I recently ran the numbers on Dr Rhonda Patrick’s Ultimate Micronutrient Smoothie that she says she and her husband have this for breakfast every day.
I’ve been enjoying Rhonda’s podcasts as well as her mentor Bruce Ames’ great work on nutrient density. I was pretty hopeful that Rhonda’s daily breakfast would knock it out of the park.
So far I’ve run 235 meals though a system that ranks meals in terms of nutrient density, protein score, energy density, fibre and insulin load. A score of 100 in the Nutrition Data analysis means that you would achieve all your daily requirements with 1000 calories (notwithstanding the limitations of bio-availability, anti-nutrients, fat soluble vitamins etc etc etc).
So here is how Dr Rhonda’s morning smoothie scores in the nutritional analysis.
In terms of vitamins and minerals it did pretty well ranking at number 40 of 235 meals analysed to date. Liberal doses of kale and spinach always tend to boost the vitamin and mineral score. These green leafies contain heaps of vitamins A, C, K, B and folate as well as solid amounts of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.
If you’re interested, the meal that ranks the highest in terms of vitamins and minerals score is Terry Wahls’ lamb skillet meal. While you might think that a vegetarian meal might win in the vitamins and minerals category, Dr Wahls’ combination of broccoli, garlic, and spinach along with lamb and coconut oil actually does even better with a score of 94 compared to the green smoothie which has a score of 75.
The good thing about blending everything into a smoothie though is that you will be able to get more green leafy veggies down the hatch. The downside is that you might lose a little bit of the effect of the fibre. The same thing can be said for cooking.
In terms of amino acids though, the micro-nutrient smoothie was a bit disappointing coming in at 196 of 235. Some people will argue that low protein isn’t a big deal and that 9% protein is adequate. Others think protein is really important.
The answer for you probably depends on whether you want to be really big and strong or whether you have some muscle that you don’t mind donating in the name of nutrition and weight loss.
The 57g of fibre was pretty good from all those leafy greens, ranking at 75 of 235 in terms of fibre. Energy density was also pretty good ranking at 100 of 235 meaning that the smoothie will be quite filling and not easy to binge on.
The insulin load was where things got a bit disappointing. At 50% carbs the smoothie mixture came in just above the porridge with blueberries. This may not be a problem if you’re insulin sensitive but I think people who are struggling with diabetes might suffer a bit with the apple and banana which don’t add a lot in terms of nutrient density (other than sweetness and palatability). Maybe drinking fruit is not such a great idea?
Minus the apple and banana
Just for interest I dropped out the apple and banana and the ranking improved in terms of vitamins and minerals, though it didn’t change the protein score. The insulin load ranking improved marginally from 228 of 235 to 206 of 235.
Overall, this may not be a bad option for breakfast if you’re not diabetic and get some additional protein later in the day, especially if you’re looking to maintain / build lean muscle.
And now for something completely different… zero carb Gregg
After releasing the ketogenic fibre article a while back in October 2015 I got into a discussion about zero carb and ended up running the numbers on Gregg’s typical daily diet which largely consists of meat, butter and cream.
Not surprisingly the protein score of Gregg’s daily diet is high though the vitamin and mineral scores are not so great (214 of 235).
The insulin load of Gregg’s typical daily diet is pretty good coming in at #50.
[Just for interest Bulletproof Coffee comes in at #1 on the insulin ranking but comes in last on the vitamins and minerals and second last on the protein.]
Many people find that they do really well with a zero carb approach, particularly if they have had major digestive issues. People who are fans of zero carb often speak highly of Fibre Menace by Kanstantin Monastrysky. It seems that people with major digestive issues can get much needed relief from their inability to digest FODMAPS using a zero carb approach.
Overall I’m a fan of fibre and wonder if people might benefit from the slow reintroduction of some fibre for the sake of their digestion and well rounded nutrition once their gut has settled.
It’s also it’s interesting that the the protein level is only 22% in the zero carbohydrate (with 76% calories from fat) because of the solid amount of fat from the beef and the added fat from the butter and cream. You can see how this might work really well for people who are insulin resistant.
Can you get enough vitamins and minerals from a zero carb diet?
Lots of people who use a zero carb approach say that they can get all the vitamins and minerals they could even need from animal products, so I threw in some sardines and liver to see how high we could get the vitamins and minerals score without any green stuff.
As you can see below, the protein score improves with the fish and liver (I’m not vouching for the palatability though). This meal now ranks at #1 for protein score with a massive score of 159 on the amino acid score! The vitamins and minerals take a significant jump to #142 of 235.
So it seems that there are some benefits of a zero carb dietary approach, but perhaps still some limitations when it comes to the vitamin and mineral side of the equation.
But then I thought, “what if Rhonda made Gregg breakfast and Gregg made dinner for Rhonda?”
As you can see from the analysis below combining the green smoothie (no fruit) with the zero carb approach (with sardines and liver) went really well in both the vitamins and minerals ranking (#20) and amino acid score (#41). Not a bad balance overall!
On the weight loss ranking this meal combination would come in at #26 of 235, on the athlete ranking it comes in at #10, on the diabetes and nutritional ketosis ranking it comes in at #23, and for therapeutic ketosis ranking it comes in at #67.
Overall, not a bad balance of the extremes?
What to make of all this?
Lots of people get hung up on a particular magic nutrient and spend a lot of money to supplement just that one missing ingredient. However perhaps it would be optimal (and cheaper?) to get a high quantity of a broad range of nutrients from natural sources.
Real foods that were recently alive are going to be a better bet than relying on supplements as there are probably a bunch of other things that are good for us that we haven’t isolated and quantified yet.
Should you eat more plant foods, more protein, or more fat?
The answer will depend on your situation, your goals and your preferences.
As always, optimal lies somewhere between the extremes.