Column #74 February 3, 2017
When I review a food for its nutritional characteristics, I use three measures:
Nutrient Diversity and Density
Omega-6 to Omega-3 Balance
They are not the measures most consumers use which is why food merchants market to their emotions rather than logic. They use flavor, eye appeal, mouth feel, crunch, convenience, tradition, good times, and social acceptance as their primary food selection criteria. If there’s an inclination for healthier foods, emotional perceptions also rule. Therefore the labels tout organic, gluten free, low salt, low fat, no hormones, no sugar added, antioxidants, healthy, Omega-3, low calorie, fresh, natural, low cholesterol, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, local, good husbandry, etc.
Amazingly, none of the popular emotional descriptions tell us anything about a food’s glycemic load, nutrient diversity and density, or Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fat balance. Yet it is the totality of these three factors, the actual chemistry of the food, that most impacts body function.
This table illustrates how foods should be analyzed:
The common mantra is that all vegetables and whole grains are good for you. So millions of people eat oatmeal daily for a “healthy” start. Iceberg lettuce is the lettuce of choice in most homes because it’s cheap and not strong flavored. Note the considerable nutrient differences between iceberg lettuce, spinach, kale, and oats by selecting a mineral, amino acid, or vitamin and comparing their weights for each listing.
Government data isn’t always complete so most zeros are actually missing data points. But in my four examples the data points still provide good showings of relative weights.
When analyzing the data keep in mind that the green leaf is the foundation food for all animal life in the sea and on land. This means the nutrient mix that prevailed from the beginning of animal life came from green leaves or animals that had green leaves at the bottom of their food chain. Only when man invented grain farming 10,000 years ago did his diet change.
The data shows how whole grains can differ from green leaves and how nutrient diversity and density can even vary from one vegetable to the next. For instance pale iceberg lettuce has great nutrient diversity but it’s nutrient density is pathetic compared to dark green spinach and kale. That’s why the school lunch program is trying to phase out iceberg lettuce. On the other hand, compared to spinach, oats are loaded with some nutrients, lite in others, and has major discrepancies such as a huge carbohydrate load and a skewed essential fat profile which animals never acclimated to. Therefore oats are not a complete food like spinach or kale.
The body is a finely tuned, high performance machine that requires the full spectrum of nutrients (fuel) in a particular balance (octane). It can’t get it from iceberg lettuce or from oats. This also means that when eating a wide variety of foods in moderation one can’t get the full, properly balanced nutrient load required.
Grass-fed and Omega-3 meats and wild-caught seafood are optimal foods. They are loaded with all of the same nutrients humans require for optimal health in a good balance of all essential nutrients. Plus they are zero glycemic. See more complete meat analyses in the footnotes below.
I eat foods that have all three checks in the box. How about you?
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
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