Nutrient Density vs. Calorie Density

Calorie Density-pdf issue 6 (click on the blue text for a pdf you can print)

Calorie Density, Nutrient Density-are you dense?  Is your diet?

In the last “Don’t Weight” issue, I talked about the optimal dietary pattern for health, as well as for a “work around” metabolic adaption, which leads to weight regain after intentional weight loss, and THAT often leads to weight cycling (the yo-yo effect).  This yo-yo’ing is very risky to health as I pointed out previously.

The dietary pattern I refer to is a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet. (LFWFPB) Please note two things

  1. I am referring to a dietary pattern, a way of eating, not a diet!
  2. Veganism is not required, though, if you are eating mostly low fat and whole foods, you will not be eating many animal foods.

Using the concepts of calorie density and nutrient density are important to help restore and/or maintain good health as well as to minimize fat storage.  High NUTRIENT density paired with low CALORIE density is incredibly helpful.  A LFWFPB diet is just that!

Eating this way helps you get to and stay in your “set-point” weight range without

  • Counting calories
  • Weighing or measuring portions
  • Counting out “macros”
  • Restricting your eating (you can eat till you feel full, though that may be something you need to learn)

If you look at this nutrient chart-it becomes pretty clear which foods have the greatest concentration of NUTRIENTS.  The plantier (and the greener!) the better, right?

If you look at this chart-it’s almost a flipped view of the CALORIE density chart you can take a look at in the newsletter.

As much plant loving as I am doing here-remember, you will enjoy your best health when you address all the “ingredients” of a healthy life (click here).   There is no ONE magic thing for you to do or take or get.  YOU are the magic!  You, exquisitely caring for YOU.

Of course, there is a lot of science behind what I am sharing with you today.  Check it out:

A 1983 study allowed 20 study participants to eat as much as they wanted of either low calorie dense or high calorie dense meals for 5 days.  Both dietary patterns were equally acceptable to the study participants.  But those eating  LOW calorie dense meals,ingested half the calories (1570 vs 3000) and spent 33% less time eating.

In 2016 a study of 65 individuals with an average BMI of 30.9.  Participants had either a low-fat high carbohydrate meal (LFHC) or a high fat low carbohydrate (HFLC) meal.  The lower fat meal increased satiety and decreased calorie intake as well as decreased liking and wanting for high fat foods.

I want to remind you here: I encourage you to focus on your wellbeing, not your weight.  This isn’t a sneaky way of advising “dieting” or cutting calories, but instead it’s a way of getting nourishment, healing, satisfaction AND it may have the side effect of weight loss, or of more effortless weight loss maintenance.

More science:

In 2010 data from EPIC (European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition study) looked at 48K participants for 15.5 yrs.

  • They found that those who consumed a more calorie dense diet had higher visceral fat storage (higher waist circumference). Visceral fat is very metabolically active and increases risk for vascular disease high blood pressure, heart disease and inflammation and metabolic problems like diabetes.

A 2007 study of NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Exam in the US) data from 9600 participants.

  • Increased energy (calorie) density diet was associated with:

Increased BMI

Increased waist circumference

Increased fasting insulin.

Increased metabolic syndrome.

References for this issue

ANDI guide

1983    Duncan KH, Bacon JA, Weinsier RL. The effects of high and low energy density diets on satiety, energy intake, and eating time of obese and nonobese subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1983 May;37(5):763-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/37.5.763. PMID: 6303104.

2016  doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000775 Hopkins M, Gibbons C, Caudwell P, Blundell JE, Finlayson G. Differing effects of high-fat or high-carbohydrate meals on food hedonics in overweight and obese individuals. Br J Nutr. 2016 May 28;115(10):1875-84. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000775. Epub 2016 Mar 22. PMID: 27001260.   2010 study 2007  2007 study