.

In these new areas we could spend as little time as possible hunting and gathering and more time relaxing.  Once the food became scarce again we would move on to find another land of plenty.

The people who were good at obtaining the maximum amount of food with the minimum amount of effort survived and thrived and populated the world, and thus became our ancestors.  Those that didnt’ didn’t.

So you can see how the OFT paradigm would be well imprinted on our psyche.

OFT in the wild

In the wild, OFT means that native hunter gatherers would have gone bananas for bananas when they were available…

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… gone to extraordinary lengths to obtain energy dense honey …

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… and eaten the fattiest cuts of meat and offal, giving the muscle meat to the dogs.

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OFT in captivity

But what happens when we translate OFT into a modern context?

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Until recently we have never had the situation where nutrition and energy could be separated.

In nature, if something tastes good it is generally good for you.

Our ancestors, at least the ones that survived, grew to understand that as a general rule:

 sweet = good = energy to survive winter

But now we have entered a brave new world.

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These days we have are surrounded by energy dense hyperpalatable foods that are designed to taste good without providing substantial levels of nutrients.

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When these foods are available our primal programming leaves us defenceless.

Our willpower or our calorie counting apps are no match for engineered foods with an optimised bliss point.

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These days diabetes is becoming a bigger problem than starvation in the developing world due to a lack of nutritional value in the the foods they are eating.[3]

The recent industrialisation of the world food system has resulted in a nutritional transition in which developing nations are simultaneously experiencing undernutrition and obesity.

In addition, an abundance of inexpensive, high-density foods laden with sugar and fats is available to a population that expends little energy to obtain such large numbers of calories.

Furthermore, the abundant variety of ultra processed foods overrides the sensory-specific satiety mechanism, thus leading to overconsumption.”[4]

what happens when we go low fat?

So if the problem is simply that we eat too many calories, one solution is to reduce the energy density of our food by avoiding fat, which is the most energy dense of the macronutrients.

Sounds logical, right?

The research into the satiety index demonstrates that there is some basis to the concept that we feel more full with lower energy density, high fibre, high protein foods.[5] [6]   The chart below shows how hungry people report being in the two hours after being fed 1000kJ of different foods (see the low energy density high nutrient density foods for weight loss article for more on this complex and intriguing topic).

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However the problem comes when we focus on reducing fat (along with perhaps reduced cost, increased shelf life and palatability combined with an attempt to reach that optimal bliss point[7]), we end up with cheap manufactured food like products that have little nutritional value.

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Grain subsidies were brought in to establish and promote cheap ways to feed people to prevent starvation.[8]  It seems now they’ve achieved that goal.[9]

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Maybe a little too well.

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The foods lowest in fat however are not necessarily the most nutrient dense.     Nutritional excellence and macronutrients are are not necessarily related.

In his blog post Overeating and Brain Evolution: The Omnivore’s REAL Dilemma Robb Wolf says:

I am pretty burned out on the protein, carbs, fat shindig. I’m starting to think that framework creates more confusion than answers.

Thinking about optimum foraging theory, palate novelty and a few related topics will (hopefully) provide a much better framework for folks to affect positive change. 

The chart below shows a comparison of the micronutrients provided by the least nutrient dense 10% of foods versus the most nutrient dense foods compared to the average of all foods available in the USDA foods database.

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The quantity of essential nutrients you can get with the same amount of energy is massive!  If eating is about obtaining adequate nutrients then the quality of our food, not just macronutrients or calories matters greatly!

Another problem with simply avoiding fat is that the foods lowest in fat are also the most insulinogenic so we’re left with foods that don’t satiate us with nutrients and also raise our insulin levels.  The chart below shows that the least nutrient dense food are also the most insulinogenic.


what happens when we go low carb?

So the obvious thing to do is to rebel and eliminate all carbohydrates because low fat was such a failure.  Right?

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So we swing to the other extreme and avoid all carbohydrates and enjoy fat ad libitum to make up for lost time.

The problem again is that at the other extreme of the macronutrient pendulum we may find that we have limited nutrients.

The chart below shows a comparison of the nutrient density of different dietary approaches showing that a super high fat therapeutic ketogenic approach may not be ideal for everyone, at least in terms of nutrient density.  High fat foods are not always the most nutrient dense and can also, just like low fat foods, be engineered to be hyperpalatable to help us to eat more of them.

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The chart below shows the relationship (or lack thereof) between the percentage of fat in our food and the nutrient density.   Simply avoiding or binging on fat does not ensure we are optimising our nutrition.

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While many people find that their appetite is normalised whey they reduce the insulin load of their diet high fat foods are more energy dense so it can be easy to overdo the high fat dairy and nuts if you’re one of the unlucky people whose appetite doesn’t disappear.

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what happens when we go paleo?

So if ‘paleo foods’ worked so well for paleo peeps then maybe we should retreat back there?  Back to the plantains, the honey and the fattiest cuts of meat?

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Well, maybe.  Maybe not.

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For some people ‘going paleo’ works really well.  Particularly if you’re really active.

Nutrient dense, energy dense whole foods work really well if you’re also going to the CrossFit Box to hang out with your best buds five times a week.

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But for the rest of us that aren’t insanely active, then maybe simply ‘going paleo’ is not the best option…

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… particularly if we start tucking into the energy dense ‘paleo comfort foods’.

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If we’re not so active, then intentionally limiting our exposure to highly energy dense hyperpalatable foods can be a useful way to manage our OFT programming.

enter nutrient density

A lot of people find that nutrient dense non-starchy veggies, or even simply going “plant based”, works really well, particularly if you have some excess body fat (and maybe even stored protein) that you want to contribute to your daily energy expenditure.

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Limiting ourselves to the most nutrient dense foods (in terms of nutrients per calorie) enables us to sidestep the trap of modern foods which have separated nutrients and energy.  Nutrient dense foods also boost our mitochondrial function, and fuel the fat burning Krebs cycle so we can be less dependent on a sugar hit for energy (Cori cycle).

Limiting yourself to nutrient dense foods (i.e. nutrients per calorie) is a great way to reverse engineer optimal foraging theory.

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If your problem is that energy dense low nutrient density hyperpalatable foods are just too easy to overeat, then actively constraining your foods to those that have the highest nutrients per calorie could help manage the negative effects of OFT that are engrained in our system by imposing an external constraint.

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But if you’re a lean Ironman triathlete these foods are probably not going to get you through.  You will need more energy than you can get from nutrient dense spinach and broccoli.

optimal rehabilitation plan?

So while there is no one size fits all solution, it seems that we have some useful principles that we can use to shortlist our food selection.

  1. We are hardwired to get the maximum amount of energy with the least amount of effort (i.e. optimal foraging theory).
  2. Commercialised manufactured foods have separated nutrients from food and made it very easy to obtain a lot of energy with a small investment.
  3. Eliminating fat can leave us with cheap hyperpalatable grain-based fat free highly insulinogenic foods that will leave us with spiralling insulin and blood glucose levels.
  4. Eating nutrient dense whole foods is a great discipline, but we still need to tailor our energy density to our situation (i.e. weight loss vs athlete).

the solution

So I think we have three useful quantitative parameters with which to optimise our food choices to suit our current situation:

  1. insulin load (which helps as to normalise our blood glucose levels),
  2. nutrient density (which helps us make sure we are getting the most nutrients per calorie possible), and
  3. energy density (helps us to manage the impulses of OFT in the modern world).

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I have used a multi criteria analysis to rank the foods for each goal.  The chart below shows the weightings used for each approach.

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The lists of optimal foods below have been developed to help you manage your primal impulses.  The table below contains links to seperate blog posts and printable .pdfs for a range of dietary approaches that may be of interest depending on your goals and situation.

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 you identify your optimal dietary approach.

survey

I hope this helps.

Good luck out there!

references

[1] http://ketosummit.com/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimal_foraging_theory

[3] http://www.hoajonline.com/obesity/2052-5966/2/2

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24564590

[5] http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/fullness-factor

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7498104

[7] https://www.nextnature.net/2013/02/how-food-scientists-engineer-the-bliss-point-in-junk-food/

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy

[9] http://blog.diabeticcare.com/diabetes-obesity-growth-trend-u-s/

the most ketogenic foods

Ketosis occurs when the body’s glucose stores and insulin levels are low and the body increases its use of fat for fuel.  The insulin load of a food is related to its carbohydrate, protein and fibre content.

Calculation of the percentage of insulinogenic calories enables us to prioritize of foods with a lower insulin demand which will lead to nutritional ketosis and improved blood glucose control.

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Listed below are the most ketogenic foods based on the percentage of insulinogenic calories (excluding fats and oils).  Also included in the tables below are:

  • the nutrient density score (ND) ,
  • net carbohydrates or insulin load which will be of interest if you are insulin resistant and / or managing blood glucose levels, and
  • energy density (calories/100g) which will be of interest if you are watching your weight.

vegetables

food ND % insulinogenic net carbs/100g calories/100g
chicory greens -0.28 27% 1 28
artichokes 0.71 33% 3 54
chives 0.21 34% 1 37
cilantro -0.46 36% 1 28
parsnip 0.64 38% 7 76
turnip greens 1.15 39% 1 37
banana pepper 0.19 41% 3 39
spinach -0.54 41% 1 29
seaweed (kelp) 0.78 43% 4 50
beets 0.28 44% 4 48
mustard greens 0.19 45% 2 30
collards 0.36 46% 2 40
mung beans 0.63 46% 1 26
alfalfa (sprouted) -0.54 46% 1 31
asparagus 0.94 46% 2 27
snap green beans 0.64 47% 4 40
pickled cucumber -0.87 48% 1 13
celery 2.67 49% 1 17
parsley 0.11 49% 3 44
radishes 0.66 50% 2 19
lettuce 1.10 52% 2 17
bamboo shoots 0.74 52% 3 28
endive -0.62 52% 2 20
cabbage 0.67 53% 3 30
arugula -0.03 54% 2 31
jalapeno peppers 0.54 54% 4 35
Brussels sprouts 0.19 54% 5 52
carrots 0.14 55% 5 39
cauliflower -0.61 57% 3 28
okra 0.92 57% 4 37
rhubarb 1.22 57% 3 21
broccoli 1.06 57% 4 42

fruit

food ND % insulinogenic net carbs/100g calories/100g
olives 0.00 15% 3 90
avocado 0.01 18% 5 131

nuts and seeds

26765969aae6926f

food ND % insulinogenic net carbs/100g calories/100g
macadamia nuts 0.12 5% 5 769
pecans 0.15 5% 4 762
coconut milk 0.03 8% 4 246
Brazil nuts 0.09 9% 4 704
pine nuts 0.15 11% 9 647
coconut meat 0.09 11% 16 703
flax seed 0.08 12% 2 568
walnuts 0.10 15% 7 683
hazel nuts 0.10 16% 15 692
chia seeds 0.10 16% 8 511
tahini 0.16 16% 13 633
almonds 0.11 16% 15 652
sesame seeds 0.12 18% 14 603
sunflower seeds 0.18 20% 11 491
cashew nuts 0.11 22% 24 609
pistachio nuts 0.15 23% 19 602

 dairy and egg

dairy20and20eggs

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load  (g/100g) calories/100g
butter 0.11 0% 1 734
cream 0.10 5% 5 431
sour cream 0.12 9% 4 197
cream cheese 0.15 10% 8 348
Limburger cheese 0.17 18% 15 327
brie cheese 0.15 19% 16 334
egg yolk 0.18 19% 15 317
muenster cheese 0.16 20% 18 368
Camembert cheese 0.17 20% 15 299
Monterey Jack 0.16 20% 19 373
blue cheese 0.17 20% 18 354
feta cheese 0.17 22% 14 265
mozzarella 0.15 23% 18 318
ricotta cheese 0.09 25% 11 174
Greek Yogurt 0.02 27% 9 130
whole egg 0.17 29% 10 138

seafood

seafood-salad-5616x3744-shrimp-scallop-greens-738

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load  (g/100g) calories/100g
caviar 0.28 32% 22 276
herring 0.24 34% 18 210
sardine 0.22 36% 18 202
swordfish 0.28 41% 17 165
anchovy 0.31 42% 21 203
rainbow trout 0.27 43% 17 162
mackerel 0.25 45% 17 149
sturgeon 0.23 47% 15 129
tuna 0.27 50% 17 137
squid 0.16 50% 21 170
salmon 0.26 50% 15 122

animal products

7450703_orig

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load  (g/100g) calories/100g
foi gras 0.12 11% 13 459
beef ribs 0.12 13% 12 349
pepperoni 0.16 14% 17 487
frankfurter 0.11 14% 11 322
pate 0.13 16% 13 315
chorizo 0.15 17% 19 448
duck (with skin) 0.13 17% 14 331
salami 0.13 18% 12 258
lamb 0.15 24% 18 308
veal brain 0.09 25% 8 133
bratwurst 0.05 25% 11 171
polish sausage 0.10 26% 17 259
beef steak 0.16 28% 21 305
salami 0.11 29% 12 166

Depending on your goals, the following lists may also be of interest:

superfoods for therapeutic ketosis

A therapeutic ketogenic diet has a very low insulin load from non-fibre carbohydrates as well as additional dietary fat to achieve higher ketone to manage chronic conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, dementia etc.

The chart below shows our insulin response versus insulin load which considered fibre and protein as well as carbohydrates.

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insulin load = total carbohydrates – fibre + 0.56 x protein

The foods listed below have a very low insulin load while still maximising nutrient density (ND) as much as possible.  Also included in the table are the nutrient density score, percentage of insulinogenic calories, insulin load and energy density.

nuts, seeds and legumes

26765969aae6926f

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
coconut milk -5 8% 5 230
macadamia nuts -2 6% 12 718
coconut cream -5 8% 7 330
coconut -5 10% 9 354
pecans -6 6% 12 691
brazil nuts -3 9% 16 659
sesame seeds -2 10% 17 631
flax seed -1 11% 16 534
hazel nuts -3 10% 17 629
sunflower seeds 1 15% 22 546
pine nuts -4 11% 21 673
walnuts -2 13% 22 619
almonds -1 15% 25 607
peanut butter 1 17% 27 593
almond butter -1 16% 26 614
almond milk 5 25% 1 15
peanuts -0 18% 29 599
pumpkin seeds 2 19% 29 559
butternuts -5 17% 28 612

seafood and animal products

7450703_orig

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
mackerel 5 14% 10 305
bacon -2 11% 11 417
sweetbread -2 12% 9 318
pork sausage -1 12% 11 392
beef sausage -1 12% 12 405
liver sausage -2 13% 10 331
pepperoni 0 13% 16 504
bologna -7 11% 9 310
frankfurter -7 11% 9 312
beef tongue 0 16% 11 284
kielbasa -1 15% 12 325
beef brains 7 22% 8 151
bratwurst -0 16% 13 333
salami 2 18% 17 378
blood sausage -5 14% 13 379
knackwurst -3 16% 12 307
pork ribs 1 18% 16 361
Liverwurst spread -2 17% 13 305
liver pate -4 16% 13 319
ground pork 2 19% 19 393
meatballs -1 19% 14 286
turkey bacon -1 19% 11 226
lamb chop 1 19% 16 332
duck -3 18% 15 337
chorizo -3 17% 19 455
lamb -2 19% 17 361
turkey 1 20% 21 414
lamb brains 6 27% 10 154
headcheese -4 20% 8 157
cisco 10 29% 13 177
ground pork -4 20% 13 265
park sausage 2 25% 13 217

vegetables, fruit and spices

spanish-olives

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
olives -6 3% 1 145
avocado -1 8% 3 160
alfalfa 10 19% 1 23
curry powder 4 13% 14 325
endive 16 23% 1 17
chicory greens 15 23% 2 23
escarole 12 24% 1 19
coriander 17 30% 2 23
broccoli 25 36% 3 22
poppy seeds -2 17% 23 525
paprika 9 27% 26 282
sage 6 26% 26 315
basil 17 34% 27 233
beet greens 14 35% 2 22

eggs and dairy

dairy20and20eggs

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g
cream 1 6% 5 340
butter -0 2% 3 718
sour cream 2 13% 6 198
cream cheese 1 11% 10 350
egg yolk 8 18% 12 275
cheddar cheese 5 20% 20 410
limburger 1 19% 15 327
Swiss cheese 6 22% 22 393
goat cheese -1 19% 16 364
brie -0 19% 16 334
camembert 1 21% 16 300
feta 2 22% 15 264
blue cheese 0 21% 19 353
Monterey cheese -1 20% 19 373
muenster cheese -1 21% 19 368
gruyere cheese 1 22% 23 413
Colby cheese -1 21% 20 394
whole egg 10 30% 10 143
edam cheese 1 23% 21 357

other dietary 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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superfoods for athletes and the metabolically healthy

People who are metabolically healthy can focus on maximising nutrient density without worrying too much about their blood glucose or calorie density.

These foods are ranked using nutrient density per weight which prioritises higher calorie density foods which is more appropriate for an athlete wanting to replenish energy rather than minimise calories.  If you’re just completed a 100km ride it makes sense to reach for the nuts than the parsley to replenish energy.

Someone who is active and metabolically healthy will be able to tolerate higher levels of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores after intense exercise.  However there is no need to eat more carbohydrates than would raise blood glucose levels to 6.7mmol/L (12omg/dL).  Exceeding this level would indicate that the liver and muscle glucagon stores are overfull and excess carbohydrate could lead to insulin resistance and metabolic damage.

The list of veggies is not as long as you might think because they are not as nutrient dense as the other options.  Veggies more extensively on the weight loss list where a lower calorie density is more of a priority.

Who People doing intense exercise and / or people who are metabolically healthy:

  • HbA1c < 5.4mmol/L (ideally less than 5.0mmol/L)
  • Average blood sugar < 5.4mmol/L (100mg/dL)
  • Average fasting blood sugar < 5.0mmol/L (90mg/dL)
When If your blood sugars or weight deviate from optimum consider reverting to the optimal foods for weight loss or diabetes.
Macro
  • 5 – 30% carbohydrates
  • 15 – 30% protein
  • 40 – 80% fat
How Nutrient density, high fibre, and cost with less focus on choosing low insulinogenic foods.

For more details see

nuts, seeds & legumes

  • chia seeds
  • flax seeds
  • sunflower seed
  • same seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • soybeans
  • sesame butter
  • brazil nuts
  • peanuts
  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • hazel nuts
  • pistachio nuts
  • coconut meat
  • pine nuts
  • pecans
  • macadamia nuts
  • peanut butter
  • cashew nuts
  • lentils
  • coconut milk
  • coconut cream
  • bread beans
  • split peas
  • beans
  • natto
  • lima beans
  • mung beans
  • chick peas

vegetables and spices

  • parsley
  • basil
  • paprika
  • spearmint
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • cinnamon
  • turnip greens
  • spirulina
  • alfalfa
  • spinach
  • artichoke
  • cauliflower

dairy and egg

  • egg yolk
  • whole egg
  • Parmesan
  • Gruyere
  • goat cheese
  • Edam
  • Gouda
  • cheddar
  • provolone
  • blue cheese
  • Colby
  • Limburger
  • brie
  • mozzarella
  • cream cheese
  • feta
  • sour cream
  • cream

animal products

  • bacon
  • caviar
  • beef
  • pepperoni
  • liver
  • chorizo
  • mackerel
  • lamb
  • salami
  • anchovy
  • herring
  • pork
  • salmon
  • foie gras
  • turkey
  • veal
  • roe
  • sardines
  • goose
  • chicken
  • halibut
  • bratwurst
  • ham

fats and oils

  • fish oil
  • butter
  • palm oil
  • avocado oil
  • walnut oil
  • coconut oil
  • lard
  • hazelnut oil
  • almond oil

fruit

  • avocado
  • olives

other

  • wheat bran (crude)
  • All Bran
  • rice bran (crude)
  • wheat germ
  • cocoa (unsweetened)

Download printer friendly version.

ND / cal

ND / weight fibre / cal fibre / weight calories / 100g

insulinogenic (%)

5%

30% 10% 5%

5%

45%

 

 

superfoods for weight loss

People who are insulin resistant typically benefit from eating foods with a lower insulin load which helps normalise insulin and blood glucose.  Managing your appetite is easier once you get off the blood glucose roller coaster.

However people who are obese but are also insulin sensitive seem to benefit even more by reducing energy density and maximising nutrient density as much as possible.

Once your blood glucose levels are under control by reducing the insulin load of your diet, foods with a low energy density and high nutrient density will likely help you continue your journey towards optimum health and weight.

The chart below is from a recent pilot trial by Christopher Gardner of Stanford (Weight loss on low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate diets by insulin resistance status among overweight adults and adults with obesity: A randomized pilot trial) which showed that the people who were insulin resistant generally did better on a higher fat low carbohydrate diet while people who were more insulin sensitive did better on a lower fat, lower energy density approach.  Everyone in the study did better by eating more more nutrient dense unprocessed foods regardless of the macronutrient composition!

image15

Reducing energy density (i.e. more water, more fibre and less fat) enables you to maximise nutrient density across the board (i.e. essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids per calorie).

The chart below (click o enlarge) shows that the low energy density foods listed below are pretty much the most dense foods available!

2016-10-16-4

This chart below shows the nutrients provided by the top 10% of the foods when sorted by this ranking compared to all foods in the USDA database.

weight-loss-insulin-sensitive

These foods will enable you to minimise your energy intake (calories) without and minimise your chance of experiencing any nutritional deficiencies.  For example, if you were fasting or dieting, focusing on these foods would maximise your chance of long term successes and minimising cravings.

The foods listed below represent the top 10% of the USDA food database prioritised for high nutrient density and low energy density.  The highest ranking foods involve lean proteins, non starchy veggies and seafood.  High fat dairy, processed grains and energy dense nuts and seeds don’t make the list.

The nutrient dense, high fibre, low energy density foods listed below will help you feel full with fewer calories, increase satiety and make it easier to control appetite.  This approach is similar to a protein sparing modified fast which which reduces your dietary fat on the basis that it will be coming from your body. Adequate protein is also critical to building lean muscle mass which is critical to your metabolic health.

“A nourishing, balanced diet that provides all the required nutrients in the right proportions is the key to minimising appetite and eliminating hunger at minimal caloric intake.”

Paul Jaminet

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.

vegetables

image19

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
broccoli 23 36% 3 22 2.97
watercress 22 65% 2 11 2.89
spinach 20 49% 4 23 2.64
zucchini 18 40% 2 17 2.53
basil 17 47% 3 23 2.40
asparagus 16 50% 3 22 2.29
coriander 16 30% 2 23 2.27
brown mushrooms 16 73% 5 22 2.24
endive 15 23% 1 17 2.18
Chinese cabbage 15 54% 2 12 2.16
lettuce 14 50% 2 15 2.10
portabella mushrooms 14 55% 5 29 2.03
chicory greens 14 23% 2 23 2.00
okra 13 50% 3 22 1.98
white mushroom 13 65% 5 22 1.97
chard 13 51% 3 19 1.95
cauliflower 13 50% 4 25 1.94
beet greens 13 35% 2 22 1.90
parsley 13 48% 5 36 1.90
summer squash 12 45% 2 19 1.83
seaweed (wakame) 12 79% 11 45 1.81
escarole 11 24% 1 19 1.75
spirulina 11 70% 6 26 1.75
shitake mushroom 12 58% 7 39 1.74
dill 11 59% 8 43 1.73
chives 11 48% 4 30 1.72
arugula 11 45% 3 25 1.68
mung beans 10 74% 4 19 1.65
turnip greens 10 44% 4 29 1.64
dandelion greens 10 54% 7 45 1.59
celery 10 50% 3 18 1.57
alfalfa 9 19% 1 23 1.47
mustard greens 9 36% 3 27 1.45
cucumber 7 39% 1 12 1.34
pickles 7 39% 1 12 1.34
seaweed (kelp) 8 77% 10 43 1.34
banana pepper 8 36% 3 27 1.33
yeast extract spread 10 59% 27 185 1.26
cabbage 7 55% 4 23 1.25
radicchio 7 67% 4 23 1.25
bamboo shoots 7 60% 5 27 1.25
collards 7 37% 4 33 1.24
red peppers 6 40% 3 31 1.20
radishes 6 43% 2 16 1.18
snap beans 6 58% 3 15 1.16
peas 6 65% 7 42 1.15
Brussel sprouts 6 50% 6 42 1.14
kale 6 60% 5 28 1.13
pumpkin 5 76% 4 20 1.11
sauerkraut 5 39% 2 19 1.10
soybeans (sprouted) 6 49% 12 81 1.10
edamame 7 41% 13 121 1.08
paprika 9 27% 26 282 1.07
cloves 9 35% 35 274 1.06
onions 5 65% 6 32 1.03
chayote 5 40% 3 24 1.02
artichokes 5 49% 7 47 1.01
jalapeno peppers 5 37% 3 27 1.00
eggplant 4 35% 3 25 0.97
radishes 4 60% 3 18 0.97

grains and cereal

amazing-health-benefits-of-wheat-bran

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
baker’s yeast 15 53% 16 105 1.97
All Bran 13 56% 55 259 1.53
wheat bran 10 38% 34 216 1.30

seafood

seafood-salad-5616x3744-shrimp-scallop-greens-738

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
salmon 19 52% 20 156 2.40
fish roe 18 47% 18 143 2.26
crab 17 71% 14 83 2.23
oyster 16 59% 14 102 2.16
trout 16 45% 18 168 2.05
halibut 15 66% 17 111 1.98
lobster 14 71% 15 89 1.94
shrimp 13 69% 19 119 1.80
rockfish 13 66% 17 109 1.80
flounder 13 57% 12 86 1.78
pollock 13 69% 18 111 1.77
sturgeon 13 49% 16 135 1.77
crayfish 12 67% 13 82 1.75
anchovy 12 44% 22 210 1.52
caviar 13 33% 23 264 1.51
haddock 11 71% 19 116 1.49
tuna 12 52% 23 184 1.48
perch 10 62% 14 96 1.46
whiting 10 66% 18 116 1.45
white fish 10 70% 18 108 1.40
octopus 9 71% 28 164 1.28
cod 11 71% 48 290 1.24
cisco 9 29% 13 177 1.23
sardines 9 36% 16 185 1.17
sardine 9 37% 19 208 1.1
herring 9 36% 19 217 1.10
scallop 7 77% 22 111 1.09
clam 6 73% 25 142 0.92

animal products

7450703_orig

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
lamb kidney 19 52% 15 112 2.41
lamb liver 19 48% 20 168 2.34
beef liver 17 59% 25 175 2.11
veal liver 17 55% 26 192 2.09
turkey liver 16 47% 21 189 1.92
beef kidney 14 52% 20 157 1.81
chicken liver 14 50% 20 172 1.78
ham 12 59% 17 113 1.62
lean beef 11 61% 23 149 1.52
veal 11 65% 24 151 1.48
pork liver 11 59% 23 165 1.46
chicken 10 60% 22 148 1.42
lamb heart 10 48% 19 161 1.33
turkey 9 65% 22 138 1.30
pork chop 9 57% 23 172 1.26
beef heart 9 52% 23 179 1.26
turkey heart 9 47% 20 174 1.22
pork shoulder 9 56% 22 162 1.21
leg ham 9 56% 22 165 1.19
turkey meat 8 52% 21 158 1.19
turkey drumstick 8 52% 21 158 1.19
ground beef 8 59% 20 144 1.18
ground pork 9 54% 25 185 1.17

dairy and eggs

image08

food ND % insulinogenic insulin load (g/100g) calories/100g MCA
whole egg 9 30% 10 143 1.28
cream cheese (low fat) 8 76% 19 105 1.21
kefir 6 64% 7 41 1.18
cottage cheese (low fat) 6 63% 13 81 1.05
Greek yogurt 5 63% 11 73 0.99

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.

image02

optimal foods for different goals

We can prioritise the foods we eat using the sometimes competing parameters of nutrient density, insulin load and energy density to suit out individual goals and current metabolic health.

2016-07-06 (11)

Click on the links below to see the optimal foods for each goal, or read on for an overview of the system.

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

insulin load

Insulin is an important hormone that helps us to regulate growth and energy storage as well as fat loss and cellular repair.  However too much insulin, due excess processed foods or insulin resistance can be a problem.

While many people go low carb to reduce their insulin levels,  as you can see from the plot of carbohydrates versus insulin index below, carbohydrates only tells us part of the story.

image11

Carbohydrates minus fibre plus about half of the protein we eat provides a better estimation of the insulin demand of our food.

image02

We can use this understanding to prioritise foods that will require more or less insulin for:

  • growth and bulking, or
  • fat loss, autophagy and normalisation insulin levels.

nutrient density

The problem is, the foods with the lowest insulin load are refined oils and fats which typically don’t contain a large amount of essential nutrients (i.e. vitamins, minerals and amino acids).

Maximising the nutrient density of the foods we eat is important for a wide range of reasons.  Ideally, to minimise cravings and maximise satiety, we want to maximise the nutrients per calorie of the foods we eat (i.e. nutrient density).

Nutrient dense foods are typically whole foods that have been subjected to minimal processing.

We  can quantify nutrient density by comparing the amount of essential nutrients in a food to the rest of the foods available and adding up all these scores for the essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids.  We can then refine this approach to only prioritise the nutrients that are harder to obtain.

This chart shows the difference that focusing on the most nutrient dense foods can make compared to other approaches

2016-07-14 (2)

energy density

Lastly, less energy dense foods (i.e. foods that contain more fibre and water and less fat) help us to feel full with less energy and help us to use our own body fat for fuel.  Low energy density foods are also typically more nutrient dense.  Focusing on foods with a lower energy density can be particularly helpful if we already have great blood glucose levels but still have more fat to lose.

which approach is right for me?

The focus of the system is to help you find the foods that will help you maintain great blood glucose levels while maximizing nutrient density.  The right approach for you will depend on your current metabolic health and weight loss goals.  In the end we want to ingest adequate energy while avoiding malnutrition and ideally maintain normal insulin and blood glucose levels at the same time.  energy-density-vs-nutrient-density

Simply minimising insulin load is great if you have a chronic health condition such as cancer, epilepsy or dementia that will benefit from a therapeutic ketogenic approach.  Someone with very high blood glucose and insulin levels may also benefit from a therapeutic ketogenic approach as they adapt.  However in time, as blood glucose levels improve, you will ideally be able to transition to more nutrient dense dietary approach.

The table below gives some guidance on which nutritional approach would be ideal based on your average blood glucose levels and your waist to height ratio.

approach

average glucose

waist : height

(mg/dL)

(mmol/L)

therapeutic ketosis

> 140

> 7.8

diabetes and nutritional ketosis

108 to 140

6.0 to 7.8

weight loss (insulin resistant)

100 to 108

5.4 to 6.0

> 0.5

weight loss (insulin sensitive)

< 97

< 5.4

> 0.5

bulking

< 97

< 5.4

< 0.5

nutrient dense maintenance

< 97

< 5.4

< 0.5

If you’re still 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.