"The quality of a diet can be judged base on three simple criteria.
- Levels of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) per calorie
- Amounts of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) to meet individual needs, without excessive calories that may lead to weight gain or health compromise.
- Avoidance of potentially toxic substances (such as trans fats) and limited amounts of other potentially harmful substances (such as sodium)
A person who... is called a nutritarian... understands that food has powerful disease–protecting and therapeutic effects and seeks to consume a broad array of micronutrients via their food choices.
It is not sufficient to merely avoid fats.
It is not sufficient for the diet to have a low glycemic index.
It is not sufficient for the diet to be low in animal products.
It is not sufficient for the diet to be mostly raw food.
A truly healthy diet must be micronutrient rich. The foods with the highest micronutrient per calorie scores are green vegetables, colorful vegetables, and fresh fruits.
For optimal health and to combat disease, it is necessary to consume enough of these foods." Excerpted from DrFuhrman.com
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Yesterday I finally had a chance to poke around in Dr. William Lands', KIM2 software program. It was developed as an aid to compare the foods we eat by their omega-3 and omega-6 content.
The goal is to try to keep the omega-6 and omega-3 fats in our diet to a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio for optimal health.
Most American's are typically way out of whack--at 17:1 in favor of the inflammatory omega-6s. Think oils, peanut butter, meat, farmed fish, and chicken. Of course, how can we cut down omega-6s if we don't even know which foods are loaded with them?
That's where Kim2 comes into the picture! According to Lands, and many other scientists, a diet too high in omega-6s brings inflammation, heart disease, stroke, depression, arthritis, and more. Keep those omega-3s high and you'll have a happy, healthy, long life. Even the U.S. military is seriously looking into ways to boost the omega-3 content of their soldiers' diets as a way to combat depression, mood disorders, and alcoholism, as well as cardiovascular disease.
As I poked around in his database I got more & more confused. Sure it's obvious that all the plant oils are high in the omega 6's. Check. I get that. Steak, chicken, nuts, and pepperoni pizza are also high in omega 6's. Not a surprise.
Here's my confusion: Tofu, tempeh, quinoa, lentils, and even brown rice are also high in omega 6's. Huh? I thought those were the good guys. What's up with that?
So I emailed Dr. Lands. Please explain my confusion, I begged!
Here's an excerpt from his reply:
The five polysaccharide foods that you mentioned (quinoa, brown rice, tofu, tempeh, & lentils) illustrate how grains and cereals carry overabundant amounts of omega-6 compared to omega-3.
Thus "whole grains" carry hidden risks not often discussed. You seem aware of some ways to balance their effects. Other foods like squash, turnips and beans (green, kidney and pinto) carry more omega-3 compared to omega-6.You recognize risk in olive oil that needs to be balanced, and you likely see that it is easier to "balance" than corn, soybean or sunflower oil.I, too, am a great believer in prevention.
But, wait a second, I thought. Omega-3s are just one part of the whole nutrition equation. What about vitamins, minerals, fiber, the glycemic index, the ORAC anti-oxidant index, calories, and phytonutrients? All that important stuff. You can't just look at one nutrient, like Omega-3s in isolation to everything else. RIght?
And bingo--I went back to my bookshelf & took a closer look at Dr. Joel Fuhrman's ANDI (aggregate nutrient index) rankings.
Fuhrman has taken all the "flying by the seat of our pants" guesswork out of making the best food choices. Getting the best nutrient bang for our calorie buck.
Here's what this wonderful doctor has done for us. He's plugged in all the important variables we need--calcium, carotenoids, the vitamins, the minerals, the ORAC anti-oxidant scores, etc., and compared 150 common foods "based on how many nutrients they deliver to your body in each calorie consumed." Each of the food scores is out of a possible 1,000 based on the nutrients per calorie of the equation.
This is just one measure--it's not perfect--but at least it gives me a clearer picture of which foods will give me the biggest health bang for my calorie buck. And it's worth noting that Whole Foods has partnered with Dr. Fuhrman (as well as Rip Esselstyn), and they now provide ANDI rankings on much of their produce. Click here
How Plants Fill You Up, Power You Up, and Prevent Overeating
Source: Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Eat for Health. Book One, 2008. pg. 68.
This explains why I'm feeling so full and satisfied eating oil-free and plant-based, but still losing some of those so-hard-to-lose pounds!
Dr. T. Colin Campbell's "Nutrient Composition of Plant and Animal-Based Foods (per 500 Calories of Energy)
This chart makes it clear as day where you're going to find the best nutrient bang for your calorie dollar!
The ANDI Scale--A Tool to Help Us Make Smart Food Choices
Source: Joel Fuhrman, MD. Eat for Health. Book One. Fleming, NJ: Gift of Health Press, 2008, pgs. 49-55. Highly recommended.
"As expected, green vegetables walk away with the gold medal and no other food is even close. While most people are eating the majority of their caloric intake from the lower end of this table, those that move their consumption higher will dramatically protect their health". -Dr. Joel Fuhrman-
Oops!! Made a mistake! Second to the last entry--Honeydew Melon should be Honey 2. Honeydew Melon is 45! Thanks to Hank for pointing it out!
The Big surprise to me--according to the Lands KIM2 software, and Fuhrman's ANDI rankings, the greens are top-dog for their omega-3:omega-6 balance & their high nutrient content. As for the whole grains, beans, and soy products--yes, there is a place for them, but certainly not as the centerpiece of every meal.
Even on the ANDI rankings, brown rice was only 41, Quinoa 21, Lentils 68, Whole Wheat pasta 19, Soybeans 48, and Tofu 86. Hadn't noticed that before! Maybe KIM2 wasn't so far off after all!
Bring on the Green Smoothies, lunch & dinner salads, and cooked greens!
Oil--forget about it. Nuts & avocados--not so worth it. Coke, Pepsi, Ice Cream, & McDonald's French Fries--I don't think so!