Category Archives: recipes

Dr Greger’s How Not to Die Cookbook (review)

To celebrate the release of the How Not to Die Cookbook I thought it would be interesting review some of Dr Greger’s recipes to see how they stack up nutritionally.

Well presented

Firstly, I’ve got to give kudos on the layout.  Rather than wait for a hard copy to ship to Australia, I bought my copy on Apple iBooks and was impressed at how you could interactively explode the ingredients list to full screen on my phone.

This feature would be invaluable when actually using the book in the kitchen, especially on a phone where showing a full page of small text on a screen is impractical, and all you want to see is the ingredients from a distance.

Whole food

The recipes in the How Not to Die Cookbook are full of nutritious minimally processed whole food, which is a win for me.

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There are heaps of colour on the pages, which is indicative of the range of vitamins and minerals present in these minimally processed foods.

In the introduction, Dr Greger makes the critical distinction between a vegetarian diet (which could be filled with highly processed grains and sugars) and minimally processed plant-based whole foods.

Most of the issues with nutrition come when we overly process our food and make it shelf stable for increased profit margins.  Some of the recipes in the How Not To Die Cookbook call for some whole wheat bread, pasta, date sugar and the like, but generlaly, the recipes rely on minimally processed whole foods.

If you want quick and easy, this may not be the book for you.  Although there are headings of ‘easy’ and ‘moderate’ on the recipes, most of the recipes have a significant number of ingredients, including a range of herbs and spices.

You may have to gear up your kitchen with a range of new ingredients if you are not already following this way of eating.  However, for the experienced WFPB enthusiast who wants to add some flair and variety to their diet and dinner parties, this book is ideal.

Plant-based

In spite of being the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture for the Humane Society by day, Dr Greger doesn’t overtly focus on being vegan or vegetarian in the book.

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Unlike many others in this field, he doesn’t lead with animal welfare as the primary basis for his dietary appraoch.  In the introduction to the cookbook, he talks about his personal experience of seeing his grandmother’s life turned around by this way, under the guidance of Nathan Pritikin (pictured below).

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Greger is a self-confessed “nutrition nerd” who appears to find genuine excitement in unpacking the research to find links between different aspects of diet and their impact on health.  His Nutrition Facts YouTube channel has become viral and has become the primary resource for pre-processed nutritional inspiration for many.

Frame of reference

Nutrition is still an emerging science.  We seem to still be fumbling trying to understand the mechanisms, the cause and effect relationships of the food we eat on our health, well-being and longevity.

To deal with complexities of a topic like nutrition, we adopt a simplified frame of reference to help us navigate our reality without our mind exploding.  These simplified frames of reference are never perfect.  It’s also hard one frame of reference that explains everything perfectly.  Over time we strive to create new and more useful frames of reference that suits use best.[1]

Some example of different frames of references for nutrition are:

  • The Paleo frame of reference says we should eat foods that we evolved with.
  • The vegan frame of reference says we should eat foods that don’t harm other sentient life forms.
  • The hedonistic frame of references says, “if it tastes good, eat it.”
  • The cost frame of reference optimises for the lowest cost per calorie with minimal consideration of nutrition.
  • The Heart Association frame of reference believes that minimising fat, especially saturated fat, will help us avoid heart disease.
  • The conservationist frame of reference tries to eat in a way that we should eat in a way the minimise our impact on the environment.
  • The Seventh Day Adventist Church (who have a large influence through their food companies and medical evangelism) believe that they should eat plants and herbs (and not meat) because that’s how it was in the Garden of Eden.
  • The low carb/keto frame of reference suggests that minimising carbohydrates and maximising fat will lead to optimum health for most people.

As a doctor, Dr Greger relies on the medical research frame of reference.  He draws associations between different food properties and health outcomes and tries to develop a system that avoids the qualities of food that he believes to be dangerous.

While some people suggest that Greger cherry picks the studies and interprets the data to fit his plant-based perspective,[2][3][4] the research-based frame of reference is at least a refreshing contrast to the fear-based frame of reference in more militant vegan presentations (e.g. What the Health and Cowspiracy).

The Optimising Nutrition framework

Nutrient density

While I don’t call myself a Nutritarian, my frame of reference has a lot in common with Dr Joel Fuhrman’s focus on nutrient density.

Rather than focusing on foods to avoid I think we need to focus on foods that contain the nutrients we need.  By focusing on the things we need we automatically eliminate the things that aren’t good for us in excess.  Ultimately, I think we should focus on eating the foods that give us the nutrients without having to ingest too much energy to get those nutrients.

Dr Mat Lalonde’s take on nutrient density has also been a major inspiration.  Lalonde took Fuhrman’s ANDI and re-ran the analysis to consider only essential vitamins, vitamins, amino acids and essential fatty acids for which there are widely available data and some consensus on the minimum nutrient intakes.

The problem with Lalonde’s approach, though, is that amino acids are very easy to find in our food system, so the system ends up optimising for very high protein foods at the expensive of vitamins and minerals which can be harder to obtain in our food system.

Dr Greger is also a big fan of nutrient density as shown in this NutritionFacts.org video.

Rather than emphasising all nutrients, the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm identifies the nutrients that you are not getting in large quantities and identifies foods that will boost those nutrients.

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If you want to follow a particular dietary template (e.g. vegan, paleo, ketogenic, low carb, whole food plant based, pescetarian, vegetarian, bivalve vegan etc) the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm can work within those parameters to identify the most nutrient-dense foods.  However, the optimal nutritional outcome tends to be to simply focus on the most nutrient-dense foods available.

Insulin load

As the husband of someone who has had type 1 diabetes for three decades, I also see the importance of eating food that doesn’t require massive amounts of insulin to maintain normal healthy blood sugar levels.

There is value in managing dietary insulin load to make sure you don’t need massive levels of insulin to stabilise your blood sugar.  The food insulin index data shows us that our glucose response is proportional to the carbohydrate we eat.[5][6]image10.png

While our insulin response is related to the non-fibre carbohydrates minus about half the fibre.

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Energy density

And lastly, energy density can be a useful tool to help you moderate your food intake.

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This is another area where the WFPB approach shines in contrast to the low carb or ketogenic approaches, which can be energy dense and make it possible to overeat.

Without the use of added oils or a significant amount of processed grains and sugars, it will be practically impossible to overeat using only the meals set out in the How Not to Die Cookbook.

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Meals analysed

I chose representative meals from the various sections of the book.   If you click on the recipes listed below, you will see the meal entries in Cronometer.  If you want the photos and directions, you’ll have to buy the book).

●     portabellas and greens on toast
●     curried cauliflower soup
●     skillet sweet potato bake
●     white bean soup
●     spinach and mushroom black bean burritos
●     summertime oatmeal
●     whole wheat pasta with lentil bolognese
●     superfood breakfast bites
●     chocolate-cherry-banana soft-serve
●     morning oatmeal bowls
●     chocolate oatmeal

micronutrient profile

The figure below shows the nutrient profile of Dr Greger’s recipes in terms of nutrients provided as a proportion of the recommended daily intake.

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As you might expect, we get a ton of vitamin K1, vitamin A and vitamin C.  However, at the top of the chart, we’re not meeting the DRI levels of vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Nutrient score

The Nutrient Score is a relative comparison of the quantity of essential nutrients in our food.

If your diet provides twice the minimum level of nutrients, then we would achieve a perfect score of 100%.  This approach doesn’t reward massive amount of a small number of nutrients, but rather leads people to rebalance their diet so they can obtain a substantial intake of all the essential nutrients.

In his Perfect Health Diet, Paul Jaminet notes that “a nourishing, balanced diet that provides all the required nutrients in the right proportions is the key to eliminating hunger and minimising appetite and eliminating hunger at minimal caloric intake.”[7]  Similarly, studies by Dr Joel Fuhrman indicate that a nutrient dense diet will reduce cravings and provide satiety with a lower energy intake.[8]

Overall, the recipes from the How Not to Die Cookbook get a respectable Nutrient Density Score of a score of 79%.   For comparison, the lowest Nutrient Density score is 20% while the highest score to date has been 92%.

Macronutrients

The macronutrient split of the recipes is shown in the chart below.     While these foods are 70% carbohydrates, there are only 54% non-fibre carbohydrates once we subtract the fibre.

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Carbohydrates

As shown in the chart below of nutrient density score vs non-fibre carbohydrates (see this article for more detail), we can get a reasonable amount of nutrition with net carbs anywhere in the range of 0 to around 60%.  So, while not optimal, this level of non-carbohydrates in Dr Greger’s meals is not excessive for most people.  However if you already have diabetes it will likely not provide optimal blood sugar control.

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Fat

Similarly with fat at 14%, we’re still within an acceptable macronutrient range, although optimal nutrient density seems to align with around 40% fat.

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Protein

For the sake of analysis, I have run the Nutrient Optimiser report for a male who is 80 kg (176 lbs) with 15% body fat to achieve a maintenance energy intake of 2000 calories per day.  Dr Greger’s recipes provide on average 84 g of protein per day which equates to 1.2 g/kg lean body mass (LBM) or 1.05 g/kg total body mass per day.

Optimal protein is a contentious topic. However, we can say that the intake level provided by Dr Gregor’s meals would exceed the Adequate Intake level of 0.86 g/kg and is about equivalent to the recommended daily intake.[9]

Where things get murky is when we talk about the bioavailability of plant-based protein versus animal protein; however, Dr Gregor generally appears more concerned about not getting too much “animal protein” for longevity considerations.

I’m not aware of any research in humans that demonstrates that we live longer by reducing protein intake.  There is research in yeast and worm that shows that energy restriction and protein restriction causes slower growth and overall longevity, though the quality of life may be compromised.[10]

What appears clear is that having more lean muscle mass and lower levels of body fat is a good thing.[11]

To optimise your health and longevity you need to find the balance between excess growth and obesity versus being too frail and weak to be resilient as we age.

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As shown in the chart below, there is an optimal balance between growth and wasting.[12] Too much insulin and you grow to the point that you get complications of metabolic disease.  Too little growth and you become frail, lose your muscle and bone strength then you may fall, break your hip and never get up again.

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If you are lifting heavy and trying to build muscle, you may benefit from consuming at least 1.8g/kg total body weight.[13]

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And if you are dieting and trying to lose body fat, then it seems to be beneficial to have anywhere between 1.4g/kg total body weight (for a moderate energy deficit) and up to 2.6g/kg body weight (for a very aggressive energy deficit) if you want to preserve your lean muscle mass.[14][15]image7.png

Insulin load

Insulin load is the amount of the food in your diet that will require insulin to process due to the non-fibre carbs and protein.  This video from Dr Greger was one of the things that got me thinking about insulin load there three years ago and trying to put the pieces to.

While having plenty of vitamins and minerals (particularly potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium) from whole foods helps to improve blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity, so does lower levels of processed carbohydrates that tend to raise blood sugar levels.

Dr Greger’s diet would provide an insulin load of around 341g per day with 67% insulinogenic calories.   For those of you that are used to thinking in terms of carbohydrates, this is 294g per day of non-fibre carbohydrates.

Insulin load is actually quite closely correlated with nutrient density.[16]  While 67% insulinogenic calories is just inside the nutrient density envelope, such a high insulin load would be a problem for someone like my wife Monica who has Type 1 diabetes.

As discussed in the vegan vs keto for diabetes article, a whole food diet can provide benefits in terms of higher levels of beneficial nutrients to help with insulin sensitivity and generally means people eat less due to a lower energy density of fruit and vegetables, it seems to be the people on a reduced carbohydrate higher protein approach that has the best diabetes control.[17][18]

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Optimal nutrient density appears to align with an around 40% insulinogenic calories.  People who are already insulin resistant or who have diabetes should work to reduce the insulin load of their diet to the point that they can achieve stable blood sugar levels.

It is harder for someone not consuming any animal products or seafood to reduce their insulin load.  However, we will look at how someone following a WFPB diet can minimise their insulin load as much as possible.

Potential Renal Acid load (PRAL)

It’s also worth noting that Dr Greger’s recipes have a solid amount of alkalising minerals, notably:

  • calcium (207% of the DRI),
  • potassium (210%),
  • magnesium (269%), and
  • sodium (234%).

While I’m a proponent of getting adequate protein, I also think getting adequate minerals is critical to metabolic health, as well as muscle building.[19][20][21][22][23][24]

Some believe that avoidance of animal products is the most important parameter.  However, I think one of the major benefits of a WFPB approach over a grain-based diet (or even a typical ketogenic or low carb diet managing diabetes) is the fact that it gives you plenty of alkalising minerals, which serves to reverse metabolic acidosis which leads to diabetes.

Nutrient balance ratios

The table below shows the nutrient balance ratios of Dr Greger’s recipes.

  • It seems there are lower levels of zinc and higher levels of copper, which is a concern.
  • The potassium : sodium ratio is above 2 which is great.  However, I would have expected this to be higher given that Dr Greger actively avoids salt.
  • The iron : copper ratio is high due to higher levels of copper from the plant-based diet.
  • The calcium : phosphorus ratio is low due to the lower levels of calcium and higher levels of phosphorous.
ratios ratio target recommendation
Omega 6 : Omega 3 2.1 < 4 Omega 6 : Omega 3 ratio is good.
Zinc : Copper 3 8 – 12 Zinc : Copper ratio is outside limits.
Potassium : Sodium 2.3 > 2 potassium : sodium ratio is good
Calcium : Magnesium 1.8  < 2 calcium : magnesium ratio is good.
Iron : Copper 8 10 – 15 iron : copper ratio is within range.
Calcium : Phosphorus 0.9 > 1.3 calcium : phosphorus ratio is low.

Nutrients to prioritise

The aim of the Nutrient Optimiser is to help you rebalance your nutrients at a micronutrient level by identifying foods that will provide more of the nutrients that you are currently not getting in large quantities.

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The table below lists the nutrients that someone following Dr Greger’s diet would be getting less of relative to the other nutrients.  The right-hand column indicates whether we want to prioritise these nutrients.

While six of the thirteen less-available nutrients are amino acids, we will only prioritise the vitamins and minerals, given that Dr Greger has a range of videos warning of the perils of “excess” animal protein.[25]

nutrient % DRI prioritise
Vitamin D 17% yes
Cobalamin (B12) 26% yes
Leucine 101% no
Zinc 124% yes
Methionine 124% no
Lysine 157% no
Pantothenic Acid (B5) 174% Yes
Selenium 188% yes
Valine 192% no
Isoleucine 197% no
Tyrosine 199% no
Calcium 207% yes
Potassium 207% yes

Optimal foods – nutrient dense plant-based

The image below shows the plant-based foods that would provide the nutrients that are not being provided in large quantities by Dr Greger’s meals.  The food shaded in light green are vegetables, the foods in dark green are spices, brown ad nuts and seeds, grey are oils and pink are fruits.

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Optimal foods – most nutrient dense

Meanwhile, the image below shows the foods that would provide the harder to find nutrients without the plant-based constraint.  In this table, the cells shaded green are seafood, red is offal, blue is dairy.

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What I find fascinating here is that even though we did not prioritise any amino acids or essential fatty acids, the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm seems to rebalance the diet with more protein (50%), more fat (35%) and less non-fibre carbs (3%).

Optimal foods – diabetes-friendly plant based

Meanwhile, if we were trying to manage diabetes and insulin resistance, these are the foods that the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm would recommend to manage insulin load while also being nutrient dense and filling in the nutrient gaps in Dr Greger’s meal while also remaining plant-based.

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If we weren’t trying to avoid animal products, the foods listed below would provide the harder to find nutrients required with a lower insulin load.   It’s interesting that the system prioritised butter, cream and cheese to help reduce insulin load and rebalance micronutrients in Dr Greger’s recipes.

Most of the time when I have run the analysis for people following a low carb diet the system recommends much more nutrient-packed green veggies that are often neglected by people following a low carb or keto diet.  It’s interesting to see that for someone follow Dr Greger’s recipies it would recommend the opposite.

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Optimal meals

Where this gets really cool is when we use the same process to identify meals to boost the harder to find micronutrients.   The list below shows a selection of meals identified by the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm to fill the micronutrient gaps in Dr Greger’s meal plan.

●     Bootcamp Omelette
●     eggs, sardines, oysters and broccoli
●     spinach, mussels, sardines, eggs, sauerkraut
●     spinach, egg and oysters breakfast bowl
●     mussels, spinach, egg and sauerkraut
●     sardines, spinach and egg breakfast bowl
●     spinach, mackerel, peanuts and cheese
●     anchovies, spinach and egg breakfast bowl
●     oysters and salmon
●     Rhonda Patrick smoothie 1
●     mackerel, spinach, egg breakfast bowl
●     nutritional omelette 2
●     nutrient omelette 1
●     high cruciferous juice
●     cauliflower cream soup
●     green juice
●     lift day omelette

The chart below shows the nutrients provided by these meals.  Compared to the 78% provided by the meals from the How Not to Die Cookbook, these meals from the Nutrient Optimiser would provide an almost perfect score of 99%!

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The higher nutrient density provided by these meals will mean that you would need to consume less energy to get the nutrients you need, while also improving insulin resistance, mitochondrial function and overall energy levels with the higher levels of essential and nonessential nutrients from whole foods.

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If you’re interested, you can read Dr Greger’s full Nutrient Optimiser report here.

Summary

  • The recipes in the How Not to Die Cookbook are nutritious while remaining whole food plant based.
  • The protein content meets the recommended minimum intake levels. However, higher protein levels may be required to maximise muscle protein synthesis for someone who is active or wanting to maintain lean muscle mass while losing body fat.
  • The meals are relatively low fat but relatively high in non-fibre carbohydrate. While this level of carbohydrate is not excessive for someone who is metabolically healthy, someone who has diabetes may benefit from foods with a lower insulin load while also still maximising the nutrients that are provided by non-starchy vegetables.
  • We can use the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm to identify foods that contain more of these harder to find nutrients regardless of our preferred nutritional constraints.

 

references

[1]https://www.amazon.com/Win-Bigly-Persuasion-World-Matter/dp/0735219710

[2]https://deniseminger.com/2017/05/22/critical-review-of-michael-gregers-how-not-to-die/

[3]http://www.nourishbalancethrive.com/blog/2016/06/09/foodloose-recap-transcript/

[4]https://robbwolf.com/2017/07/03/what-the-health-a-wolfs-eye-review/

[5]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2017/10/21/redesigning-nutrition-from-first-principles/

[6]https://optimisingnutrition.com/food-insulin-index/

[7]http://perfecthealthdiet.com/

[8]https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-9-51

[9]https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein

[10]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2017/10/15/high-protein-vs-low-protein/

[11]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2016/03/21/wanna-live-forever/

[12]http://press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2011-1377

[13]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29182451/

[14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29182451/

[15]https://www.dropbox.com/s/1if7n957u66htiy/10.1123%40ijsnem.2017-0273.pdf?dl=0

[16]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2017/10/30/nutrition-how-to-get-the-minimum-effective-dose/

[17]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2017/07/25/vegan-vs-keto-for-diabetes-which-is-optimal/

[18]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2015/08/02/standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants/

[19]https://optimisingnutrition.com/2016/11/19/the-alkaline-diet-vs-acidic-ketones/

[20]http://suppversity.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/science-round-up-seconds-macro-mineral.html

[21]https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/diet-induced-acidosis-is-it-real-and-clinically-relevant/D7F03DFEF497996E90BB6DA487C777B8/core-reader

[22]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21481501

[23]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4935236/

[24]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16736444

[25]https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/animal-protein/

chocolate orange smoothie

This recipe is from Carrie Brown’s Eat Smarter! Smoothies and Sides.  While not particularly low carb due to the orange, it packs a solid amount of nutrients.

ingredients

  • 1 cup / 8 fl oz. unsweetened coconut
  • milk ⅔ cup / 2 oz. / 55g powdered egg white
  • 1 oz. / 30 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oranges, take zest from one orange before peeling
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. orange essence
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce
  • Xylitol as needed to sweeten
  • ½ tsp. guar gum

directions

  1. Place ingredients in the blender in the order listed, except guar gum.
  2. Blend on high until completely smooth.
  3. Tap the guar gum through the hole in the blender lid while the blender is still running and blend for 5 seconds.

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The micronutrient breakdown is shown below indicating that it does quite well in terms of vitamins, minerals and protein.

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The table below shows the nutritional data per 500 calorie serving.

net carbs insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
27g 56g 48% 16% 53g 26g

superfood salad with liver, seaweed and saurkraut

This superfood salad is from Kate Johnson of Eat, Recycle, Repeat and was published as guest blog on Sarah Ballantyne’s Paleo Mom (see recipe here).

It’s the chicken liver and the seaweed along with the sauerkraut, mustard and coconut oil that make this salad so super with a spectacular score in both the vitamins and minerals score as well as the protein quality score.

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The details per 500 calorie serving are listed below.

net carbs

insulin load carb insulin fat protein

fibre

12g

36g 32% 52% 35% 5g

stir fry veggies with sardines

This is a simple  breakfast we’ve been doing at our place lately.

For an speedy pre-work breakfast we buy the veggies pre-chopped from Coles (in a bag) and throw them in the fry pan with some butter.

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For some extra protein and nutrients open a can of sardines when the veggies are done.

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As you can see below, the vitamin and mineral score very well and the protein score is great too!

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The veggies contain some carbs, but not a lot of net carbs once you account for the fibre.  This meal has a nice gentle response on Moni’s (my wife who has Type 1 diabetes) blood glucose levels too.

If you were looking for a more ketogenic approach you could add some more butter in the cooking.  If you were looking to lose weight you could add a bit less.

This recipe comes in at:

The table below shows the nutritional data per 500 calorie serving.

net carbs insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
8g 29g 26% 54% 39g 11g

Some other variations on the theme include, veggies with canned salmon and cottage cheese.

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Or just straight with the almonds, no fish.

 

Moni enjoys this if she’s sick of diary and eggs.

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The table below shows the nutritional data per 500 calorie serving.

net carbs insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
12g 22g 55% 65% 18g 14g

basil pesto

Pesto can be a yummy way to get your get your micronutrients as well as high levels of fat at the same time.

This rustic version comes from Jessica Haggard’s Primal Edge Ketogenic Cookbook.

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Simple to make, it contains basil, pine nuts and olive oil with garlic for extra taste and minerals.

The basil and nuts end up being a carrier for the olive oil.

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The table below shows the nutritional data per 500 calorie serving.

net carbs Insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
3g 6g 53% 92% 5g 2g

 

curried egg with cows brain

Considering how very nutrient dense offal is, it’s been surprisingly hard to find organ meat recipes that do really well in the nutrition ranking because so many of the recipes are ‘diluted’ with lots of sweet stuff to mask the taste.

That is, until Tristan Haggard sent me their long awaited ‘ketogenic edge cookbook‘.

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Tristan and Jessica Haggard from Primal Edge Health moved from California to Ecuador to seek a healthier place to live and raise their family.

Clean water.  More sunshine.  Closer to the equator.

These guys are the real deal.

The recipes in their new cookbook document’s how Jessica lovingly makes sure they ensure they ensure they thrive with their food.  It’s not all offal, but it’s clean, nutrient dense and simple, even when it comes to the deserts.

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This recipe for curried eggs with cows brains does spectacularly  well with the vitamins and minerals as well as the amino acids while still being 68% fat.

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The table below shows the nutritional data per 500 calorie serving.

net carbs Insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
4g 16g 27% 68% 21g 14g

Combining the brains  with the egg, spinach and avocado makes for a pretty unbeatable combination when it comes to nutrient density.  In fact it ranks at:

The only thing really missing from the book is a family photo to show how health these nutrient dense whole foods are making them.  So here you go.

I  also recommend you check out their YouTube Channel, blog and podcast for some pragmatic nutrition and lifestyle advice.

 

Dom D’Agostino’s breakfast – sardines, oysters, eggs and broccoli

At first, it sounds like a bizarre combination, but when the smartest guy in keto says that he has sardines, oysters, eggs and broccoli as his regular breakfast I wasn’t surprised to find this diet scored highly in the nutritional analysis.

Image result for king oscar sardines

Before he started saving the world by developing Warburg’s mitochondrial theory of cancer and oxygen toxicity seizures for DARPA Dominic D’Agostino studied nutrition and is rumoured to be able to do a 500-pound deadlift for 10 reps after a week of fasting.

Both physical and mental performance are undoubtedly critical to Dom, so it’s not surprising that he is very intentional about his diet and what he puts in his mouth to start each day.

As you can see in the plot from Nutrition Data below Dom’s breakfast scores a very high 93 in the vitamins and minerals score and a very solid 139 in the protein score.

You could say this meal was high protein (44%), low carb (10%) and moderate fat (46%), although his fatty coffee and high-fat desserts would boost the fat content to make it more “ketogenic”.

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Dom’s breakfast scores well against the 250 meals analysed to date in the meal rankings for different goals coming in at:

  • therapeutic ketosis – 176
  • diabetes and nutritional ketosis – 87
  • nutrient density – 9
  • weight loss – 16

I’ve heard Dom say that he aims for a ‘modified Atkins’ approach with higher protein levels rather than a classical therapeutic ketogenic diet which is harder to stick to and might be used for people with epilepsy, cancer, dementia, etc.  It was intriguing to see that Dom’s standard breakfast ranks the highest in nutrient density rather than therapeutic or nutritional ketosis.

Image result for tim ferriss dom d'agostino

Dom first mentioned his favourite breakfast concoction in his first interview with Tim Ferriss (check out the excellent three-hour podcast here).   You can hear the shock and slight repulsion in Tim’s voice in the sound check as he responds with

“Do you blend that up in the Vitamix?”

But now Tim, rather than following his own slow carb approach, has made sardines and oysters a regular breakfast staple and mentions it as one of the top 25 great things he learned from podcasts guests in 2015.

The stats for a 500 calorie serve of Dom’s breakfast are shown in the table below.

net carbs

insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
6g 38g 18% 46% 44%

6g

oyster20at20ettas

I was aware that broccoli, eggs and sardines are nutritionally amazing, but then the oysters fill out the vitamin and mineral score to take it a little bit higher.  Dom obviously understands the importance of Omega 3s which are hard to get in significant quantities from anything other than seafood.

I was surprised to see that oysters can be ‘carby’ (at 23% carbs) which is apparently due to their glucose pouch which varies in size depending on when they’re harvested.

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If you wanted to skip the oysters due to taste or cost considerations, the combination of sardines, egg and broccoli still does pretty well.  This option gives fewer carbs, a slight decrease in the vitamin and mineral score with a small increase in the amino acid score.

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The ranking for the sans-oyster option is:

  • therapeutic ketosis –  159
  • diabetes and nutritional ketosis –  67
  • nutrient density –  11
  • weight loss – 20

The stats for a 500 calorie serving are:

net carbs

insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
3g 30g 10% 48% 44%

6g

The combination of nutrient-dense seafood with nutrient dense vegetables is hard to beat.  The chart below shows my comparison of the nutrients in the various food groups in terms the proportion of the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) from 2000 calories (click to enlarge).

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I couldn’t get any photos of Dom’s breakfast, but I did get a picture of my current go to lunch.   Each weekend I get a bunch of quality celery and chop it up into tubs to take to work each day.  I have cans of mackerel and sardines in my drawer at work.

Celery does really well in terms of nutrient density per calorie and sardines and mackerel are high on the nutrient density lists without being outrageously expensive (e.g. caviar, anchovy, swordfish, trout).

mackerel and celery

When I feel hungry, I might start munching on the celery which is pretty filling and hard to binge on.  Then if I’m still hungry, I’ll have as many cans of mackerel or sardines as it takes to fill me up (which is usually 2 to 4).

At around 2 pm this is my first meal of the day (other than espresso shots with cream) at around 2 pm.  If I start to feel hungry before then I might check my blood glucose to see if I really need to refuel or if I think I’m hungry because I’m bored.   I’ll then go home and have an early dinner with the family around 6 pm.

I’ve been known to indulge in some peanut butter with, cream, Greek yoghurt or even butter if I’m still hungry (e.g. if I’ve ridden to work) but I try to not overdo it as I’m not as shredded as Dom yet.

The simple combination of celery and mackerel also does pretty well in the ranking of 250 meals and aligns well with my current goal of maximising nutrient density and ongoing weight loss now that I’ve been able to stabilise my blood glucose levels.

  • therapeutic ketosis – 137
  • diabetes and nutritional ketosis – 36
  • nutrient density – 16
  • weight loss – 8

net carbs

insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
8g 33g 25% 51% 35%

6g

salad and salmon lunch

This is one of my favourite work lunches.

We often go to the markets on the weekend and then prepare a bunch of ready made lunches for the rest of the week.

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(note: by “we” I mean my amazing wife Monica who knows how to make healthy food look and taste incredible…  I just tag along, take some photos and enjoy eating it).

This one has chorizo, spinach, cherry tomatoes, beans and a fig.

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We will also make up some little containers of balsamic vinegar or olive oil with perhaps some feta cheese that you can add to it.

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At work I throw a can of salmon, tuna or sardines on it with some balsamic vinegar and viola a spectacularly yummy lunch!

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This meal does well on the nutritional completeness, both in terms of vitamins and amino acids.

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net carbs

insulin load carb insulin fat protein

fibre

6g 27g 22% 58% 34%

3g

More recently I’ve started having sardines instead of the salmon because it’s cheaper and even more nutrient dense.   Together with the salad it gives an even higher protein score.  Tuna is another option but it doesn’t do as well as the sardines or salmon on the vitamins and minerals.

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Sometimes when we don’t get around to doing the salads or taking a lunch I’ll just grab a quick can of the sardines which I’ve grown to like by themselves these days.  They’re filling, cheap and pack quite a nutritional punch all by themselves.

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Jimmy Moore’s slow cooked pork with veggies

Jimmy posted this meal on his Facebook feed a while ago.

Slow cooked pastured pork Boston butt cooked in @BareBonesBroth, local organic kale, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, home garden zucchini, local organic squash, home garden herbs (cilantro, dill, basil), local Garden blend sauerkraut, avocado, grass-fed butter, sea salt, and pepper. #lowcarb#highfat #ketogenic #realfood #howireallyeat

The meal does really well in both the nutrient balance score and the protein quality score while still being fairly high in fat.

The total carbs are up a bit but you’re only looking at about 15g net carbs per 500 calories which is pretty good for most people unless you are really insulin resistant.

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It would be interesting to see how Jimmy does with his ketones and blood sugars after eating something like this.  Over the short term he might see a rise in his blood sugars, however, over the long term the reduced calorie density, higher nutrient density and higher fibre might work really well for him.

As always, if you’re struggling with blood glucose control you should ‘eat to your meter’ and make sure the foods you eat don’t drive up your blood glucose levels too much.

net carbs insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
15g 39g 39% 64% 18%

14g

humans are not broken breakfast

One of the things that inspired me to try this line of nutritional analysis was a post by Angelo Coppola on his blog Humans are Not Broken where he showed that his breakfast tortilla is better nutritionally than Bulletrpoof Coffee.

As an occasional drinker of Bulletproof Coffee, Angelo’s approach to nutritional analysis and comparing two very different meals got me thinking.

Surely it can’t be that simple. I know that something that high in carbs wouldn’t be great for a diabetic like my wife, but at the same time it was clear than his whole food tortilla was going to have a much wider array of nutrients.

I figured the food insulin index might be a useful tool to also consider how particular foods might work for someone who doesn’t ideal blood sugar control.

So anyway, I ran the numbers, and this tortilla wrap has one of the highest nutritional completeness score (based on vitamins and minerals) of any of the meals I’ve analysed.

The downside is that it also has a very high 65% insulinogenic calories and 61g net carbs which is not so good for someone with diabetes.  A type 1 diabetic would need to dose about 4 units of insulin for this meal and would then be on the blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day.

What I like about this approach to ranking foods is that it doesn’t have to fall into a particular camp such as LCHF, Atkins, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan etc. It just optimises for nutritious food, and for people who don’t have perfect blood sugar control (which is most of us) manages insulin.

We can say that this meal would be great for someone with great blood glucose control and looking for a nutrient dense option.  With all the fibre and low calorie density this meal would be great for someone looking for fat loss.

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net carbs

insulin load carb insulin fat protein fibre
61g 72g 85% 12% 17%

19g