I recently ran the numbers on Dr Rhonda Patrick’s Ultimate Micronutrient Smoothie that Rhonda and her husband have for breakfast every day.
I enjoy Rhonda’s podcasts as well as her mentor Bruce Ames’ pioneering work in the area of 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 through a system that ranks meals in terms of nutrient density, protein score, energy density 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).
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 (shown below). 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 is that you will be able to get more green leafy veggies down the hatch. The downside is that you might lose some of the beneficial effects of the fibre. The same thing can be said for cooking.
In terms of amino acids though, the 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 you would need more protein.
The answer for you will depend on your activity levels and whether you want to be big and strong or whether you have some muscle mass 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, which means that the smoothie will be quite filling and not easy to binge on.
The insulin load was a bit disappointing. At 50% carbs, the smoothie mixture came in just above the porridge with blueberries in terms of insulin load. This may not be a problem if you’re insulin sensitive, but people struggling with diabetes might suffer from the apple and banana which don’t add much in terms of nutrient density (other than sweetness which would add to the palatability of the smoothie).
minus the apple and banana
So 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 to 206.
Overall, this may not be a bad option for breakfast if you’re not diabetic and get some additional protein later in the day. Living on Rhonda’s smoothe may also not be optimal if you’re looking to maintain/build lean muscle.
and now for something completely different… zero carb Gregg
After releasing the ketogenic fibre article in October 2015 I got into an interesting discussion with Gregg about zero carb and ended up running the numbers on his typical daily diet which largely consists of meat, butter and cream.
As shown below, the protein score of Gregg’s daily diet is solid, 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.
[note: Just for interest Bulletproof Coffee comes in at #1 on the insulin load ranking but last in terms of 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 major digestive issues. People who are fans of zero carb often speak highly of Fibre Menace by Konstantin Monastrysky. It seems that people with major digestive issues can get 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 gut microbiome and promoting well-rounded nutrition once their gut has settled.
It’s also interesting to note that protein makes up only 22% of Gregg’s zero carb diet because of the solid amount of fat from the beef and the added fat from the butter and cream. This sort of approach might work 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 with the addition of the sardines and liver.
So it seems that there are some benefits of a zero carb dietary approach, but perhaps 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 (without the 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 one missing ingredient. However, perhaps it would be optimal (and cheaper?) to get a high quantity of a broad range of nutrients from whole food sources.
Real foods that were recently alive are going to be a better bet than relying on supplements.
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.
enter… Nutrient Optimiser
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39 thoughts on “Nutritional Analysis of Dr Rhonda Patrick’s Ultimate Micronutrient Smoothie”
I have been following your blog for
a while now and I can’t recall any
discussion about the availability of
nutrients from different foods. For
instance the iron from spinach may
be less bioavailable to humans than
the iron from red meat. Have you
It’s hard to quantify this when the USDA data doesn’t differentiate for bioavailability. From what I understand they have considered bioavailability in setting the DRIs. I would be interested in your thoughts or research on how you could factor this in quantitatively.
Adding to this, these analyses don’t count for any of the “anti-nutrients”, of which stuff like spinach and almonds etc are high in.
Fractional magnesium absorption is significantly lower in human subjects from a meal served with an oxalate-rich vegetable, spinach… – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15035687
So saying spinach etc is a “rich source of magnesium and blah” is really misleading, when in reality the lesser density of nutrients of whatever nutrients you’ll get from animal sources is likely far more bioavailable.
Much more here when Sisson tried hard to convince us we needed this green stuff (and failed miserably):
Ash, do you have any more references on how one would quantify nutrient biovailability and anti-nutrients?
>references on how one would quantify nutrient biovailability and anti-nutrients
Don’t think such a thing exists, or ever will.
I just know that almost without fail whenever I’ve investigated random claims of such and such being “good source of X” or having magical properties of being “good for X condition” it’s either been MASSIVELY confounded (ie, epidemiology where they changed 40 things but ascribed effects to one), taken out of context (not considering downsides), or a boatload of BS (ie baitclick business as usual).
For balance sake against the constant tirade of EAT YOUR VEGGIES BECAUSE HEALTHY I’ve kept a log of random stuff that indicates hmm maybe not so much:
–> http://highsteaks.com/f/index.php?topic=108.0 (site still broken for last few months but the info’s there)
There’s a few dozen specific examples in there I think. I’ve encountered countless more.
For now I’ll part with a response I wrote recently to a quiz we compete in for shits n giggles where I work. It’s usually all fun and games, but when we get questions about biology and nutrition they just roll their eyes when they see me furrow my brow and start twitching. :p
I call shenanigans on the “Bananas are a good source of vitamin C” question, you’d have to eat 500-1,000g of the damn things to get the RDA (depending who you believe), which also means you’ll be loading up with over 100-250g of sugar.
The problem with this is that glucose has a similar molecular configuration and competes for the same (insulin reliant) GLUT transport chains as Vit C (not even a vitamin BTW), so even though you’re getting “enough”, much of it is wasted as the uptake is severely inhibited.
>Ascorbic Acid and the Immune System
>The inhibitory effect by glucose of the actions of ascorbic acid could well explain the lack of beneficial effect of ascorbic administration in many studies reported in the literature because few, if any, such studies controlled for dietary carbohydrates.
>In light of the current dietary sugar excesses and concomitant obesity epidemic, clinicians should be reminded of the great importance of the long recognized but largely unappreciated inhibitory action of glucose against ascorbic acid.
>In summary, ascorbic acid is essential for effective immune system function and, further, it can be a potent immune system stimulator when high glycemic dietary carbohydrates are restricted.”
So calling it a “good source of” doesn’t seem so true, it’s about as “good” as putting a dash of lime juice into five cans of Coke and calling it a multivitamin.
Agreeing the most part.
What if there was a way to identify food that were high in a broad range of nutrients and then modulate insulin to suit the person’s metabolic health?
If everything were about nutrient density per “calorie” we could all just have a small bite of lamb liver with an oyster and egg yolks and call it a day.
Agreed. Appetite is complex. Have you seen the series at Gnolls? Worth the read. http://www.gnolls.org/2304/why-are-we-hungry-part-1-what-is-hunger-liking-vs-wanting-satiation-vs-satiety/
Yahuh – his “Eat like a predator, not like prey” was the first manifesto amongst all the “paleo” garbage that I actually really connected with, and is still probably my favourite. My own eating/life strategy is a personalised evolution of that:
He’s also used my own research resources for his posts too, so we have some cross-contamination: :p
You’re so dumb it hurts. Yes lets reference highSTEAKs.com for nutritional discussion. Their tag line is “Do You Really Need to Eat Vegetables to Be Healthy”. Idiots.
I don’t know. Apparently there are
many nutrients that are more or less
bioavailable depending on their form.
The Omega 3 in nuts may not be as
available as the Omega 3 in fish for
example. Many vitamins have different
forms in different foods. Though I don’t
have that information, it would certainly
bear on our choices. See what you can
come up with because so many times
kale is put up as super
nutritious and I can’t stand to eat it.
I’m certain, because of this, that its
nutrients just aren’t up to snuff. (jk
but I would like to know)
Ironically lots of the vitamins in kale are fat soluble. it’s important to eat a variety of whole foods.
That would argue for caveats in your
listings. If you don’t eat X, you won’t
get the benefits of Y. So you can’t just
say that kale, for instance, is such a
healthy food, unless you ingest some
fat near or around when you eat it.
(notwithstanding the fact that kale is
such a vulgar food). That also argues
that some foods, which might have a
“low” nutrient score are actually more
important than their score would appear
to make them. There may also be other
considerations that make it difficult to
take these food lists at face value. Not
to impugn your valuable work, but there
appears to be much more work to do.
Bioavailability would be a great start.
That would be very cool to have a system that factored the nutrient score for bio availability based on the other things you were eating it with, but I just don’t know that the science is out there. Rather than proving whether animal products are better than plant products I think the key take away is that eating highly processed foods (e.g. sodas, processed grains, vegan food replacements or isolated fats) is not a great idea. The measurements in the USDA food database are so variable to start with before you start factoring in food combining.
Yet another consideration, should you
want one, is complete protein vs.
incomplete protein. Most plant protein
is incomplete and to get the benefit of
one type, one must get the complementary
protein from another source. This
should be a caveat also on protein
sources. I don’t recall if you have
addressed this or not. Again, as much
great work as you have done, there is
a lot more to accomplish.
‘Complete protein’ just means that there are a range of amino acids available. Usually animal foods tend to come packed with a range of aminos. In the Building a Better Nutrient Density Index article you’ll see that I dropped out a number of the aminos from the ranking because they are quite easy to get from nutrient dense foods. https://optimisingnutrition.com/2016/05/16/building-a-better-nutrient-density-index/
Thanks Ben! Fixed.
“… I just don’t know that the science is out there.”
But you just said if you eat kale without eating fat,
you render lots of its vitamins unusable.
That’s what I’m talking about.
“… take away is that eating highly processed foods (e.g. sodas, processed grains,…”
You would have us eat unprocessed grains?
It’s virtually impossible. Besides the point
that grains and vegetables are loaded with
I’m with Ash on this.
I’m just saying it’s hard to quantify things like anti-nutrients, food combining and bioavailability.
Do you think if the best green stuff has three times the nutrients per calorie as the best red stuff then you factor for bioavailability and anti nutrients they could come out about the same?
I don’t know. I’m just askin’ the question.
yes, unprocessed as in rice, quinoa, kasha, steelcut oats or wheat (bulgur), even barley groats in soup.
then there’s slightly processed wholegrains which we call flour or cornmeal etc.
you also soak, sprout or ferment your grains and theyre quite a bit lower in anti nutrients. beans can be soaked or sprouted also. nuts and seeds too.
There is a tradional Dutch recipe for Kale called “Boerenkool stamppot” and it is served with a smoked sausage. A great way to get your kale and fat in one go. Our ancesters were pretty savvy.
I’ve started using her recipe as a way to easily get more greens/fiber in. I think it’s pretty easy to improve upon to get more nutrients. For example, I add two pastured egg yolks, 2T of collagen hydrolysate, and 1/4 cup coconut milk. I also usually leave out the banana. I don’t over blend so that some chewing is actually required.
Nice to see an article pointing out that fat by itself has nearly no vitamins or minerals.
I have a recipe for a zero-carb protein shake (source not located–I tried for 3 days on different search engines):
3-4 oz. leftover meat, heated
8 oz. homemade broth
1 whole egg
1 T. unflavored gelatin or collagen powder
2 or more drops Tabasco sauce
salt & pepper to taste
Optional: 1 T. coconut cream
Heat the broth, and add heated meat. Put both into a blender, pulse a couple times, then add egg and gelatin/collagen powder. Season to taste with salt/pepper/Tabasco/coconut cream, and blend until creamy–could take as long as 5 mins.
Running this through your magic nutrient machine, how would THIS stack up against Rhonda’s smoothie and Gregg’s diet?
As the Gregg in question, I have to say that I have now been on this experiment for over 15 months. Additionally I have mussels and lamb liver in my diet and some mushrooms now and then. The meat sample given in this article is different to what I have (since my meat isn’t trimmed to 0″ fat.) Also the coffee doesn’t seem to have been calculated into the charts. While I have no need of fibre, there is some in coffee – as well as magnesium and potassium. Mussels also have some manganese.
Having said all that, we have to treat many of the recommended levels of these nutrients with suspicion from a site that tells me my cholesterol intake is through the roof. We all now know that cholesterol in the diet has a minimal impact on serum cholesterol and that the science is all wrong about cholesterol being a risk factor anyway.
I supplement 5000IU of vitamin D3 daily and I also take about 2-4 gm of NaCl in a glass of water. (I find this eases the cramps). I’ve tried supplementing both magnesium and potassium instead of sodium for the cramps in different experiments, but the only one that seems to matter for me is sodium.
a site that tells me my cholesterol intake is through the roof.
My doctor says the same thing, and she THINKS I’m taking the Crestor she prescribed–I never filled it. I brought my own levels down by mixing 6 different kinds of fat into cooking fat bombs: equal amounts of lard, butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. With this combo, i tried to cover all chain lengths, and as much of the FA spectrum as possible without including heat-unstable PUFAs.
I also use the cooking fat bomb recipe (a total of 2 c. fat mixture to 2/3 c. ACV) as a salad dressing. I guess you could say I make my statins at home.
and yet lowering saturated fat intake may lower total
LDL levels in APOE4 carriers
Hi Marty, Great articles.
With regards to the nutrients we are trying to achieve best outcome for our wellness and health challenges (which ever these may be) etc, isn’t this also dependent on where we buy the food, how the product has been grown, conditions of this? Obviously products coming from our own gardens is better, however even this can have negative effects, if 1. The house and garden is on the main road (loads of traffic) and 2. If the owner of the garden is using sprays (defeats the purpose). I would love to ‘somehow’ test this from produce grown from the garden even here.
Thanks Stephen. Food quality definitely matters!
Good article and analysis… my only concern is it ultimately places far too much faith in the veracity of the “Nutrition Data analysis” tool.
Just found this site and page:
Interesting all-over read and comment input.
I am interested in achieving Nutrient-Complete Nutritional Ketosis, by fully understanding achieving my bodies nutritional needs.
As I don’t want to compromise nutrition for a-state-of-ketosis by minimising my carbs at a cost of nutrients.
I use MyFitnessPal to log my intake and monitor my macros and nutrients and calories; weight and exercise is logged via other apps also. This is good but incomplete regards full nutritional RDAs go, as it is not setup for that level and the database is mainly user populated, so it is lacking.
I am sticking to using food, not supplements.
So any tool I/we can use to monitor the nutrition requirements box and low-carb-ketosis box would be great 🙂
You might be interested in my new side project. https://nutrientoptimiser.com/
Is it really fair to rate Rhonda’s smoothie as 50% carbs? 57g of it is fiber, which is really just bulking and prebiotic…. healthy stuff. Does the tool factor that in when calculating the glycemic load?
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