Moneyball Nutrition: Leverage Big Data to Crush Your Hunger with the Nutrients You Need to Thrive

In a world overflowing with fad diets and conflicting nutritional advice, it’s no wonder we find it challenging to know what to eat to be healthy.  

From low-carb vs low-fat to carnivore vs plant-based, just working out what ‘healthy food’ means can easily become overwhelming!  

Unfortunately, when we become confused, we often give up and reach for the easiest, cheapest and tastiest foods.

But what if there was a way to cut through the noise and make informed decisions about our nutrition?  

What if we could cut through the dogma with data to identify the foods and meals that nourish and satisfy us? 

You may remember the movie Moneyball, which recounts the story of the Oakland A’s.  The A’s were the first baseball team to use hard data in 2002 to choose the best players they could afford with their limited budget.  This unique data-driven approach was a superpower, empowering them to win 20 straight games despite a lack of ‘star players’.

Two decades later, data has revolutionised sports teams, investing, navigation (Google Maps), search (Google), social media (TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), targeted advertising, and most aspects of your life! 

Everyone today is talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT and Bard, and it’s no wonder!  Data is becoming the world’s most valuable resource — the new oil. 

Sadly, ‘nutrition science’ is still in the dark ages, heavily entrenched in belief, tradition, religion, and tribalism. 

What we eat is big business, so there’s no shortage of people trying to ‘educate’ us on how to eat.  

In this article, we’ll explore a data-driven approach that can be used to ensure you get the essential nutrients you need so you can revolutionise your food choices and cut through dogma, beliefs, and conflicts of interest. 

Get ready to discover a new way of thinking about food that empowers you to make informed choices towards a healthier, more vibrant life!

Our High-Satiety Food List

If you’re eager to get started with a simple list of foods that will keep you satisfied with less energy while avoiding the ultra-processed foods we often feel ‘addicted to’ you can download printable .pdfs here

To learn more about our data-driven approach and how you can optimise your nutrition and satiety, read on.

‘Good’ vs ‘Bad’ vs ‘Optimal’ in Nutrition

Most nutrition advice focuses on the ‘bad’ things in food that we are told to avoid.  You know, like:

  • carbs,
  • fat,
  • protein,
  • saturated fat,
  • omega-6s,
  • omega-3s,
  • cholesterol,
  • salt,
  • sugar,
  • animal-based foods, or
  • plant-based foods. 

It seems, according to someone online, pretty much everything we eat is trying to kill us.

Most humans like to think of things simply, as with ‘good’ vs ‘bad’. 

If something is good for us, more must be better.  Conversely, if something is bad, we should minimise it. 

But things are rarely that simple in biology.  Our bodies require enough of all the essential nutrients to feel satisfied and crush our cravings.   

As you will see in this article, a data-driven approach can help us understand how each nutrient helps us feel satisfied. 

Once we combine the handful of statistically significant factors, we can identify the foods and meals that satiate our bodies most efficiently without pushing us to overeat. 

Rather than avoiding the bad, we get more sensible and nutritious results when we prioritise getting enough of the essential nutrients.  Suddenly, all the ‘bad’ things become irrelevant, and viola!  You’ve escaped from diet dogma. 

RStudio Charts

After crunching numbers in Excel for decades, I finally started using RStudio

RStudio is the analysis software hardcore stats nerds, data scientists, and researchers use.  It has a cool spline function that helps us understand complex, non-linear relationships. 

For example, the spline chart below shows the relationship between all-cause mortality (dying of any cause, a hazard ratio), HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin), blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol.

Data Source: Risk Factors, Mortality, and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes

The width of the shading around the line indicates our confidence in the data.  We can be more confident where we have more data; thus, the confidence line is thinner.  However, we become less confident when we have less data making the shading wider at the extremes. 

Thus, the graphs in this article were made using RStudio.  Remember:

  • thick line: minimal data, low confidence.
  • thin line: more data, high confidence.

Optimal Carbohydrate Intake 

Popular fads seem to swing back and forth between low-fat vs low-carb diets.  But as we discussed in Optimising Satiety for Low Carb OR Low Fat, a low-carb or low-fat diet can be equally effective for weight loss. 

Our first chart shows the relationship between non-fibre carbohydrates and total energy intake (using 313,836 days of data from free-living people).   

I’ve also plotted the 99th percentile confidence interval.  The fact that the shading is so narrow for most of the plot indicates that this relationship is not due to chance! 

In the middle of the chart, we see that we eat the most when our food contains about 40% non-fibre carbs, and most of the remaining energy comes from fat.  This magical blend is the signature of ultra-processed foods

This fat-and-carb combo drives a supra-additive dopamine response that makes us want to eat and buy more of these foods.  We get an even greater dopamine hit from foods that contain a blend of energy sources from carbohydrates (i.e. sugar, starch, fructose, lactose) and fat (i.e. saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat) that never occurs in nature.  

If you’re a starving hunter-gatherer, this super-palatable conglomerate would be perfect!  These foods simultaneously fill your fat and glucose fuel tanks so you can eat more of them, store fat, and survive the next famine.  But if you’re living in the modern world with abundant energy, you want to avoid this carb-and-fat danger zone, particularly if you have excess body fat to lose. 

To the left of the chart, we see that lowering non-fibre carbs to about 15% aligns with eating 30% fewer calories.  However, to the far left of the chart, reducing carbs to less than 10% tends to result in eating more.  Thus, more is not always better.

While we can produce glucose from protein via gluconeogenesis, it’s less efficient.  So, our bodies prefer some dietary carbohydrates.  Thus, zero-carb diets that eliminate fibre and non-starchy vegetables often cause us to overeat energy-dense fat.   Fat contains fewer nutrients and is subsequently much less satiating. 

Intriguingly, we also see that a very high-carb diet aligns with eating less to the far right.  It might be even less than the lower-carb diet.  However, not many people consume a very low-fat diet with more than 70% carbohydrates, so our confidence in this data is lower.  

Carb vs Fat Energy Split

Minimally-processed natural foods tend to contain energy from either carbs or fat.  Foods like milk or nuts that contain a blend of energy from fat and carbs are rare in nature and ideal for storing fat for winter and growing rapidly. 

We tend to have more energy from carbs available in summer and more protein and fat in winter.  So, rather than fat or carbs, it’s more helpful to consider your balance between energy from fat vs non-fibre carbs (i.e. non-protein and non-fibre energy).   

The chart below shows that energy intake peaks with a similar blend of energy from non-fibre carbs and fat.   So, to improve the accuracy of our satiety algorithm, we’ve trained it on foods that provide more energy from fat vs carbs separately.   


Next, we come to protein. 

The percentage of protein in our diet significantly influences satiety.  But as our previous analysis details, protein has a sharp breakpoint at about 12% protein.  We eat and thus store the most energy when our diet has around 12% protein. 

The chart below shows a near-linear relationship between protein % and calories up to about 60% protein.  But because we don’t have a lot of people consuming more than 60% protein, the data gets noisier at protein intakes exceeding this threshold.  

When we look at the very-low-protein data, we see that people who consume less than 12% tend to consume even fewer calories.

Many low-fat, plant-based foods that are hard to overeat, like fruit and starchy vegetables, fit into this category.  So to improve the accuracy, we’ve also trained our satiety algorithm on very low-protein foods (i.e. foods with <12% protein). 


This next chart shows that up to about 12%, eating more fibre aligns linearly with eating less.  Higher fibre is a signature of minimally processed, unrefined carbs.   


Manipulating energy density — or the proportion of the weight of our food to calories — is a popular hack to manipulate satiety.  However, we can see from the data that there’s not a linear relationship between energy density and overall calories consumed. 

To the left, we can see that energy-dense, high-fat foods like butter are easier to overeat.  However, very high-protein foods can be hard to overeat.  

To the right, we see that people consuming a lot of non-starchy vegetables and soups appear to consume less energy.  Not only are these foods food bulky and filling in the short term, but they also contain water, which may satisfy our thirst—a sensation many of us confuse for hunger. 


Beyond macronutrients, our analysis also shows we have a statistically significant satiety response to many of the micronutrients. 

According to professors Raubenheimer and Simpson of the University of Sydney, animals—including humans—possess specific appetites for protein, carbohydrates, fat, and at least two micronutrients: salt and calcium.  Their 2022 paper, An integrative approach to dietary balance across the life course, noted that specific appetites for other nutrients likely exist.   

Due to diet dogma around dairy and dwindling nutrient density in our crops, calcium is a nutrient we struggle to get enough of.  Hence, it was identified as a nutrient of public health concern in the most recent US Dietary Guidelines

Macrominerals like calcium are also bulkier, so they’re not used as frequently in fortification or supplements.   

Calcium is critical to maintaining our bones and teeth, regulating fluid balance, engaging cellular communication, and blood clotting.  In Calcium: Taste, Intake, and Appetite (2001), Tordoff showed changing taste perceptions for calcium to maintain homeostasis in the blood and body. 

As shown in the chart below, calcium is one of the key nutrients that has declined in our food system since we turbocharged our food system with synthetic fertilisers.  We need to eat much more food to get the same amount of calcium as in the 1940s.   

Calcium is one nutrient many Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass find challenging to dial in. 


We also have a robust satiety response to iron.  This holds especially true for those people consuming a lower-protein or lower-fat diet, presumably because they consume fewer animal-based foods and seafood.  

Iron is the #1 nutrient deficiency worldwide, particularly for people in developing countries who don’t have easy access to many animal-based foods or seafood.  Hence, it makes sense we could be satisfied with foods containing more iron per calorie. 

Iron is often used in supplements and fortification.  So, towards the right, we start to see a rebound satiety response from higher intakes only possible with supplementation or fortification. 

Vitamin C

The chart below shows that foods containing more vitamin C align with greater satiety.  The satiety effect is diluted, and the data becomes noisy at higher intakes only achievable through supplementation.   

Vitamin C was the first micronutrient discovered by James Lind to cure scurvy in the first documented randomised controlled trial (RCT) in the 1860s.  He was convinced the culprit behind a mass mystery ‘pandemic’ wasn’t a pathogen but rather a deficiency.  Sure enough, those consuming foods with vitamin C did not contract this disease, and those without it did.

While we don’t have a conscious taste or craving for vitamin C like we do for sodium, it doesn’t mean we don’t seek it out when we need more.  When sailors got hold of the fruit they had been craving, they swallowed it ‘with emotions of the most voluptuous luxury’.


Despite many health institutes warning against it, we have a strong conscious taste for sodium.  The satiety response is intriguing.  We seem to eat the most when consuming around three grams of sodium per 2000 calories. 

While foods with less sodium than this can taste bland, and we may eat less of them.  However, foods with more sodium can satisfy our cravings and need for salt with fewer calories.  They also taste too salty, so we eat less (Shulkin, 1991).

While sodium is usually demonised, we need it to perform many critical jobs within the body.  Nerve signal transduction, muscle contractions, fluid balance, and the function of our thyroid and adrenal glands—two glands vital for metabolism—rely on sodium.  Thus, fighting our innate cravings to minimise it might not do us very well in the long run concerning cravings, calorie intake, and all-around metabolism.

Sodium can also be a stopgap for other minerals, like potassium and calcium, so we’ll also crave more sodium when we’re not getting enough calcium and potassium (Tordoff, 1992).  Although these nutrients have their unique roles, many are synergists and antagonists.  Hence, overconsuming one nutrient instead of another won’t work; we need balanced levels of each to make the body work properly.


Most people find it easy to get enough sodium but struggle to get enough potassium to balance their sodium.  Along with calcium and iron, potassium is one of the key nutrients of public health concern in the US diet.  We could say that our salt and high-blood pressure problem likely isn’t because of too much sodium.  Instead, it’s likely a result of too much sodium in proportion to potassium.

Because potassium is rarely used in supplements and fortification, it just keeps on giving!  Potassium is also a signature for whole, intact foods and tends to be lower in processed foods that have had their plant cell membranes pummelled, destroyed, and heated one too many times. 

The potassium levels in our food system have also declined.  So, we must eat more to get the same amounts of potassium as in the 1940s.

Potassium:Sodium Ratio

Rather than worrying about limiting sodium, it may be better to focus on your potassium:sodium ratio.  The chart below shows that a higher potassium:sodium ratio aligns with greater satiety. 

Humans evolved in an environment abundant with plants, roots, and grains full of potassium.  Because potassium was so easy to find, it was theorised we didn’t have cravings for it like we do for sodium.

A 4:1 potassium:sodium ratio from food—not supplements!—is said to be optimal.  But our satiety curves show someone’s calorie intake continues to drop up until around 6:1.

Can You Supplement Your Way to Satiety?

Our modern world promises a pill for every ill.  So, when someone learns about nutrient leverage, most are eager to find a vitamin to pop that’ll maximise satiety. 

But unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  You can’t just take an isolated supplement and expect the same effects as consuming minimally-processed foods that contain all priority nutrients and all the other good things that come with them! 

Our satiety algorithm uses multivariate regression analysis to identify the signature components of foods and meals that are more satiating.  The charts below show the satiety factor weightings for each subset of the data. 

While we appear to have distinct cravings for each of these nutrients, the multivariate regression identifies the signature of high-satiety, minimally processed foods that naturally contain these nutrients in addition to all the other nutrients you need to thrive.   

What About the Other Micronutrients?

Other smaller micronutrients are more frequently used in supplementation because of their size.  Unlike the nutrients mentioned above, they don’t tend to have such a linear satiety response. 

As shown in the example below, vitamin B6, higher intakes of these nutrients could only be achieved through supplementation or fortification, which align with a rebound satiety response. 

The nutrients dominating the satiety algorithm tend to be larger and harder to supplement.  In most instances, potassium supplements are limited to 99 milligrams per capsule, so you would have to choke down A LOT of pills just to near your ONI.  Calcium supplements are available but don’t seem to provide the same benefits as whole foods. 

Satiety Index Score

These charts may be fascinating for the nutrition and data analysis nerds in the audience.  But for the rest of you, they also have some useful implications. 

The data helps us see how packing more essential nutrients per calorie into our food aligns with eating less.  It also helps us better understand which nutrients we should focus more on and how each nutrient behaves. 

This allows us to fine-tune our satiety algorithm that you can use to choose foods that provide greater satiety.  We’ve used the analysis above on 316,836 days of data to calibrate our satiety algorithm.

The chart below shows the satiety index score vs actual calorie intake and protein %.  As you can see from the lack of shading, this refined satiety index score correlates very nicely with real-world data.  The satiety index score is also a significant improvement on protein % alone. 

The chart below shows that foods with the lowest satiety index score align with an average calorie intake of 2500 calories per day, while the highest satiety index foods align with only 500 calories per day. 

While it might be tempting to overhaul your diet in the other direction if you currently live on 100% ultra-processed foods, you don’t need to jump to the other extreme overnight.  Instead, we recommend progressively incorporating more high-satiety foods into your diet.  As you feel more satisfied, you’ll feel less ‘addicted’ to the low-satiety, nutrient-poor foods and be able to drop them from your repertoire effortlessly. 

The chart below shows the distribution of the satiety index score across the three hundred thousand days of data, with an average of 39%.  Let’s say you started at 40%.  Rather than trying to live on the highest-satiety foods, you’d only need to nudge up your score to 50% for the coming week to make sustainable progress.   

High-Satiety Foods

We’re eager for more people to experience the benefits of nutrient-driven satiety!  To help you start your journey towards Nutritional Optimisation, we’ve created a free printable short list of popular food and a longer list of 400+ common foods you can download and print from our Optimising Nutrition Community here

Appendix: Bonus Charts

For those interested in learning more about the relationship between the nutrients in our food and how much we eat, I’ve included some bonus charts. 


We created this chart from the one hundred and fifty thousand days of data from Nutrient Optimiser users who usually follow a lower-carb diet.  Here, we can see that a higher % of energy from fat aligns with a higher overall calorie intake.   


Until 2015, the US Dietary Guidelines advised keeping our cholesterol under 300 milligrams per day.  The data suggests that while plant-based foods with minimal cholesterol are hard to overeat, some of the most nutritious and satiating foods contain more of this nutrient.   

Thus, we seem to have somewhat of a satiety effect from cholesterol.  Whether it be from cholesterol itself or cholesterol-containing foods that tend to provide a cluster of nutrients, however, is up in the air.

Types of Fat

Various groups tend to avoid certain types of fat.  Whether it’s specifically saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated (omega-6s and omega-3s), it seems like there’s always something being said about one or the other.  

Nonetheless, the data suggest that each of the fats provides more energy.  Thus, a higher intake of any of the fats tends to align with eating more.  However, again, it’s not a linear relationship. 

Minimally processed foods containing most of their energy from one type of fat are not easy to overeat.  However, combining the different kinds of fat enables us to eat more. 

Unsaturated Fat:Saturated Fat Ratio

The USDA Dietary Guidelines’ Healthy Eating Index gives a maximum score for an unsaturated:saturated fat ratio of 2.5.  In other words, it rewards a higher ratio of poly-, monounsaturated fats to saturated—something that aligns with a greater consumption of plant seed oils to animal-containing food and more processed foods (i.e., deep-fried things).  Thus, it makes sense that this ratio aligns with the maximum energy intake. 

Avoiding saturated fat can make it harder to get enough protein to be satiated.  Because saturated fat is found almost exclusively in nutrient-dense animal foods, actively avoiding this nutrient can come at the expense of other essential things, like satiety and protein.


We often think of sugar as harmful and addictive.  While added sugar in processed foods and industrial seed oils is usually good to avoid, natural foods that provide more energy from sugar are hard to overeat. 

Vitamin A

Packing more vitamin A into your diet aligns with eating less… at least up to about 2000 mcg per 2000 calories.      

Optimisers on an omnivorous diet easily meet their vitamin A requirements from nutrient-dense animal foods like liver and egg yolks, rich plant foods, or a combination of both.

Thiamine (B1)

Many Optimisers find it challenging to hit our ONI for Vitamin B1 of 3.0 milligrams per 2000 calories from whole foods alone. 

At the start of the last century, governments began instating B1 fortification to prevent the pellagra epidemic.  Thus, B1 is fairly prevalent in the food system.  While more B1 from whole foods seems to provide us with greater satiety, we seem to get a rebound satiety effect when we consume intakes beyond what we can get from food. 

Riboflavin (B2)

We also tend to eat less when consuming foods containing more riboflavin.   

Niacin (B3)

Niacin is critical for our energy production and is readily found in high-protein foods. 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is one nutrient that’s nearly impossible to get without animal products or supplements.  Our B12 target usually isn’t too challenging for our Optimisers if they eat an omnivorous diet.  A little bit of liver goes a long way!

Vitamin K1

Like B12 with animal foods, vitamin K1 is hard to get without plants in your diet. 


Magnesium is an important nutrient that plays many roles in your body.  However, it’s small enough to be cheap and easy to use in supplements, which may be why it doesn’t feature as statistically significant in our satiety analysis. 


Zinc is vital for neurological function, reproductive health, detoxification, antioxidant production, and mental health.  Without a diet containing animal products, zinc—especially in its most bioavailable form—is challenging to get enough of.


Copper is one nutrient that it’s possible to overdo on; if you’re eating LOTS of liver, oysters, or dark chocolate, you can quickly upset your zinc:copper ratio. 


Selenium is an important antioxidant additionally required for neurological function, thyroid hormone synthesis, and immunity.  It’s relatively tough to get without consuming meat, seafood, or Brazil nuts.  However, it’s a minor satiety factor for lower-fat diets containing less of these foods. 


As you can see, while they’re not all statistically significant, getting more essential nutrients per calorie (i.e. a higher nutrient density) tends to align with eating less. 

Eating more of the higher-satiety foods will help you get more of all these nutrients, but if you want to understand which nutrients your diet lacks, you can check out our free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge

If you want to move beyond the food lists and take your nutrition to the next level, you can join our next Micros Masterclass to optimise your diet at the micronutrient level. 

2 thoughts on “Moneyball Nutrition: Leverage Big Data to Crush Your Hunger with the Nutrients You Need to Thrive”

  1. Marty,
    Nice posting. I will have to refer back to this.

    But fix the graph of Potassium vs x —- the bottom axis label says Vitamin C instead of potassium.

    Also, would you consider adding a bar for the HbA1c values in both Aussie and USA units?

    • Thanks. Fixed the potassium chart. Unfortunately, the study that I took this from only has one chart.

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