Tag Archives: whole food plant based

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.

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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 and date sugar and the like, but overall, 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 not eating animals.  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 the primary source of nutritional information for many.

nutritionfacts[1]

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.   Over time we strive to create new and more useful frames of reference that suits use best.[1]For example, 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, which has a large influence through its food companies and medical evangelism, believes that we should eat plants and herbs (and not meat) because that’s how it was in the Garden of Eden before the fall (Genesis 1:29-30 and 2:19-20).
  • 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 develop a system that avoids the properties 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 sensationalist frame of reference in more militant vegan presentations such as What the Health and Cowspiracy.

The Optimising Nutrition framework

Nutrient density

While I don’t call myself a Nutritarian, my frame of reference has more 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, which tends to automatically manage the things that aren’t good for us in excess.  The food we eat should 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 approach 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.

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 algorithm can work within those parameters.  However, the optimal nutritional outcome tends to be to simply focus on the most nutrient-dense foods available.

Insulin load

Being married to someone who has Type 1 Diabetes, 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 moderating dietary insulin load to make sure you don’t need industrial levels of insulin to stabilise your blood sugar.  The food insulin index data demonstrates 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, I think energy density can be a useful tool to help us moderate our 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

Rather than entering in the whole book, 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 (but 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.

For a full analysis check out Dr Greger’s Nutrient Optimiser report.

Nutrient score

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

If your diet provided 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%.

Bioavailability

After posting a number of readers noted that I had failed to mentioned bioavailability of plant-based nutrients.  The recommended daily intake levels are given based on a mixed diet, and limited work has been done to confirm how these nutrient requirements change when we go to extremes such as purely plant-based, purely animal based or low glucose / high fat ketogenic.  So, while this deserves a much longer discussion, I will touch on a couple of relevant considerations here.

Iron

A large proportion of the iron Dr Greger’s recipes comes from the chard in the portabella mushrooms.  Chard, like spinach, has a fantastic nutrient profile.  Many women are deficient in iron, while many men have too much iron (haemochromatosis) due to the fact that there is no way to excrete iron.

Iron from animal-based sources is much more easily absorbed.  It is estimated that between 14 and 18% of iron in a mixed diet can be absorbed, while vegetarians may only absorb 5 to 12% (Hurrel and Eli, 2010).

A common ferritin blood test will give you a good indication of whether you are absorbing enough iron from your food.

Omega 3

The Omega 3 in the Dr Greger’s plant-based diet foods comes from flax and chia seeds in the oatmeal recipes, however, this is in the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) form and this needs to be converted to EPA and DHA for use by the body.

Women tend to convert ALA to EPA and EHA better than men.  A high intake of Omega 6 will hinder this conversion along with a lack of vitamins B3, B6 and C as well as zinc and magnesium.  It is estimated that the conversion of ALA to EPA varies between 8 to 20% and ALA to DHA ranges from 1 to 9%.  In view of our reduced ability to convert plant-based omega 3 for use by the body, Dr Greger recommends supplementing with an algae-derived omega 3 DHA supplement.  He says this is non-negotiable for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Vitamin A

The vitamin A on Dr Greger’s recipes comes from the kale and chard.  Now there are two types of vitamin A which are both counted as vitamin A in the USDA database:

  • retinoids (aka retinol), which is the bioavailable form of vitamin A found in animal-based foods such as liver and eggs, and
  • carotenoids, which are precursors found in plant foods.

The rates of conversion vary widely depending on the source (spinach is 21:1, carrots is 15:1) and your ability to convert carotenoids to retinol will also be affected by genetics, digestive problems, alcohol use, certain medicines, toxic exposures, and medical conditions that interfere with the digestion of fat (including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic enzyme deficiency, and gallbladder and liver disease).

Blood retinol levels can be tested if you show symptoms of vitamin A deficiency such as:

  • poor night vision,
  • dry eyes, skin and hair,
  • repeated infections, and
  • anaemia.

Vitamin B12

For the most part, Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products or supplements.  The Vitamin B12 in Dr Greger’s recipes is from nutritional yeast which is fortified with Vitamin B12.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E and K are said to be “fat soluble” meaning that they may be more easily absorbed when there is fat in the diet.  Higher levels of fat will assist in the production of bile to enable full utilisation of these vitamins.

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 account for fibre.

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Carbohydrates

As shown in the chart below of nutrient density score vs non-fibre carbohydrates and as discussed in detail in this article, we can get a reasonable amount of nutrition with net carbs anywhere in the range of 0 to around 60% non-fibre carbs.  So, while not optimal, this level of non-carbohydrates may not be excessive (unless you already have diabetes).

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Fat

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

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Protein

For the sake of analysis, I have assumed that we are running the Nutrient Optimiser analysis 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.

What constitutes optimal protein is a contentious topic.  However, we can say that the intake level provided by Dr Gregor’s meals would exceed the estimated average protein intake 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.

Research in yeast and worms that shows that energy restriction and/or protein restriction causes slower growth and overall longevity, though quality of life may be compromised.[10]   However, I’m not aware of any research in humans that demonstrates that we live longer by actively restricting protein consumption.

What appears clear is that having higher levels of lean muscle mass and lower levels of body fat is helpful.[11]   We need to find the balance between excess growth and obesity versus being too frail and weak to be resilient as we age.

NF-Sarcopenia[1].jpg

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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As indicated by the chart below from Peter Lemon, 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 an aggressive energy deficit) if you want to preserve your lean muscle mass.[14][15]image7.png

For most people, listening to their appetite and focusing on nutrient dense foods and meals will get you the right amount of protein.  However, if you’re not getting the results you want you may need to tweak up or down to finding the optimal balance point for you.

Dr_Greger_at_Pure[1]

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 got me thinking about insulin load nearly there three years ago.

While having plenty of vitamins and minerals from whole foods helps to improve blood sugar control, so does lower levels of processed carbohydrates.

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.  While people with Type 1 diabetes are relatively rare, the number of people who have prediabetes or some level of insulin resistance is exploding!

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 those on a reduced carbohydrate higher protein approach that have the best diabetes control.[17][18]image9.png

As shown in the chart above, 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, such as:

  • 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 people operate from a nutritional paradigm that there is a magic about not eating animals.  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.  Perhaps many people who switch from a grain and meat heavy diet to a whole foods plant-based diet suddenly feel better because they get a shot of alkalinity that cleanses their kidneys and improves their insulin resistance?

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 is a concern.
  • The potassium : sodium ratio is above 2 which is great, though I would have expected this to be even higher given that his approach also includes salt avoidance.
  • 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 eating 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

The nutrients that we want to prioritise are shown in the chart below in yellow.

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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.  (You will note that vegetables are coloured green, spices dark green, nuts are brown, oils grey and fruits pink)

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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.  (Seafood is coloured green, offal red and dairy blue)

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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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However, 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 recommend much more nutrient-packed green veggies that are often neglected by people following a low carb or keto diet.

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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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For more discussion check out Dr Greger’s full Nutrient Optimiser report.

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 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/

optimal foods for YOU

It’s no secret that there is no perfect diet for everyone.  Your nutritional requirements depend on many factors, including your age, health status, activity levels, and goals.

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I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years designing prioritised food lists to suit a range of goals and situations.  This article summarises this labour of love into what I hope will be a useful resource that will help a lot of people.

I have grouped the various food lists into the following categories:

  • foods to optimise your metabolic health (e.g. therapeutic ketosis, diabetes management, weight loss, bodybuilding, and athletic performance, etc.),
  • foods that boost specific nutrients associated with common health conditions,
  • ethical, philosophical and religious considerations, and
  • macronutrient and micronutrient extremes (low carb, keto, high protein, low protein, etc.).

For those of you who just want to know which foods you should eat more of, I have included the food lists up front.

If you want to understand how I have developed the various food lists, continue reading to the end of the article.

Metabolic health, diabetes management, weight loss and athletic performance

Most people do well if they eat more nutrient dense foods.  However, we can tailor our food choices beyond nutrient density to better suit different people with different goals.

The table below contains optimal food for various metabolic situations.  In the table below you can:

  • click on the ‘PDF’ to open a printable list of ‘foods’,
  • download the list as graphic to save to your phone by clicking on the ‘foods’, or
  • click on the ‘nutrients’ to see the amount of each nutrient that those groups of foods contain.
approach average glucose (mg/dL) average glucose (mmol/L) PDF foods nutrients
well formulated ketogenic diet > 140 > 7.8 PDF foods nutrients
diabetes and nutritional ketosis 108 to 140 6.0 to 7.8 PDF foods nutrients
weight loss (insulin resistant) 100 to 108 5.4 to 6.0 PDF foods nutrients
protein sparing modified fast (PSMF) < 97 < 5.4 PDF foods nutrients
most nutrient dense < 97 < 5.4 PDF foods nutrients
nutrient dense maintenance < 97 < 5.4 PDF foods nutrients
bodybuilder < 97 < 5.4 PDF foods nutrients
endurance athlete < 97 < 5.4 PDF foods nutrients

I hope that these lists will help all those people who just don’t know what to eat.  Lots of people, my family included, have found these useful to print out and stick to their fridge or take it shopping for some inspiration.

If you belong to the 50% of the population that has diabetes or pre-diabetes,[1] your priority should be to normalise your blood glucose levels with a lower insulin load diet.  You can use your current blood sugar levels to choose the nutritional approach that will best support your journey towards optimal metabolic health.

The well- formulated ketogenic diet approach is designed for someone who has very high blood sugars or requires therapeutic ketosis.  The diabetes and nutritional ketosis approach will be more nutritious and suit people looking to manage their diabetes.  Before too long, with the reduction of processed carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels will stabilise to more optimal levels.

Once you have your blood glucose levels under control, you can then focus even more on increasing nutrient density and reducing energy density if you are looking to lose weight.   The weight loss (insulin resistant) foods will help you to reduce the energy density of your diet while keeping the insulin load down.  Stabilising blood sugar levels, normalising insulin levels and reducing hyper palatable processed carbs will help many normalise their appetite, reduce food cravings and naturally eat less.

The protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) approach aims to provide all the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids with the minimum amount of energy to enable you to achieve aggressive weight loss while minimising your chance of developing nutrient deficiencies, keeping cravings at bay and losing your lean muscle mass.

In the long run, you may even find you have the energy to work out or build muscle for fitness and longevity.  This increased level of activity may require higher levels of protein and other nutrients.   You may also need higher energy density foods to enable you to ingest enough energy to support your activity levels.

The bodybuilder food list will provide you with plenty of amino acids and minerals to support recovery while the endurance athlete food list increases energy density to fuel increased activity levels while still keeping nutrient density high to fuel activity levels.

How do I implement all this information?

Not that long ago, before the advent of artificial flavours, colourings, refrigerators and packaged food, we were more in touch with our actual nutritional needs and went hunting and gathering in search of the foods that contained the nutrients we needed.  We ate until we got what we needed from the food and stopped.

The idea is that these food lists would help you to refine your food choices and make up for your appetite that might have been corrupted by the modern food system.  When you go shopping each week try to buy more of the foods that are at the top of your list and make sure you find a way to incorporate them into your cooking during the week.  You will not be able to eat all of the foods on the list.  You may find that you like some more than others.  Keep working down the list until you find foods that you enjoy and can easily eat lots of.

You will likely need to prepare your food more than relying as much on processed and pre-packed foods.  It may take a little bit more effort, but your health is worth it!

Nutrients to address deficiencies associated with common conditions

Most people are somewhere on the spectrum of metabolic health and will do well focusing on the foods that keep their blood sugars stable.  However, there are others that have developed specific conditions exacerbated by long term nutrient deficiencies.  Hence, focusing on the foods that provide more of the nutrients associated with these conditions can help manage or even reverse some of these conditions for some people.

The table below contains a range of food lists that are designed to provide more of the nutrients related to a diverse range of common health issues.  Eating these foods will not guarantee a reversal of a particular condition.  However, prioritising these foods will improve your chances of recovery and minimise reliance on drugs and other medicines.

If you don’t yet have any of these conditions, simply focusing on the most nutrient dense foods[2][3] may reduce your chances of developing poor health.

Some foods make an appearance on many of the lists (e.g. spinach, watercress, broccoli, organ meats).  However, as you look through each of the lists, you will see that they are unique in their ranking of the various foods required to provide the prioritised nutrients.  While eating any of the foods on the list will be helpful, focusing on the foods towards the top of the list will maximise the nutrients you need for your condition.

approach score PDF foods nutrients wheel references
most nutrient dense foods 99.0% PDF foods nutrients
aggressive weight loss (PSMF) 98.4% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
adrenal fatigue 99.1% PDF foods nutrients
asthma 98.5% PDF foods nutrients wheel
autism 95.5% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
depression 98.3% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
dyslipidemia 99.1% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
estrogen 98.4% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
fatigue 98.1% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
female fertility 98.3% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
hypertension 98.2% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
hypothyroidism 98.8% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
inflammation 98.3% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
methylation 97.6% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
sleep and insomnia 98.8% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
telomeres 96.9% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
low carb autoimmune friendly 97.3% PDF foods nutrients
alkaline (diabetes friendly) 96.9% PDF foods nutrients
testosterone 97.7% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
alkaline 96.4% PDF foods nutrients
autoimmune & SIBO 95.7% PDF foods nutrients
weight loss (insulin resistant) 99.3% PDF foods nutrients wheel references
diabetes friendly, autoimmune, & SIBO 76.0% PDF foods nutrients

The nutrients prioritised in these lists are generally based on research compiled by Spectracell which identified nutrients that are typically deficient in a range of conditions.  You can click on the “wheel” and “references” in the table for more details.   Check out the full Spectracell nutrient wheels for a range of conditions here.

Where there is no Spectracell “wheel” available, the nutrients used in the analysis were based on the Nutrient Bible by Henry Oseki which is an excellent detailed resource on the individual nutrients as well as the likely nutrients to support various conditions.

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The value of real food

Many modern foods are fortified with synthetic nutrients (e.g. folic acid, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, iodine, etc.).[4]  While it may appear that the food companies are doing this for the benefit of your health or to make up for deficiencies in their processed foods grown quickly using chemical fertilisers, there is good research suggesting that fortification helps to ensure that we don’t lose interest in what would otherwise be bland unpalatable foods.[5] [6] [7]

By adding in a smattering of nutrients that our body actively seeks (e.g. iron, folate, B vitamins, sodium etc) we will maintain an increased appetite for these foods while not getting the range of other nutrients that are also important but do not drive our appetite to the same degree (e.g. potassium, magnesium, choline and vitamin E).

Paul Jaminet in his Perfect Health Diet[8] says “Potassium is the intracellular electrolyte while sodium is the extracellular electrolyte.  Cells continually pump sodium outside the cell and potassium inside.  Good health depends on the proper dietary balance between potassium and sodium.  Paleolithic diets were high in potassium, low in sodium; salt was rare and highly valued.  So we evolved mechanisms for protecting against the threat of low sodium levels: a food reward system that powerfully rewards salt consumption, and a hormonal network that shuts down urination and sweating whenever sodium is scarce.  There are no similar mechanisms to protect us against low potassium levels, even though they are every bit as devastating for our health.”

While supplements can be helpful, obtaining nutrients from whole foods will also maximise your chance of absorption and increase your chance of getting all the necessary complementary micronutrients in adequate quantities without being excessive. Note: excess supplementation of minerals can quickly cause diarrhoea, or the kidneys will excrete excess nutrients from supplements.’

I have not included fortified foods that may score highly due to a narrow range of synthetic micronutrients that have been added to highly processed and sugar ladened products.

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Nutritious whole foods will provide you with not only the essential nutrients that we can quantify but all the other beneficial non-essential nutrients, phytonutrients, enzymes, and cofactors[9] [10] that are not yet quantified or in the USDA database.

Ethical, philosophical and religious considerations

Many people choose to base their food choices on moral convictions or religious beliefs.  I do not have any issue with people making their food choices based on ethical considerations or religious beliefs.  I do, however, object to people claiming that their approach is nutritionally superior and forcing it onto others on that premise which is not supported by science.

The lists in the table below will help you find the most nutrient dense foods associated with each of these approaches.  The food lists have been sorted based on their nutrient score from highest to lowest at the bottom of the table.

approach score PDF foods nutrient profile
the most nutrient dense foods 99% PDF foods nutrients
nutrient dense Paleo 99% PDF click nutrients
low carb Paleo foods 97% PDF foods nutrients
pescetarian 95% PDF foods nutrients
bivalve vegan 92% PDF foods nutrients
low carb pescetarian 95% PDF foods nutrients
whole food plant based 80% PDF foods nutrients
plant based (diabetes friendly) 76% PDF foods nutrients
zero carb 76% PDF foods nutrients
Paleo (without ND) 64% nutrients
zero carb (no offal) 58% PDF foods nutrients
plant based (without ND) 57% nutrients
zero carb (without ND) 42% foods nutrients

As you might expect, we achieve the most nutritious selection of foods when we focus purely on nutrients.   If you chose to limit your food choices due to other ethical considerations, then you should pay particular attention to the foods that will provide you with more of the harder-to-find essential nutrients.

In the long run, the goal is to get the nutrients we need from our food to enable us to thrive without over consuming energy.  This will give us the best chance of maintaining an ideal body weight, energy levels, performance and avoid the modern diseases of ageing.[11]

See the discussion below detailing the pros and cons of each approach and the nutrients that may need to be supplemented based on the various approaches.

Macronutrient extremes

Some people like to define their nutritional approach in terms of large or small quantities of a particular macronutrient (e.g. low carb, low fat, high protein, low protein, high or low saturated fat, etc.).  The analysis in the table below shows the implication on the nutrients available if you follow any of these approaches.

I think it’s useful to understand the pros and cons of these extremes, particularly in terms of the micronutrients available and the range of foods involved in any of these more extreme approaches.

While high protein, low carb or ketogenic appear to have some positive impact on nutrient density, focusing on the most nutrient dense foods provides a vastly superior micronutrient outcome.

approach score PDF foods nutrients
the most nutrient dense foods 99% PDF foods nutrients
average of all foods in USDA database 75% nutrients
high protein foods 58% PDF foods nutrients
lowest carb 54% nutrients
most ketogenic 42% PDF foods nutrients
highest fat 33% PDF foods nutrients
lowest saturated fat 32% nutrients
lowest fat 31% PDF foods nutrients
highest saturated fat 29% nutrients
lowest fat 31% PDF foods nutrients
the most insulinogenic foods 27% PDF foods nutrients
highest carb 15% nutrients
lowest protein 5% PDF foods nutrients
the avoid list 3% foods nutrients

So that brings us to the end of the food lists section.  I hope you find an approach that will suit your current goals and situation and have a glimpse of how you can continue to move your health forward.

I have intentionally included a lot of data in these tables to allow you to fully understand the pros and cons of each approach and compare the nutritional options you might be interested in.  I hope you will dig into the data in the table for the short list of approaches that you may be interested in.

If you want to learn more about how these lists were developed I invite you to read on to learn about nutrient density, insulin load and energy density, and how they can be combined, using the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm to optimise our food choices.

 

Nutrient density

While there are a range of useful parameters that we can use to optimise our nutrition, the most important is arguably nutrient density.

Nutrient density is simply the amount of nutrients per calorie or the amount of the essential nutrients you get in your food each day.  Ideally, we want to be meeting the daily recommended intake for all of the nutrients.

Micronutrients seem to have been largely overlooked in our current discussion about nutrition. Perhaps this is because micronutrients are harder to quantify.  Without an easy way to quantify micronutrients we tend to focus on simpler metrics such as fat, carbs, saturated fat, protein, vegan, plant based, Paleo, keto, etc.

Unfortunately, neither avoiding a particular nutrient (saturated fat, salt, cholesterol, etc) or aiming for a macronutrient extremes (high fat, low fat, low carb, high carb, high fibre, low protein, etc) or even following our religious or ethical convictions (vegan, vegetarian, plant based etc ) are especially useful when it comes to identifying foods that provide us with the most micronutrients.

But what if we could quantify the micronutrient content of the food we eat?

Enter nutrient density!

The graph below shows the average of the micronutrients in the eight thousand or so foods in the USDA food database as a proportion of the daily recommended daily intake (DRI).  Imagine you ate just a little bit of all of these eight thousand foods to make up your 2000 calories for the day.

The nutrients at the bottom of this chart are easy to obtain in our food system (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin K, and various amino acids).  There is little need to worry about these easier to find nutrients.  However, where this analysis is useful is that it highlights the nutrients that we might have to pay extra attention to obtaining in adequate quantities (e.g. vitamin D, choline, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc.).

After a lot experimenting with different approaches to develop a quantitative analysis method for optimising nutrient density, I found that:

  1. Prioritising foods that are high in only one nutrient (e.g. potassium, omega 3, magnesium, vitamin D, niacin, etc.) means you risk missing out on all the beneficial and complementary nutrients that typically come with real food and isn’t particularly useful.  You usually come up with a range of obscure processed foods that have been supplemented with that nutrient.
  2. Focusing on maximising the quantity of all the essential nutrients gives us a VERY high protein list of foods.  Protein is relatively easy to obtain in our food system.  Prioritising the amino acids provides a list of foods that will be very hard to consume because they are 70% protein.  We tend to get more than enough protein when we focus on the harder-to-obtain vitamins and minerals.
  3. Using the Nutrient Optimiser we can focus on the foods that contain more of the nutrients that are harder to find.  When we maximise a range of the harder-to-find nutrients, we get a variety of whole foods that contain a broad spectrum of the essential nutrients.

The chart below shows the nutrients provided by the top 10% of the foods in the USDA database when we prioritise for the harder-to-find nutrients (i.e. vitamin D, choline, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, pantothenic acid, selenium, and niacin).  The red bars denote the nutrients that have been prioritised.   That is, foods that contain more of these micronutrients per calorie rank higher in the analysis.

If you compare the chart below to the chart above, you will see that by focusing on the foods that contain harder-to-find nutrients we significantly boost all thirty-four essential nutrients!

If you focus on eating foods in this list, you will have a good chance of getting plenty of the essential micronutrients.  The most nutrient dense foods in each category are at the top of the list, so you would ideally focus more on the food at the top of the list as much as you could.

I don’t think it matters too much if you want to focus more on animal or plant based foods.  We tend to achieve the best nutritional outcome when we include a range of vegetables, animal products and seafood.

  • What is notably missing from all of these lists is sugar and refined grains which have a very low nutrient density.
  • Fruits also do not feature in the lists (other than the exclusively plant based lists) due to the lower nutrients per calorie compared to nonstarchy vegetables and animal foods.
  • Dairy and nuts make an appearance on the lists only where it is not a priority to keep energy density low or to lose weight.
  • Red meat tends to feature more prominently when we need to boost nutrients such as glycine, cysteine and glutamine which are not as prevalent in seafood.

The nutrient score

You will notice the “nutrient score” for the most nutrient dense foods is 98.7%.  But what does this mean?

The nutrient score is designed to compare the various nutritional approaches quantitatively.  We want to meet the daily recommended intake of a particular nutrient.  However, there may not be much value getting more than twice the DRI.  Once you’ve achieved two times the DRI your efforts would be best spent seeking out other nutrients.  If we achieved two times the recommended daily intake for all the nutrients, we would get a score of 100%.  That is, we get a perfect score if the entire red rectangle was filled in.

A lot of these food lists score close to a perfect score because they contain a range of the most nutrient dense foods.  This is not practical in real life.  The nutrient score of a real life diet will be lower than the optimised short list of nutrient dense foods.  We tend to choose more energy dense foods that may not be as nutrient dense, or we don’t consume the range of foods that would be necessary to attain a very high nutrient score.  Dr Rhonda Patrick currently holds the record for the highest scoring food log with 82%.  You can check out her Nutrient Optimiser analysis here.

At the other end of the spectrum, we can see from the chart below that focusing on the least nutrient dense foods will provide an inferior outcome.   If all we have to eat is these nutrient poor foods, we will likely develop nutrient deficiencies.  Our cravings will drive our appetite to derail even our best calorie restriction intentions.

Energy density

The great thing about nutrient dense whole foods is that they typically force out the energy dense processed foods in our diet.

Whether it be low carb, whole food plant based or Paleo, the magic happens when we switch out nutrient deficient foods for foods that provide you with the nutrients we need with less energy.

The ‘problem’ however with nutrient dense whole foods is that they make it hard to ingest enough energy.  If you are active and are not wanting to lose weight, you may need some higher energy density foods.

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Over at KetoGains, they talk about using ‘fat as a lever’.[12]  If you are not worried about being low carb or ketogenic or your blood sugar control, you can also think of ‘energy density as a lever’ to manage the amount of energy you can get from your diet.  While a ketogenic diet is typically higher fat, if you want to lose body fat then some of the fat contribution to your diet should come from your body, with less fat required from your plate or coffee mug.

Energy density is a simple concept that can help you fine tune your food choices and is calculated by dividing the calories in a food by its weight.  Used in isolation it isn’t particularly useful, but can be helpful whne considered along with nutrient density once you have stabilised your blood sugars by tweaking the insulin load of the food you eat.

If you have stabilised your blood sugars and are trying to lose weight, then minimising the energy density of the foods you eat will help you feel physically full with less energy intake.  Practically this might involve filling up on more nonstarchy veggies and perhaps leaner cuts of meat.

Focusing on foods with a lower energy density can help you to get the nutrients you need without overdoing the energy intake.

Alternatively, if you are an athlete and need to ingest a lot of fuel, then focusing on higher energy density foods may be helpful.

Insulin load

As shown in my analysis of the food insulin index data below, the amount of carbohydrate correlates with how much our blood sugar rises in response to food.  [You can click on the images below to see more detail or click here to drill down into the data more in Tableau online.]

However, carbohydrates alone don’t do a great job of explaining our insulin response to the food we eat.  As you can see in the chart below, some high protein, low carb foods still elicit a significant insulin response.

We get a much better prediction of our insulin response to food once we account for the fibre and protein content of our food.  Thinking in terms of insulin load (i.e. net carbs + 0.56 x protein) is useful if you are manually injecting insulin to manage your diabetes.  If you are insulin resistant, you can reduce the insulin load of your diet to the point that your pancreas can keep up and maintain normal blood sugars.

Reducing the insulin load of your diet will help achieve more stable blood sugar levels and get off the insulin rollercoaster that drives hunger and energy levels.  While various studies have not been able to demonstrate a metabolic advantage of one macronutrient versus another, it seems that appetite control is easier for people who are insulin resistant when they manipulate their diet to stabilise their blood sugars.

While too much energy from any source can promote insulin resistance in the long run (note: the pancreas secretes insulin to stop the flow of energy out of the liver when we have plenty of energy coming in via the mouth), increasing the proportion of fat in your diet will lessen the amount of insulin required by your food.

Increasing the percentage of calories from fat in your diet will also reduce your glucose response to food.

Although protein does need some insulin to metabolise, higher protein foods will typically force out the processed carbohydrates and reduce your insulin levels.

So what does all this mean?

If you are part of the 50% of the population that has diabetes or prediabetes, then manipulating the insulin load of your diet will help you stabilise your blood sugar levels.  This is a critical priority.

The problem with focusing only on insulin load, however, is that the least insulinogenic foods are primarily refined fats (cream, butter, olive oil, etc.) and do not contain a lot of the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that we need to thrive and be metabolically healthy.

The solution is to find the optimal balance between insulin load and nutrient density.  As your blood glucose levels start to improve you can start to focus more on nutrient density and then on reducing energy density if you still need to lose weight.

The various food lists have been developed using a multi-criteria analysis algorithm that uses nutrient density, energy density and insulin load to highlight the ideal foods for a particular person.

Pros and cons of different dietary approaches

The table below outlines the pros and cons of each of the higher level nutritional approaches, who they will be appropriate for and which nutrients are harder to find.

approach who harder to find nutrients Pros Cons
well-formulated ketogenic diet Someone with an average blood sugar greater than 140 mg/dL or 7.8mmol/L or people who require therapeutic ketosis (i.e. for the management of conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc.) Vitamin D, choline, potassium, vitamin B5, zinc, niacin, magnesium, calcium selenium and folate. Aggressively lowers insulin load to stabilise blood sugars and drive ketogenesis.  Higher fat levels can help to increase satiety while in early adoption phase. High energy density and low nutrient density mean that it may not yield optimal weight loss or health in the long term for everyone.
diabetes and nutritional ketosis People with an average blood sugar of greater than 108 mg/dL or 6.0mmol/L. Choline, vitamin D, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B5, niacin, calcium and zinc. Helps optimise blood sugar control and eliminate the swings that can drive appetite. Higher energy density means that not everyone will achieve optimal weight without also focussing on energy density.
weight loss (insulin resistant) People who are slightly insulin resistant but want to lose weight. Vitamin D, choline, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, niacin. Lower energy density will help ensure a reduction in energy intake.  Higher nutrient density will reduce cravings. Lower satiety due to lower energy intake.
protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) Someone targeting aggressive short term weight loss while maintaining muscle mass. Vitamin D, choline, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc. Very nutrient dense and very low energy density will drive weight loss.  Very hard to overeat these foods. Significant discipline, racking and planning required.
nutrient dense maintenance Someone looking to maintain their current weight. Choline, vitamin D, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc. Higher energy density while still being nutrient dense.
bodybuilder Someone looking to repair and build muscle. Vitamin D, choline, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, sodium, vitamin B5, zinc, folate and branched chain amino acids Support muscle growth. Not ideal for someone not working out.
endurance athlete Someone who is active Choline, vitamin D, potassium, calcium vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin B5 and leucine. Higher energy density foods to support activity.

This table summarises the assumptions used in developing the lists based on religious, ethical or philosophical considerations and provides some brief commentary for each nutritional approach.  I encourage you to look in more detail at the data to better understand your preferred approaches.

approach score Assumptions & constraints Comment 
the most nutrient dense foods 100% Prioritises the harder to find nutrients. Maximises nutrients per calorie.
nutrient dense Paleo 99% Excludes dairy, grains and processed foods as well as prioritising nutrient density. Very similar outcome to most nutrient dense approach, though with a reduced range of foods.
low carb Paleo foods 97% Reduced insulin load to stabilise blood sugars while also maximising nutrient density. Will stabilise blood sugars more than straight Paleo which can involve more high carb veggies.
pescetarian 95% Plant based plus fish prioritised for nutrient density. Some vegans or vegetarians are comfortable eating fish.
bivalve vegan 92% Plant based plus molluscs prioritised for nutrient density. Provides some nutrients that are harder to find on a purely plant based approach (omega 3, vitamin B12).  Some vegans are comfortable eating molluscs which are not considered by some to be sentient beings.
low carb pescetarian 95% Vegetarian plus fish with a focus on nutrient density and a lower insulin load. Provides a solid nutritional outcome without eating animals or dairy.
whole food plant based 80% Excludes processed foods and oils.  Prioritises nutrient density without focussing on amino acids It is hard to obtain adequate omega 3 or vitamin B12 on a WFPB approach and hence they may need to supplement.

Weight loss is likely due to the low energy density if you are able to stick to unprocessed foods only.

plant based (diabetes friendly) 76% Plant based only, with the focus on nutrient density and lower insulin load. It can be quite hard to achieve a low carb diet, at least in terms of percentages without using a lot of oils or nuts.
zero carb 76% Animal only foods prioritised for nutrient density. A zero carb dietary approach struggles to meet DRI for vitamins K, C and E, folate, potassium and calcium.

Although some argue that nutrient requirements are different in the absence of glucose, though there is limited research to date.

Paleo (without ND) 64% All Paleo foods without consideration of nutrient density. Limiting yourself to unprocessed “Paleo food” is no guarantee that you will achieve exceptional nutrient density.
zero carb (no offal) 58% Animal based foods excluding organ meats. Organ meats provide a lot of the nutrients in a ZC approach.  Not everyone enjoys and eats a lot of organ meats.
plant based (without ND) 57% All whole food plant based foods without consideration of nutrient density. A plant based nutritional approach is no guarantee that you will achieve high levels of nutrients.
zero carb (without ND) 42% Zero carb without nutrient density. A zero carb approach without consideration of nutrient density can provide a poor nutritional outcome.

Summary

Congratulations, you’ve nearly reached the end of this data-heavy article!!

My hope is that all this data will be useful for people seeking clear guidance on optimal food choices for them.  I hope it will help you cut through the confusion and conflicts of interest that so often plague our food system.

Nutrient density is the centre piece of the algorithm for optimising nutrition to suit people with different goals and to suit different circumstances.  When we focus on foods that contain more of the harder-to-find nutrients we tend to boost all nutrients across the board.

A range of optimal food lists have been prepared to suit different states of metabolic health by also considering:

  • insulin load and energy density,
  • pre-existing health conditions using targeted nutrients, and
  • optimal short list of foods that still fit within a person’s ethical or religious system.

Simply focusing on trying to consume more of the foods on these lists will go a long way to helping you achieve optimal nutrition, health and happiness.  If you’re still looking for further guidance to help you refine your food choices, then I invite you check out the Nutrient Optimiser which has been designed to identify areas where you could improve your nutrition and help you fine tune your food choices to help you move towards your chosen goal and dreams, whatever they may be.

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references

[1] https://optimisingnutrition.com/2015/03/22/diabetes-102/

[2] https://optimisingnutrition.com/2016/05/16/building-a-better-nutrient-density-index/

[3] https://optimisingnutrition.com/2015/03/22/towards-a-personalised-food-ranking-system/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_fortification

[5] https://freetheanimal.com/2015/06/enrichment-theory-everything.html

[6] https://freetheanimal.com/2016/05/enrichment-promotes-everything.html

[7] https://freetheanimal.com/2015/10/fortification-obesity-refinements.html

[8] http://perfecthealthdiet.com/

[9] https://suppversity.blogspot.com.au/2017/08/vitamin-b6-b12-c-e-folate-iron.html

[10] http://suppversity.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/studies-confirm-natural-and-synthetic.html

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

[12] https://ketogains.com/2017/06/energy-balance-macros-nutrient-density/