This page addresses a number of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Nutrient Optimiser including:
- Are micronutrients really that important? I just want to lose weight!
- Isn’t it just about controlling calories?
- Can you get too many nutrients?
- Aren’t the nutrient recommendations just made up?
- Do some people need more nutrients than others?
- How do I use the information from the Nutrient Optimiser?
- Can I use MyFitnessPal data in the Nutrient Optimiser?
- Do I need to weigh and measure my food?
- Can I just use the general food lists?
- How much will the automated Nutrient Optimiser cost?
- Should I log my supplements?
- Why is nutrient density important?
- Will the Nutrient Optimiser help me manage my diabetes?
- Will the Nutrient Optimiser help me achieve ketosis?
- Will the Nutrient Optimiser help with fat loss?
- Is the Nutrient Optimiser useful for athletes and bodybuilders?
- What about longevity?
- How often should I use the Nutrient Optimiser?
- What about macronutrients?
- Are plant or animal products optimal?
- What other test data can I use to help refine my diet?
- Can the Nutrient Optimiser help me with other conditions?
- What about nutrient bioavailability?
- What about anti-nutrients?
- What about all the compounds that aren’t quantified in the USDA database?
- Can I send you my Cronometer data rather sharing my username and password?
- What are the most common nutrient deficiencies?
- How long do I need to log my food for?
- How is the “nutrient score” calculated?
- Why do you use nutrients per calorie?
- Who created the Nutrient Optimiser and why?
- Any further questions?
1. Are micronutrients really that important? I just want to lose weight!
The chart below shows that many people are deficient in a range of key nutrients.
Processed hyper-palatable foods that you find on the supermarket shelves are designed to be energy dense and nutrient poor. Modern foods are grown quickly for quantity and cost rather than quality. and nutrition. And with these foods, most people consume far more energy than they need in pursuit of the nutrients that they need.
Paul Jaminet in his Perfect Health Diet book says:
“A nourishing, balanced diet that provides all the required nutrients in the right proportions is the key to minimising appetite and eliminating hunger at minimal caloric intake.”
Nutrient dense foods will not only power your mitochondria more efficiently, they will help you feel more energised so you will burn more energy and reduce your cravings.
Foods high in micronutrients are typically unprocessed and hard to overeat which means that you won’t have to put as much energy into consciously counting calories.
2. Isn’t it just about controlling calories?
Calories count, but it’s hard to count your calorie intake accurately, let alone your calorie expenditure.
Many people try to restrict their intake, but most people don’t win the fight against their appetite.
Improving your food quality will help stabilise your blood sugar and insulin as well as reduce nutrient cravings which will reduce your tendency to eat impulsively.
If you still require further weight loss you can use the Nutrient Optimiser to help you identify lower energy density foods that are harder to overeat.
The Nutrient Optimiser can also help you calculate the number of calories you require to achieve your target rate of weight loss based on your current intake and rate of weight loss.
If you’re not a fan of counting calories you can look at delaying your meals based on your blood sugar (as per this article) or not eating on days that your weight is above your target weight (as per this article). It’s not going easy or fun. It takes discipline and self-control, but it works.
3. Can you get too many nutrients?
It is possible to get too much of a good thing, including nutrients.
Along with Adequate Intake (AI) levels and Recommended Daily Intake (DRI) intake levels, most of the micronutrient have an Upper Limit (UL) intake.
It is generally not possible to reach these upper without supplements (with the exception of vitamin A from liver in exceptional circumstances).
Most people find that they have a handful of nutrients for which they are not meeting the recommended daily intake levels. Focusing on foods that contain more of these harder to find nutrients will generally reduce your intake of foods that contain nutrients you are getting more than enough of.
4. Aren’t the nutrient recommendations just “made up”?
While deemed to be essential nutrients, the recommended intake levels of the following micronutrients are based on population averages:
- alpha linolenic acid,
- vitamin E,
- pantothenic acid, and
Where there are no clear deficiency symptoms the recommended intake of these nutrients is based on the typical intake of healthy populations.
These nutrients typically don’t dominate the nutritional analysis and can be omitted if that makes sense for a particular person. Prioritising a handful of nutrients (usually seven to ten) rather than a single nutrient means that the nutrients listed above don’t significantly change the outcome of the analysis.
However, there are a range of other nutrients that are based on robust deficiency studies. Specific symptoms and diseases eventuate if we do not achieve minimum levels on an ongoing basis. These nutrients include:
- vitamin D,
- vitamin A,
- omega 3,
- sodium, and
- amino acids.
The nutrient intake levels are the subject of extensive studies by various government organisations and the World Health Organisation.
You can read more about the basis of the recommended quantities of the various essential nutrients here.
5. Do some people need more or less nutrients than others?
There are a range of things that affect your nutrient requirements such as your sex, age, whether you are pregnant. For example:
- athletes will require more electrolytes to replenish those lost from sweat and amino acids to rebuild muscles,
- people who are not eating a lot of glucose (e.g. keto, low carb or carnivore diets) may not need as much vitamin C and antioxidants such as vitamin E, or
- people not eating any animal products (e.g. vegan, vegetarian, plant-based diets) will need to focus on getting adequate omega 3s, vitamin B12, choline and amino acids.
All these factors can be taken into account when refining an individual’s food choices to suit specific needs. However, most people will do well, at least initially, if they focus on the foods that contain more of the essential nutrients that they are not getting enough of based on the standard recommendations.
6. How do I use all the information that the Nutrient Optimiser provides?
One of the main outputs of the Nutrient Optimiser is the optimised food lists tailored to your goals and your current nutrient deficiencies based on your food log.
6.1 How to interpret the food lists
These food lists are based on the top 10% of the eight thousand foods in the USDA database and are sorted in order with the foods at the top of the list being best for you.
If you don’t like a particular food or can’t find it easily you can work your way down the list until you find a food you like.
Try to choose foods from each of the food groups.
The amount of foods you select from each category is up to you and your personal preference. They are all tailored to suit your goals and situation.
If it’s not on the list try not to eat it or minimise it.
6.2 Cooking for a family (relaxed)
Cooking for a family is typically not as strict and needs to be flexible.
You can use the food lists for inspiration for your next shopping expedition. Buy more of these foods each week and make sure you use them in your cooking by the end of the week.
Yes, you may need to do more cooking but the meals don’t have to be complex. You can buy frozen veggies and canned fish that can make things easier while still keeping nutrient density high.
Pin the list to your fridge with a magnet and use it as a reminder of what you should be eating to achieve your goals during the week. Many people have benefitted from this.
6.3 Planning for an individual (disciplined)
If you are able to be more disciplined then you can use the food lists to plan your nutrition for the coming week. This may be appropriate if you are just cooking for yourself and want to plan the meals in detail to ensure you meet your goals. While focusing on quality will be adequate for many people, detailed meal planning would be ideal for disciplined long term weight loss, bodybuilding or therapeutic ketosis.
If you want to micromanage your diet you can take your previous week’s food log, copy it forward to the coming week and refine it by removing some of the not so good foods and replacing them with foods closer to the top of each category. Repeating this process on a week to week basis will enable you to progressively refine your diet and ensure you are achieving your goals.
Preparing your meals ahead of time will improve your chances of long term success.
7. Can I use MyFitnessPal data in the Nutrient Optimiser?
Unfortunately, no. MyFitnessPal doesn’t track micronutrients, only macros.
Only Cron-o-meter collects the micronutrient data that is required for the Nutrient Optimiser analysis.
Getting accurate input data is critical to making the most of the Nutrient Optimiser analysis.
Garbage in. Garbage out.
While MFP has a LOT of foods in their database, most of them are entered by users and are notoriously inaccurate.
The Cronometer database has nearly sixty thousand foods and you can enter your own custom foods or recipes if you want to.
In order to get the most accurate data, it is ideal if you can log more of the foods in the USDA database which are often less processed rather than other foods that may not have nutrient data available.
Ideally, you should focus on foods that have full USDA micronutrient data rather than a particular brand name food for which micronutrient data may not be available. This will improve the data used in the analysis as well as improve the chances that you are eating whole unprocessed foods.
Cronometer gives you a running tally of the nutrients you are meeting the recommended daily intake levels of and the ones you need to pay more attention to, however only the Nutrient Optimiser tells you which foods you need to provide that cluster of nutrients.
If you currently use another food tracking system (such as MFP) but want to use the Nutrient Optimiser, you can set up a free Cronometer account and transfer a couple of weeks of data for analysis. It doesn’t take long.
8. Do I need to weigh and measure my food?
Don’t worry too much about weighing and measuring every morsel of food, at least initially.
While calories and energy intake still matter, tracking your intake and expenditure accurately without a metabolic chamber is difficult.
Nutrient dense foods that make you feel full and keep your blood sugar levels are typically more satiating and harder to overeat. Most people find that they get the majority of the results they are chasing by dialling in their food quality rather than micromanaging their energy intake.
If, after you really dial in your nutrition, you find that you need to micromanage your energy intake, the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm can help you calculate your target calorie intake to achieve your target rate of weight loss based on your previous rate of weight loss.
Making sure you get the nutrients you need when restricting calories will vastly improve your chances of success.
9. Why can’t I just use the general food lists?
Before you launch into using the Nutrient Optimiser, you can make a lot of progress by initially focusing on more nutrient dense foods that align with your goals.
The table below contains a selection of optimal food for a range of situations and goals, particularly your blood glucose levels and weight loss. There is a more extensive array of food lists for different goals and situations here.
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)||foods||nutrients|
|well formulated ketogenic diet||> 140||> 7.8||foods||nutrients|
|diabetes and nutritional ketosis||108 to 140||6.0 to 7.8||foods||nutrients|
|weight loss (insulin resistant)||100 to 108||5.4 to 6.0||foods||nutrients|
|protein sparing modified fast (PSMF)||< 97||< 5.4||foods||nutrients|
|most nutrient dense||< 97||< 5.4||foods||nutrients|
|nutrient dense maintenance||< 97||< 5.4||foods||nutrients|
|bodybuilder||< 97||< 5.4||foods||nutrients|
|endurance athlete||< 97||< 5.4||foods||nutrients|
These optimal food lists are a great place to start if you’re interested in ramping up the nutrient density of your diet. However, the lists do not consider your current diet.
The Nutrient Optimiser takes this to the next level by analysing the micronutrient content of the food you are currently eating.
10. How much will the automated Nutrient Optimiser cost?
The anticipated pricing for the automated Nutrient Optimiser subscription is US$5/month or $50/year. You will receive a free month if a friend signs up.
For now, the Nutrient Optimiser is a spreadsheet-based algorithm with a personalised manually generated report.
We’re eager to build up a suite of examples Nutrient Optimiser reports to show how it can help a range of people reach their goals, so we’re offering a discount rate for a limited time.
If you are interested in receiving a personalised Nutrient Optimiser report the current rates are US$30 for a public report (i.e. you are happy for your report it to be shared publicly as an example and be added to the leaderboard), or US$50 if you do not want your report to be made public.
Head over to the application form to get your own personalised report now.
11. Should I log my supplements?
The primary goal of the Nutrient Optimiser is to help you balance your micronutrient intake with whole food. So we recommend you don’t log your supplements, at least initially.
Relying heavily on supplements is not ideal. There are a wide range of non-essential nutrients and secondary compounds that are not tracked in the USDA food database that are virtually impossible to micromanage quantitatively. However, if you focus on getting your essential micronutrients from whole foods you will have a good chance of getting all these other nutrients from the whole foods.
If, after following the recommendations you are not able to cover off all of the essential nutrients with real food, the Nutrient Optimiser will help you identify supplements that you need.
If you know that you require specific supplements then, by all means, log them in Cronometer. The Nutrient Optimiser algorithm can easily remove supplements from the analysis to provide optimised food lists with and without consideration of supplements to see if it makes a difference to the recommended foods.
12. Why is nutrient density important?
All diets that work in the long-term improve food quality.
You can be vegan, paleo, low carb or keto and still be eating nutrient poor, processed food.
Not getting adequate micronutrients from your diet will increase your chance that your cravings and appetite will increase and you will eat more food in your search for nutrients.
Effective management of cravings and appetite is the holy grail of weight loss.
We can work hard to consciously restrict calories, but most people can’t hold their breath for long. Calories matter, but if you simply reduce your energy intake, your body will adapt by spending less energy and increase your appetite.
The Nutrient Optimiser uses a multi-criteria algorithm to identify the nutrients that you need more of to rebalance your diet at a micronutrient level.
In time, food cravings and appetite will reduce and you will be naturally satisfied with less food and weight loss will likely follow.
13. Will the Nutrient Optimiser help me manage my diabetes?
Virta Health (run by Sami Inkinen, Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek and a cast of other low carb luminaries) recently released exciting research demonstrating that a personalised low carbohydrate diet delivered electronically can be effective in improving blood sugar control and weight loss in adults with Type 2 Diabetes while significantly decreasing medications (host of other low carb luminaries) recently released exciting research demonstrating that a personalised low carbohydrate diet delivered electronically can be effective in improving blood sugar control and weight loss in adults with Type 2 Diabetes while significantly decreasing medications (Phinney et al. 2017).
The chart below shows how the study participants’ HbA1c decreased with a reduced carbohydrate diet over just ten weeks.
As insulin and blood sugars normalise weight reduces significantly.
A low carb diet helps someone with diabetes because the amount of carbohydrate in the food they eat has a direct influence on your blood glucose and insulin levels.
However, our insulin and blood glucose response to food is more accurately predicted when we also consider fibre and protein (see this article for more details).
However, the problem with a very low insulin load, very high-fat approach is that is that it can be hard to obtain adequate vitamins and minerals.
The Nutrient Optimiser will help YOU choose foods that will normalise your blood glucose levels while also getting as many nutrients as possible.
If you are on medications for your diabetes you will need to keep an eye on your blood glucose and progressively reduce your insulin and other medications to avoid hypoglycemia.
While the Nutrient Optimiser algorithm is similar to Virta’s system, it takes things one step further by also considering a person’s micronutrient status to create a truly well formulated ketogenic diet. The Nutrient Optimiser will also grow with you as you move from being a recovering diabetic to help you reach your target weight and then support your athletic performance.
14. Will the Nutrient Optimiser help me achieve ketosis?
Nutritional ketosis and therapeutic ketosis is becoming popular for mental performance or management of chronic conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia.insulin load to the point that you achieve your ketogenic goals while also maximising the nutrient content of your diet.
15. How will the Nutrient Optimiser help me with fat loss?
Once you have normalised your blood glucose and insulin levels, managing your energy intake is important if your goal is further fat loss.
The Nutrient Optimiser will help you identify nutritious, low energy density foods that will help you to be satisfied with less fat on your plate (or coffee cup) to allow more energy to come from your stored body fat.
An LCHF diet can involve lower levels of dietary fat if you are burning a lot of body fat.
Low energy density foods are typically hard to overeat but provide a ton of nutrients to optimise your mitochondrial function and will help reduce cravings.
16. Is the Nutrient Optimiser useful for athletes and bodybuilders?
Many athletes ‘carb up’ with energy dense, nutrient poor foods which are not optimal in the long-term.
If you have already normalised your blood glucose and body fat levels the Nutrient Optimiser will help you to identify nutritious higher energy density foods to fuel your activity.
If you’re looking to gain muscle the Nutrient Optimiser can help you identify higher energy density foods with the required nutrients to promote growth and muscle recovery.
17. What about longevity?
Not consuming too much energy will give you the best chance of avoiding insulin resistance and delay the onset of many of the major diseases of ageing (e.g. cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke and Parkinsons). And ensuring you get the nutrients you need without excess energy intake will maximise your chance of managing your appetite and eating less in the long-term.
“The Nutrient Optimiser is an awesome teaching tool!
“Why isn’t this stuff taught in schools? It should be compulsory education!
“Kids these days don’t even know what “real food” is.”
18. How often should I use the Nutrient Optimiser?
The Nutrient Optimiser has been designed to retrain your dietary habits and adapt with you through the various stages of your journey.
Like a ship’s rudder, it will continually adjust and redirect you towards where you want to go. We suggest you use the Nutrient Optimiser to review your food diary every two to four weeks to make sure you are continuing to move forward in the right direction.
Many people have radically changed their nutrition in a short amount of time by following successive iterations of Nutrient Optimiser reports.
19. What about macronutrients?
The Nutrient Optimiser is macronutrient agnostic. Excellent nutrition does not typically correlate with macronutrient extremes.
While at one extreme, eating unlimited amounts of fat will not maximise nutrient density, the chart below from the recent PURE study shows that aiming for a very low fat intake, low saturated fat or high carbohydrate (greater than 60%) does not improve our chances of living longer or avoiding a heart attack.
The Nutrient Optimiser will prioritise a reduction in the insulin load of your diet to the point that you achieve normal blood sugars and insulin levels. But then, rather than doubling down on fat, the focus of the Nutrient Optimiser turns to nutrient density combined with energy density to ensure you continue to progress towards goals.
The Nutrient Optimiser provides a personalised food list that includes a wide range of foods that you can choose from that will suit your personal tastes and macronutrient preferences.
20. Are plant or animal-based foods better?
There is plenty of debate about whether plants or animals are a better source of nutrition.
Some people prefer and do better with more plant-based products while others prefer animal-based products. The reality is that there are people who seem to thrive on polar opposite extreme dietary approaches. The body just needs nutrients and isn’t too picky where it gets them from.
Plant-based foods tend to be better in terms of nutrients per calorie and have a lower energy density which may be useful if you are trying to lose weight because whole food plant-based foods are hard to overeat. Meanwhile, the nutrients in animal-based products can be more bioavailable and more energy dense which will enable you to get more calories in and hence potentially more nutrients.
Meanwhile, the nutrients in animal-based products can be more bioavailable and more energy dense which will enable you to get more calories in and hence potentially more nutrients.
The Nutrient Optimiser will work within your current preferences and highlight foods that will provide the nutrients you need from plant-based, animal-based or omnivorous foods.
The Nutrient Optimiser gives you a short list of foods that contain the nutrients you are getting less of. These typically involve a range of vegetables, animal products and seafood. Nuts and seeds and dairy may make your personalised short list if your goal is not weight loss but rather therapeutic ketosis or blood sugar control.
20.1 Plant-based food example
The chart below shows the nutrients provided by someone diligently following plant-based dietary approach (see their full report here). That they need to focus on a number of amino acids, vitamin B12 and iron to move their nutrition forward, while they are getting plenty of a number of the other vitamins and minerals.
The table below shows that there are a number of nutrients that are out of balance in her diet.
Based on the nutrient balance and the micronutrient fingerprint we will prioritise the following nutrients:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-12
- Omega 3
The foods listed below will provide more of these nutrients if the user wants to remain on an exclusively plant-based diet.
However, if this user was to consider incorporating some animal-based food as well, the food list below would provide the nutrients she is looking for with the least amount of energy.
20.2 Carnivore example
As a contrast, the chart below shows the micronutrients provided by carnivore diet advocate Dr. Shawn Baker (see Shawn’s full report here).
His nutrient balance ratios are shown in the table below.
The food list below will provide the nutrients that he is not getting in large amounts while remaining carnivorous. We can see that his current red meat diet would benefit from some organ meats, seafood and eggs.
The foods listed below would provide the nutrients he is currently not getting a lot of if he chose to eat some foods from the plant kingdom. While there is still some meat and seafood on this prioritised list, there is a long list of vegetables relative to the vegan diet analysis above.
21. What other test data can I use to refine my diet?
The Nutrient Optimiser uses your food log to identify where you are not meeting the Recommended Daily Intake levels of the essential nutrients. Keep in mind though these recommended intake values don’t take into account an individual’s diet, activity levels and metabolism.
However, In addition to your food log, you can also use your blood tests for nutrients (e.g. vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride) to identify additional nutrients to target with the Nutrient Optimiser.
22. Can the Nutrient Optimiser help with other conditions?
If you have a known condition, we can focus on ensuring you are getting the micronutrients that are typically associated with that condition from real food. For example, the image below shows the ‘nutrient wheel’ developed by Spectracell that highlights the various nutrients that are often deficient in people with diabetes.
The table below shows food lists that have been designed to boost the nutrients that are often deficient in a range of conditions. The Nutrient Optimiser will identify the nutrients that are missing in your diet and then we can also boost any nutrients that have not been identified that are typically deficient in people with these conditions.
|most nutrient dense foods||99.0%||foods||nutrients|
|aggressive weight loss (PSMF)||98.4%||foods||nutrients||wheel||references|
|sleep and insomnia||98.8%||foods||nutrients||wheel||references|
|low carb autoimmune friendly||97.3%||foods||nutrients|
|alkaline (diabetes friendly)||96.9%||foods||nutrients|
|autoimmune & SIBO||95.7%||foods||nutrients|
|weight loss (insulin resistant)||99.3%||foods||nutrients||wheel||references|
|diabetes friendly, autoimmune, & SIBO||76.0%||foods||nutrients|
23. What about bioavailability?
There are a number of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A and the amino acids (protein) that are more easily absorbed from animal foods compared to plant-based foods. That is, they are more bioavailable.
Unfortunately, the USDA food database only quantifies the amount of nutrients in a food. The amount actually absorbed into the body can be influenced by a range of factors including the type of food and the person’s digestion. Some of the nutrients that are less bioavailable from plant-based sources are still easy to obtain, while others can be more difficult. Unfortunately, with the available data, it is impossible to quantify how much is actually absorbed. Hopefully one day we will be able to account for the amount of a certain nutrient and factor it for an individual’s digestion and the bioavailability of that food. All we have for now is the amount of nutrients in the food and the recommended daily intake levels which don’t account for plant only or animal only extremes.
The chart below shows that a nutrient dense whole food diet can provide plenty of iron and vitamin A, however, we may need to pay more attention to some of the amino acids and zinc.
If zinc was low for a man or iron was low for pre-menopausal women and they had symptoms that indicated that these nutrients were an issue (e.g. low testosterone or low energy) we would look in further detail to ensure that the sources in their diet were bioavailable and assess whether supplementation or the incorporation of animal sources of these nutrients was required.
24. What about anti-nutrients?
Anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, tannins, lectins, protease inhibitors are plant compounds that can reduce the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients.
Unfortunately, it is hard to quantify the anti-nutrients in a food and how they may affect a person’s ability to absorb other nutrients.
If the data to quantify the impact of anti-nutrients becomes available we will find a way to incorporate it into the analysis.
Anti-nutrients are typically found in seeds, grains and legumes which typically do not make the shortlist of nutrient-dense foods. So anti-nutrients are not going to be a big concern if you are focusing on nutrient density.
If you know that you have specific digestive issues that could lead to impaired absorption you will need to pay more attention to anti-nutrients to make sure you are actually absorbing everything you need. If you know you have specific issues you can choose to apply the autoimmune and/or SIBO template which will eliminate most inflammatory foods that contain anti-nutrients.
If you know you have specific issues you can choose to apply the autoimmune and/or SIBO template which will eliminate most inflammatory foods that contain anti-nutrients.
25. What about all the other compounds that aren’t quantified in the USDA database?
Other nutrient ranking systems consider additional nutrients (e.g. Dr. Fuhrman’s Aggregate Nutrient Density Index which includes lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, phytosterols, glucosinolates, angiogenesis inhibitors, oregano sulfides, aromatase inhibitors and the ORAC score). However, unfortunately, these additional parameters are not available for a very wide range of foods. There also do not have widely recognised recommended daily intake levels.
To avoid these complications, the Nutrient Optimiser has been designed around the essential nutrients as quantified for the eight thousand foods in the USDA food database.
While these additional nutrients are not able to be quantified by the Nutrient Optimiser analysis, you stand a better chance of getting adequate quantities the non-essential nutrients and secondary compounds if you are getting an adequate amount of the essential nutrient from whole foods (as opposed to supplements or fortified foods).
26. Can I send you my Cronometer data rather than providing my username and email?
Most people chose to provide their Cronometer login details in the application form.
To download your servings.csv file click on the spikey wheel in the Account Information box at https://cronometer.com/#profile from a computer as shown in the image below and then click on export data to download your servings.csv file.
27. What are the most common nutrient deficiencies?
Nutrient deficiencies depend on your eating habits.
As shown in the chart below, people following of a plant-based diet tend to be lower in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, choline, vitamin B12 and a number of amino acids.
People following a ketogenic diet are often deficient in vitamin D, choline, potassium pantothenic acid, zinc, niacin, magnesium, selenium and folate.
People following a low carb diet are often deficient in choline, vitamin D, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium which are contained in non-starchy veggies which are sometimes avoided no a low carb diet (particularly if you are looking to minimise total carbs).
People following a carnivorous diet with no plant-based foods will be more likely to be deficient in vitamin K1, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium and potassium.
While there are typical deficiencies that relate to particular eating patterns, the nutrients you need to prioritise vary widely depending on your current diet as well the nutrients you need to fill those nutritional deficiencies to optimise your diet.
To understand your micronutrient fingerprint and the foods that will help you optimise your diet simply fill out the application form.
28. How long do I need to log my food for?
- If you eat the same thing every day you would only need to log one day in Cronometer to provide data for the required data for the Nutrient Optimiser analysis.
- Most people have a more varied diet and eat different foods based on their appetite, habits and activity levels. Logging for a week or two will capture all the food you eat based on your appetite and cravings, not just the foods you eat when you are being good because you are logging your food.
- If you are a female and find that your food choices vary heavily based on your monthly cycle then it may be useful to log for a full month.
29. How is the “nutrient score” calculated?
Nutrition is largely dominated by the things we shouldn’t do such as:
- don’t eat too much,
- don’t eat too much fat,
- don’t eat too much carbohydrate,
- don’t eat too much protein,
- don’t eat too much salt, or
- don’t eat too much saturated fat.
The Nutrient Optimiser Score turns this on its head and drives people to focus on getting the nutrients they need from whole foods. Once you’ve had your fill of good good, most of the other isues look after themselves.
We’re hoping that the Nutrient Optimiser Leaderboard will drive some ‘healthy competition’ to see people compete to create more nutrient-dense foods.
Rather than simply prioritising all foods, the Nutrient Optimiser identifies foods that contain higher levels of the nutrients you are not getting enough of.
You may have noticed that many of the charts above have a red rectangle and a nutrient score with a percentage next to it.
Unless you are severely restricting calories, there will usually be a number of nutrients which far exceed the recommended daily intake level. While the recommended daily intake levels are generally minimum levels, there is generally not a lot of use in having many times the recommended daily intake level. For example having twenty times the recommended intake level for vitamin K won’t be much use as it will be flushed out by the kidneys into the urine. Similarly, having many multiples of the minimum protein requirement may not be ideal as it can be converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis.
For example having twenty times the recommended intake level for vitamin K won’t be much use as it will be flushed out by the kidneys into the urine. Similarly, having many multiples of the minimum protein requirement may not be ideal as it can be converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis or flushed out as urea.
If you have more than two times the recommended daily intake value for a particular nutrient you don’t score any higher.
In order to maintain some spread in the leaderboard, the Nutrient Score only considers your lowest performing 17 of the 34 essential nutrients (i.e. those at the top of the chart).
You would get a perfect score of 100% if you fill up all of the red rectangle. The nutrient score is normalised to a standard 2000 calories so you don’t get a higher score if you just eat more, or penalised for eating less. The nutrient score is a measure of food quality, regardless of quantity.
As an example, Brianna has scored a solid 79% (see her full analysis here).
By contrast, Robin, with her junk food diet that is driving her diabetes and morbid obesity has a lot more room for improvement with a score of 23% (see her full report here).
So far, Dr. Rhonda Patrick has the highest score with a solid 82%. She will be hard to catch, but don’t let that stop you trying. Check out Rhonda’s full analysis here and the full Nutrient Optimiser leaderboard here.
We’re hoping that the Nutrient Optmiser Leaderboard will help demonstrate what good nutrition looks like in practice. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to see that the people at the top of the leaderboard actually look like they are thriving.
30. Why do you use nutrients per calorie?
Previously Dr. Joel Furhman has considered nutrients per calorie to develop the Aggregate Nutrient DEnsity Index (ANDI).
Meanwhile, Dr. Mat Lalonde developed an alternative nutrient density index using nutrients per gram (weight) of food.
Both of these men have had a significant influence on the development of the Nutrient Optimiser.
The nutrients per weight of food approach used by Lalonde suits someone who is active or wanting to gain weight and needs to get a lot of energy in (e.g. a CrossFit athlete or a triathlete). Lalonde’s approach also considers essential amino acids and essential fatty acids (which are not considered in Fuhrman’s system) and generates a very meat heavy list of foods. Lalonde sticks to the nutrients and foods in the USDA database which are widely accepted.
The nutrients per calorie approach used by Dr Fuhrman leads to prioritise low energy density foods that are very hard to overeat. Fuhrman’s approach does not consider protein or fatty acids and instead emphasises a range of other parameters that are only available for fruits and vegetables, so we end up with a list of plant-based products.
Although calories is not a perfect measure and is a word that comes with a lot of baggage, most people eat a similar amount of energy per day, regardless of the source. So thinking in terms of nutrients per calorie helps us get the most calories per day.
Thinking in terms of servings or grams of food would make it very hard to ‘compare apples with apples’ to get a fair ranking of foods because the number of servings or weight of food consumed can vary between people.
The addition of the energy density parameter enables us to tailor foods to suit people who need to lose weight versus people who are very active and need to get more food in.
The insulin load parameter also tends to make foods more energy dense and also tailor food choices to help people stabilise blood sugar and insulin levels.
The other big differentiator between the Nutrient Optimiser and these other methods of calculating nutrient density is that is that we only focus on the nutrients that are harder to obtain. This makes a big difference to the outcome and personalises it to your current situation and goals!
31. Who created the Nutrient Optimiser and why?
The Nutrient Optimiser was created by Marty Kendall. His wife Monica has Type 1 diabetes and was suffering from obesity and pre-diabetes himself.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. In early 2015 Marty undertook his own analysis of the food insulin index data in an effort to more accurately calculate the insulin doses required for his wife Monica’s food. Dosing insulin for carbohydrate is fairly well understood, but the food index helps us understand how to modify insulin dosing for protein and fibre.
Dosing insulin for carbohydrate is fairly well understood, but the food index helps us understand how to modify insulin dosing for protein and fibre.
He also found that the food insulin index data provided a better understanding of which foods require more or less insulin. Choosing the foods that require less insulin enables stabilisation of blood sugars. This is a BIG DEAL for people with diabetes.
Building on the work of diabetes gurus like Dr. Richard Bernstein, this understanding of the food insulin index enabled Monica to dramatically stabilise her blood sugars and halve her insulin dose. She has greatly improved the quality of her life and energy levels. She has gone from struggling to get through the day and multiple naps to be able to work passionately as a primary school classroom teacher and thriving.
As shown in the photos below, Marty was also able to lose some weight, reduce his inflammation levels and normalise his blood glucose levels.
After some further analysis. Marty realised that, while it is good to reduce highly processed insulinogenic foods, the least insulinogenic foods were not as nutritious. Using his data analysis skills developed as a professional engineer he designed a system to also identify foods with more of the harder to obtain essential nutrients.
Using a multi-criteria analysis process that he has used to optimise motorway alignments and infrastructure investments in his day job he was able to combine the insulin load and nutrient density parameters to identify nutrient dense foods that also stabilise blood sugar and insulin levels.
After considering a number of other factors, energy density was added to identify foods that would help someone to eat and lose weight once their blood sugars and insulin levels were under control.
Marty has also benefited greatly from the input of a ‘hive mind’ of international experts, particularly through the Optimising Nutrition Facebook Group, which has helped him develop and refine the ideas on the Optimising Nutrition blog that have been incorporated into the Nutrient Optimiser.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to optimal diets. Nutritional recommendations are often clouded by commercial conflicts by of interest or ethical/religious belief systems.
Marty hopes that the Nutrient Optimiser will bring clarity to the confusion that surrounds nutrition to show people what they can eat to thrive rather than just pointing out what they shouldn’t eat. Regardless of their condition, preferences or goals, the Nutrient Optimiser will tell them which foods are actually better than others.
Marty has created a range of food lists to provide clear recommendations to help people choose the foods that will provide the most nutrients while aligning with their goals. These food lists are documented for use freely on the Optimising Nutrition blog here.
The shortcoming of the food lists, however, is that they do not consider a person’s current diet. Most people won’t stick to a radical dietary change but often do better with incremental changes to replace not so good with better. Analysing a person’s current diet enables accurate identification of the new foods that should be added to balance their diet at a micronutrient level. The Nutrient Optimiser also identifies foods that should be removed from a person’s current diet.
Rather than providing a ‘one size fits all’ dietary approach, the Nutrient Optimiser provides a personalised nutritional solution and will continue to adapt, not just to your current diet but also to your blood sugars, ketone levels and weight to help you reach your goals.
32. Any further questions?
If you have any further questions feel free to leave them below or head over to the Marty Kendall’s Nutrient Optimiser Facebook Group to join the community and the discussion.
Where to now?
- Back to the Nutrient Optimiser front page.
- Check out the leaderboard to see what it takes to make it to the top.
- Watch and listen over at the media page to presentations and interviews explaining the Nutrient Optimiser.
- Join the Marty Kendall’s Nutrient Optimiser Facebook Group share the journey.
- Check out the example reports to see how the Nutrient Optimiser has helped others.
- Read all the posts over at Optimising Nutrition blog that have been integrated into the Nutrient Optimiser multi-criteria algorithm.
- Fill out the application form and start your Nutrient Optimiser journey towards optimal nutrition.