I’ve been a big fan of Mathieu Lalonde ever since I saw his Science of Nutrition lecture. Seriously, if you can buy a copy or attend one of these all day affairs, you’re going to come out with a lot of knowledge you didn’t have when you walked in.
So it was with great anticipation that I’ve been awaiting his Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) 2012 presentation: Nutrient Density: Sticking to the Essentials. Well, it’s finally out, and as with most things Matt Lalonde, it’s well worth watching.
He starts by covering the concept of Nutrient Density in a historical context: A paper by Boyd Eaton and Lauren Cordain on Nutrient Density, NuVal scores (ideologically/politically biased towards plant-based diets), and ANDI Scores (again, artificially biased against meats). Given that all the established models had significant problems, Lalonde decided he would crunch some numbers and make his own, based on a simple formula:
Nutrient Density = (Σ Essential Nutrients Per Serving) / (Weight Per Serving)
I’m going to stop my discussion here to introduce his video. Everything that follows is based on what he talks about. After the video, I’ll continue…
- The best nutrient densities for cooked grains are already negative numbers.
- Raw grains have a better nutrient density than cooked, but alas, we can’t usually eat raw grains.
- The notion that grains and legumes are amongst the healthiest foods come from an analysis of them in their raw and inedible state. Once you look at their cooked values, they are amongst the worst (from a nutrient density standpoint).
- Bacon turns out to be some of the most nutrient dense meats (ditch the grease).
- The lowest scores for beef are where the highest scores for grains started at.
- Oysters are awesome. (I think bacon wrapped oysters might be a superfood.)
- Game meat (like Elk, for example) is surprisingly low. I had expected it to have a higher score.
- Organ meats (excluding tripe, lungs, and some others) are awesome.
Nutrient Density Averages:
|Category||Avg. Nutrient Density Scores||Category||Avg Nutrient Density/Caloric Weight Scores|
|1||Organ Meats and Oils||17.05||Organ Meats and Oils||0.49|
|2||Herbs and Spices||16.78||Herbs and Spices||0.21|
|3||Nuts and Seeds||10.28||Nuts and Seeds||0.09|
|4||Cacao||7.97||Legumes (Raw or Cooked Edible)||0.02|
|5||Fish and Seafood||1.16||Fish and Seafood||0.02|
|8||Eggs & Dairy||-0.56||Cacao||-0.001|
|9||Vegetables (Raw & Unprepared)||-0.70||Lamb, Veal and Wild Game||-0.03|
|10||Lamb, Veal and Wild Game||-1.19||Poultry||-0.05|
|11||Poultry||-1.71||Plant Fats and Oils||-0.05|
|12||Legumes (Raw or Cooked Edible)||-2.86||Animal Fats and Oils||-0.07|
|13||Processed Meat||-3.10||Processed Meat||-0.09|
|14||Vegetables (Cooked, Blanched, Canned, Pickled)||-4.84||Eggs & Dairy||-0.10|
|15||Plant Fats and Oils||-5.41||Refined and Processed Fats and Oils||-0.13|
|16||Fruit||-5.62||Animal Skin and Feet||-0.15|
|17||Animal Skin and Feet||-6.22||Grains and Pseudocereals (Cooked)||-0.25|
|18||Grains and Pseudocereals (Cooked)||-6.23||Grains (Canned)||-0.38|
|19||Refined and Processed Fats and Oils||-6.43||Fruit||-0.44|
|20||Animal Fats and Oils||-6.88||Vegetables (Raw & Unprepared)||-0.53|
|21||Grains (Canned)||-7.04||Processed Fruit||-0.54|
|22||Processed Fruit||-8.12||Vegetables (Cooked, Blanched, Canned, Pickled)||-0.74|
Ideally, the essential nutrients he uses to calculate nutrient density would be based on the following, but not all data are available. This introduces a bias for and against certain foods that would be nice to have corrected in the future. The data he has available doesn’t distinguish between Vitamin D2 and D3, nor does it distinguish between the various fatty acids. The table below is his proposed model for how to measure Nutrient Density. Data that was not available to him (but that he would like to be used in Nutrient Density) is indicated: