I’ve been a long time away from this conversation on nutrition as a science. Other things sometimes get in the way of blogging on how to eat well – how not to put junk in your mouth. As a refresher, you might want to go back to my very first post in this discussion, where I make my case for treating how we eat as a serious scientific endeavor – and not as a feast of industry-propagated fads.
Sadly, the SAD (standard American diet) is as toxic to our health as it is deeply entrenched in the economics of what we call the “food” industry. Put simply, if we begin to move away from consuming most of our calories in junk, there will be enormous financial losses to the industries that supply that junk – to the entities that produce and sell soda, potato chips, hot dogs, beef, pork, poultry, milk, butter, cheese, oil, fruit juice, candy, and all conceivable configurations of processed and packaged garbage.
The premise of this blog is simple. Eat real food. Don’t eat junk. Real food is nutrient dense and calorie light; junk is the opposite. Get your nutritional science from meta-analyses of independent research. In other words, look at comprehensive summaries of nutrition studies that are independent of industry sponsorship. If you do this you will gravitate toward whole foods derived from vegetation, sometimes called “plant-based whole foods.” That’s where nutrient density and caloric scarcity reside.
On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 signifies very high nutrient density and 1 very low, here are a few common “food” items with their nutrient density measure:
Items Nutrient Density Fat %
Spinach 5.0 14 %
Bok Choi 5.0 11 %
Snow Peas 5.0 5 %
Bacon 1.2 70 %
Olive Oil 1.4 100 %
Chicken 1.7 54 %
The last three items are what we refer to as “junk” in this blog series – the stuff you should NOT be putting in your mouth. As for caloric density, the best surrogate for measuring this affiliated measure of “junkiness” is the percentage of dietary fat derived from each calorie of these items. That is the third column above – the measure of caloric density.
The astute observer of this “food versus junk” dichotomy may see a redundancy in our admonition to eat items that are nutrient dense and calorie light, since each criterion comes with the other. Dietary fat delivers zero micro-nutrients; hence, items that contain a high percentage of calories from dietary fat will deliver very little in nutrition. By contrast, real food – items that are nutrient dense – will automatically be calorie scarce.
So, to go back to the basic message of this blog series, just “Don’t Put Junk in your Mouth.” That simple action will spare you worry about excess body weight, coronary artery disease and diabetes, and significantly attenuate your risks for myriad cancers, auto-immune disorders, and osteoarthritis.