Optimal foods for fat loss

People with diabetes or insulin resistance may do well initially with a low carbohydrate diet to help them normalise blood glucose levels.  Managing your appetite is easier once you stabilise your blood glucose levels.


However, once your glucose and insulin levels stabilise, you will likely benefit from reducing the energy density of your diet while also increasing the nutrient density of the foods you eat.

Foods with a lower energy density are more filling and more difficult to overeat which is a useful hack if you want to use the fat on your body for fuel.


The chart below is from a recent pilot study by Christopher Gardner of Stanford (Weight loss on low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate diets by insulin resistance status among overweight adults and adults with obesity: A randomised pilot trial).  


The researchers educated all participants to improve their diet quality with nutrient dense whole foods.  However,  they told half the participants to eat as low fat as they possibly could while the other half ate as little carbohydrates as they practically could.

After six months, the people who were insulin resistant generally did better with a lower carbohydrate approach.  However, the people who were insulin sensitive did slightly better on a low-fat, lower energy density approach.

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

Paul Jaminet

The chart below shows the nutrients in the lower energy density high nutrient density foods compared to the average of all the foods in the USDA food database.  Eating more of these will ensure you get the nutrients you need with less energy while also avoiding nutrient cravings or deficiencies.

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The foods are ranked using a multi-criteria analysis based on their nutrient density (i.e. they provide you with more of the nutrients that are generally harder to find) and their energy density.

A shortlist of some of the foods that have a low nutrient density and a high nutrient density are listed below.

Superfoods for fat loss


  • alfalfa
  • asparagus
  • spinach


  • basil
  • dill (fresh)
  • sage
  • marjoram


  • blackberries
  • raspberries


  • salmon
  • anchovy
  • crab
  • trout


  • liver
  • kidney
  • heart

animal products

  • pork chops
  • pork shoulder
  • lamb

dairy and eggs

  • whole egg
  • egg yolk
  • whey protein powder

the Nutrient Optimiser

For a longer list of personalised foods and meals to suit your weight loss goals we invite you to get your free report from the Nutrient Optimiser.  It’s been really exciting to see how many people have been able to reduce their energy while avoiding cravings.

When we get the nutrients we need, our cravings decrease, and the body can use our stored body fat for fuel.

last updated June 2018

81 thoughts on “Optimal foods for fat loss”

  1. I thought parsley was a green vegetable, not a spice.

    Do spices really upset a diet, if consumed in spice like quantities?

    How about turmeric?

    • Hey Don. Good question. This weight loss approach is for someone who has their blood glucose under control but still has weight to lose. The intent is that if your blood glucose is still high you could use the ‘foods for diabetes and nutritional ketosis’ or even a combination of the two lists.

    • Tomato are about 65% insulinogenic calories. The insulin load is about 3g/100g so it’s not about to spike your glucose levels. Lots of vitamin C but not they don’t score really high overall.

  2. Please help me ubderstand what % insulinogenic means exactly? Also…i assume this isn’t necessarily for a LCHF diet because sweet corn for instance wouldn’t be in such a diet. I also feel unsure what I should look at, glycemic load? Especially in Protein. How do i choose the best Protein to prevent insulin spike? What is a good glycemic load to keep insulin levels flat(ish)? 🙂

  3. Wondering why the ND values bounce around for different foods. Celery is 1.03 in the above table, yet in other iterations of these tables on your other pages you can see ND values for celery of 1.44, 2.63, 1.27, 2.67.
    Insulinogenicity is more consistent, but varies from table to table. Insulin load and calories are most reliably represented across the food items.

  4. I firstly want to thank you so much for the research and huge effort you have put into this site and the very valuable information. I am lost in the wilderness as a 60 year old woman. My question really is: With taking everything in to account using the superfoods for weight loss, I or anyone trying to lose fat would still have to ensure a decent calorie deficit wouldn’t they? I get stuck between low carb and lower calories and I have been bouncing around for years not really getting anywhere. Also is there an insulin load per meal that we should aim for?

    • In the end its about energy, but how your body processes energy is complex. Nutrient dense low energy density food will enable you to get the nutrients you need from your food while you are losing fat from your body which should give you the best chance of long term success without binging or any need for metabolic slowdown.

      • Metabolic slowdown does not happen when fasting and most data suggests fasting increase metabolic rate. The fear of a slow metabolism is what kept everyone eating more often.

        You cannot lose fat without fasting. Some people get away with less fasting than others (i.e. overnight) but insulin resistant people must fast for longer to reduce insulin levels in the body. Start 20:4. (Reducing eating window to 4 hrs every day). Continue if working. If not working increase fasts to 48hrs, perhaps throwing in a 48hr fast once a week. The 5:2 plan (fast for 2 days a week) has got people good results. When combined with Marty’s excellent info about insulinogenic foods fasting will result in fat loss. Break the fast with foods high in fat and fibre and low in carbs and it is easier to get back in the fasted state. It is just a case of how long you need to fast to bring those insulin levels down in the body. Butter Bob Briggs is good on this subject and very easy to understand. His latest videos are about fasting. Check him out on youtube.

    • Forget the calories. Eat more HFLC food, less often. Once a day is good for people who are not very insulin resistant and don’t have much weight to lose. This didn’t work for me so now I try not to eat sooner than every 48hours and it is working, been obese all my life and lost 70lbs so far this year. Fasting reduces the body’s levels of insulin. That is the key point I was missing when I was HFLC for the best part of the last decade, but still obese. The funny thing is that the more fat you eat at a meal the fuller you stay for longer. I haven’t eaten since last night and eating is the last thing I feel like doing even though it is lunch time now. (Because I ate keto ratios 80% calories from fat). People are scared of calories because they believe in CICO (calories in= calories out) but it is insulin that controls whether we are in a fed or fasted state. The obese have high insulin all the time so they are in the fed state all the time. It takes 2 days of fasting for their insulin levels to drop. If you are only a little overweight it may only take 16hrs for your insulin level to drop. If you eat food (even HFLC food) before your body’s insulin level has dropped down to baseline then you will not reach the fasted state and you will not be losing fat because you will not be in the fasted state. I recommend reading Dr Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code. His ideas changed my life. Now I realise losing weight is about the level of insulin in the body. Eating carbs raises insulin. Eating protein raises insulin. Eating fat doesn’t raise insulin as much. Eating nothing reduces insulin! So eat more fat, less often. While you are raising insulin with a meal make sure you eat enough food to satiate you so you can go the long haul with no food. Time spent not eating = fat loss, only once your insulin has lowered to baseline. That is why some people are thin and some are fat. The thin people reach their insulin baseline faster than the overweight ones. They reach the fasted state quickly. This is also why snacking (even HFLC snacks!) is a definite no no when trying to lose fat. Peace out and good luck with it.

      • Thanks for that Danielle. It seems like you have done the hard yards. Probably the missing link that I am also rejecting. Funny how we fear fasting but science is showing that it is the best solution for fat loss and longevity.

  5. Wow. Love your site. Fantastic info. I am a 41 yr old female, had T1 since age of 17 (24 yrs now). Have three children. Generally good control most my life however, things becoming a bit wonky-hormones? I am fit but over past 4 years increased weight by 10lbs which I can not shake. Very frustrating.

    Anyways, thanks for your hard work and I look forward to tweaking my food intake some more.

  6. Pingback: Nutrient Optimiser
  7. The tables above do not include the insulin load values for the listed foods even though your description of the tables indicate that they do. The insulin load would be useful information. Thanks

  8. Hard to believe sardines’ ND and MCA scores are so low.
    Is the rating on sardines for canned or fresh? If canned, is it for water packed or oil packed?
    My water packed sardines have 155 calories per 100g.
    Sardines are relatively cheap (protein) and convenient.

  9. “A shortlist of some of the foods that have a low nutrient density and a high nutrient density are listed below.”
    Sorry but this does not make sense! Which one’s are the low nutrient ones and which are the high nutrient ones?

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