bacon and kale

Nutrient Density

For any of you who have attended a Eat. Sleep. Thrive. meeting, or plan on attending Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30pm (Sign up here if you have not yet) you have heard, or you will hear us tell you that it is best to avoid grains and legumes.

Many people are shocked to hear us recommend you not eating grains and legumes. The mainstream media and USDA, who both happen to be backed heavily by everyone involved to make cash money out of you believing you should eat grains and legumes, has convinced you it should be a huge staple of your diet.  Why do we recommend avoiding grains and legumes?  Well, there are four reasons:

  1. Grains and legumes have immunogenic and allergenic proteins which the body has not evolved to fully in the 10,000 years since agriculture began.  This assumes you believe in evolution, so if you don’t, please continue following along.
  2. Growing monocrop agriculture, like corn, soybean and wheat, and relying on petrol based fertilizers is unsustainable, since we are losing topsoil globally, and the carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to global warming.  This assumes you are not a far right republican, so if you are, please continue along.
  3. Most grains and legumes are processed commodities which are enhanced in the manufacturing process to increase their food palatability and reward in the brain, causing you to eat more of them.  True, but what about really bland whole and entirely unprocessed grains or fermented legumes. If you find these delicious due to genetic defects where you have lost your taste buds, please continue along.
  4. Nutrient density – Grains and legumes are not nutrient dense foods, and in order to get the most for our money, and health, we want to eat the most nutrient dense foods at every meal. No matter what you believe about 1, 2, and 3, some major analysis of the USDA data banks was conducted and grains and legumes are not nutrient dense.
Matt Lalonde, a Harvard Chemistry Ph.D and overall wicked wicked smart individual analyzed the USDA index of 7,906 foods, to come up with some idea which foods were the most nutrient dense.  He focused on just the major vitamins and minerals, and did his analysis per 100 grams of the food.  Yes, using mass will not make this a true scientific density, it will give you some general idea of the amount which food groups hold.
Based on days of statistical analysis, here is Dr. Lalonde’s conclusions:
  •  A diet centered around meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds is very nutrient dense and can provide enough essential nutrients in adequate quantities (Of note, kale is a vegetable super food.  you should eat it daily.  Kale is on the dirty dozen list so grow it yourself, buy it locally, or buy organic!)
  • The notion that grains and legumes are nutrient dense likely originates from a lack of segregation between raw grains and legumes, which are inedible, and cooked grains and legumes.  (yes, grains and legumes in their raw state are very nutrient dense.  Humans are unable to eat raw grains or legumes.  Based on USDA database, cooking limits the amount of nutrients per serving.)
  • Animal meats are ranked high, whether raw or cooked (Of note, bacon was the most nutrient dense pork product, however, bacon grease is not very nutrient dense).  I would not limit your diet to bacon, and I would make sure you get pastured raised bacon vs the generic supermarket stuff.
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3 Responses to “Nutrient Density”
  1. Tom

    Can you please post the “dirty dozen list”?

  2. Johnn


    What’s with the snarky ‘humor’ in 1, 2, and 3?

    Computers; they’ve replaced the dog as the excuse for consuming homework. Now it’s my excuse for incorrect spelling.

  3. 09.23.2012

    I found this post while looking for Matt’s list of the most nutrient dense foods.

    Matt presented this info at AHS this year and I believe his presentation is supposed to be available at some point but haven’t found it yet.

    And you are right, Matt Lalonde is ridiculously smart but unfortunately he doesn’t have a blog so tapping into his wisdom is a bit more difficult than others who blog.

    However, Chris Kresser is someone else I consider ridiculously smart when it comes to nutrition and he does have a blog. He actually had Matt Lalonde on his PodCast recently and Matt said that Chris’s podcast was one that he takes time to listen to each week. That’s a powerful statement.

    In that Podcast Chris and Matt discuss some of the items you mention here – specifically the immunogenic and allergenic proteins in grains and other foods. They also discuss what you can do to minimize the problematic properties of these foods.

    The date of that PodCast is June 13, 2012 if anyone wants to check it out.

    Also, here’s the link to the dirty dozen:

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